Possible Health Concerns:
Bleeding and the GSMD Pamphlet
Bloat/Torsion-Gastric Dilitation Vovulus
Distichiasis and Entropion
Licking Episodes / Lick Fits
Puppy and Adult Urinary Incontinence
The most common health issues in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are distichiasis (extra eyelashes) and female urinary incontinence. Most often distichiasis is non-symptomatic, causing no issues for the dog, but in some dogs, it can cause irritation that must be corrected. Allowing a female to have at least one heat cycle before sterilization has been demonstrated to help prevent urinary incontinence in this breed, though certainly it is no guarantee to avoid the problem entirely.
Though far less common, the most debilitating disease found in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is epilepsy. Seizure disorders can range from very mild to severe to life threatening. Epilepsy is believed to be genetic, however there are no tests available to the breeder to be able to eliminate this disease. Careful breeders research pedigrees to try to avoid the issue, but unfortunately there are no guarantees. The first signs of epilepsy generally occur between 1 and 5 years of age, and symptoms often increase as a dog matures and can be difficult to manage, even with medication.
Bloat/Gastric Torsion and Splenic Torsion are two life-threatening emergencies we see in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Bloat/Gastric Torsion is the more common of the two. The stomach twists and fills with air, cutting off blood supply to the stomach. Dogs will go into shock and die very quickly if this occurs. This is an emergency that requires immediate treatment. Splenic torsion involves the twisting of the spleen and is also a life threatening emergency. This problem is very rare in most breeds, but is not rare in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Swissy owners should be very familiar with the symptoms of these two conditions and be prepared to seek medical assistance quickly.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can also be prone to several orthopedic diseases prone to large and giant breed dogs. OCD of the shoulder, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia are the most common orthopedic issues found in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. Care should be taken to encourage slow and steady growth in puppies rather than fast maturity and keeping a puppy in proper weight and conditioning is extremely important. These orthopedic issues develop as a combination of environmental issues and genetics. Because there is an element of heredity in these diseases, reputable breeders continue to work to reduce these issues by x-raying all breeding stock to screen for orthopedic issues. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is the leading evaluator of joint disease in the United States. Reputable breeders will certify breeding stock through the OFA (or other evaluating agency) before breeding.