Bernese Mountain Dog Health Problems

Bernese Mountain dog health problems include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cancer and progressive retinal atrophy as well as numerous other, not so common health problems.

Hip Dysplasia in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Hip dysplasia, an abnormal development of a puppy's hips during growth, often affects large breed dogs. It causes the hip joints to loosen which in turn flattens the head of the femur bone and causes the socket that the femur bone rests in to become shallow. Eventually arthritis develops in the joint, but you may not see signs of it for years.

Some early clinical signs of hip dysplasia are:

  • slowness in rising to their feet
  • stiffness after rising
  • lameness
  • pain when the affected joint is manipulated

Diagnosis procedures usually include a physical examination, radiographs, a history of the dog and a study of his clinical signs.

Treatment can range from mild pain relievers and physical therapy up to complete joint replacement; it all depends on the overall condition of the patient and the progression of the disease.

The main cause of the hip dysplasia in the Bernese mountain dog is bad genetics so your best chance of having a disease free dog is to buy from a reputable breeder who has the parent dogs tested before breeding.

Elbow Dysplasia in Bernese Mountain Dogs

A condition called ununited anconeal process is the usual cause of elbow dysplasia in large breed dogs like the Bernese Mountain Dog. It occurs when two bones in the elbow fail to unite during growth. Just as in hip dysplasia, these bones rubbing against each other in an abnormal fashion will usually bring on arthritis. Diagnosis and treatment is the same as for hip dysplasia.

Elbow dysplasia is mainly a genetic disease, so once again find a breeder who uses only tested and cleared parent dogs.

Cancer in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Some form of cancer affects approximately ten per cent of Bernese Mountain Dogs, usually diagnosed when the dog is around six years old, but the age can vary widely. Some cancers are genetically linked, including:

  • Histiocytosis

  • Mastocytoma

 Other common cancers are not genetically linked. These include:

A fifth cancer that is frequently seen, osteosarcoma, is still being tested for genetic links, but doctors have drawn no conclusions at this time.

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club has established a tumor registry which collects and analyzes tissue samples of affected dogs to help researchers try and find a cure. Your veterinarian can handle the transmission of the the sample for you if you wish to help.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Progressive Retinal Atrophy, also known as PRA, an inherited eye disease that usually leads to blindness, has cropped up in the Bernese Mountain Dog within the past twenty years. Early onset forms of the disease have been found in puppies less than three months old and late onset forms have been found in dogs five years old and up. Either early onset or late onset can lead to blindness.

The Bernese Mountain Dog owner should watch for the following clinical signs:

  • Dilated pupils

  • Night blindness

  • Disorientation in strange environments

  • Reluctance to explore new places

Most Bernese Mountain Dogs diagnosed with PRA are blind within one year, although there are exceptions.

The choice of a knowledgeable breeder with certificates to prove that the parent dogs have received an annual eye examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist is your best bet to avoid the pain of having your pet go blind.

Other Health Problems of the Bernese Mountain Dog

Some of the not so common health problems of the Bernese Mountain Dog include:

  • Bloat

  • Gastric torsion

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Skin allergies

  • Food allergies

  • Kidney disease

  • Myasthenia gravis

These are health problems that have affected a good percentage of Bernese Mountain Dogs, but are not seen as often as the first four listed.