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Common Health Issues and Genetic Disorders in Rottweilers

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Rottweilers are prone to a number of health issues, so it's important that they see a vet consistently.

Rottweilers are prone to a number of health issues, so it's important that they see a vet consistently.

Rottwiler Health Issues

Rottweilers may look tough, stocky, and powerful on the outside, but when it comes to health problems, they tend to encounter more issues than some other breeds.

For this reason, it is extremely important it is to purchase Rottweilers from reputable breeders that test their breeding specimens for hereditary disorders.

Breeding specimens that test positive for any hereditary disorders are supposed to be eliminated from the breeding pool. This significantly lowers the chances of encountering any genetic disorders.

Even in healthy dogs, however, health issues can arise. Below are some of the most common issues faced by Rottweilers.

Obtain Health Insurance for Rottweilers

As mentioned, Rottweilers may be more prone to certain problems and disorders than some other breeds, so it's important to take them to the vet regularly.

Having a good pet health insurance is a paramount with this breed if you don't want to incur in surprises when you get a hefty vet bill.

It is best to start this early from when your Rottweiler puppy first comes to your home. We learned this the hard way, after our Rottweiler puppy was hospitalized shortly after bringing him home from the breeder and the bill was over $1,000!

There are many pet health insurance companies on the market. They tend to have low premiums in the first years, but then they tend to increase substantially as Rottweilers start growing old.

We started with $25 a month for each puppy, and then it went up to almost $200 each as they got older and we increased their coverage once we realized how easily veterinary bills could add up as more health issues popped up.

We had a high deductible in those last years, but once we got past that, we had several more visits covered so it all came in handy until the very end.

Some Examples of My Rottweilers' Health Problems Covered by Insurance


What Health Problems and Diseases Are Rottweilers Prone To?

The issues listed below are some of the most common problems you are likely to see come up in a Rottweiler. Of course, not all Rottweilers will encounter them, but these are some of the ones this breed is particularly predisposed for.

Orthopedic Problems in Rottweilers

Being a large dog breed, Rottweilers are more predisposed to certain orthopedic conditions. Of course, it goes without saying that obesity adds extra strain on an already predisposed breed.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Tear

A torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is a major cause of rear-leg limping in Rottweilers. Affected Rottweilers show signs of instability in the knee, with accompanied swelling and pain. Toe-touching posture is common after injury.

The surgery to fix a torn CCL costs Rottweiler owners thousands of dollars, and even with surgery, dogs later on go on to develop debilitating arthritis.

Hip Dysplasia (HD)

This genetic disorder is a common occurrence in large and giant dog breeds. According to data from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) in the United States, 20.2 percent of Rottweilers had HD from 1974 to 2015.

Hip dysplasia tends to occur when the hip bone and socket bones do not adhere as they are supposed to causing severe pain and debilitation.

Responsible dog breeders will only breed their breeding dog specimens after they have received clearance for OFA, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

Diagnosis is obtained after reviewing hip x-rays and classifying the hips under the following categories: Excellent, Good, Fair, Borderline, Mild Dysplasia, Moderate Dysplasia, or Severe Dysplasia.

Elbow Dysplasia (ED)

Elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the elbow. According to data from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals 36.7 percent of Rottweilers had dysplastic elbows from 1974 to 2015.

Just as with hip dysplasia, OFA can certify dogs for elbow dysplasia on a pass or fail basis. Responsible breeders will test their breeding specimens for this disorder as well reducing its chances by selectively breeding only Rottweilers with zero or marginal dysplastic joints.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)

This is a developmental abnormality of the cartilage, a protective layer that covers the ends of bones that articulate with one another. It causes symptoms similar to arthritis. Affected puppies may show that gradually worsens over time with exercise.

The causes may be various, ranging from genetics, rapid growth as seen in large breeds, hormone imbalances, and nutrition.

It's important that Rottweiler puppies don't grow too quickly. Puppy owners must prevent overfeeding their puppies and should avoid giving supplements with additional calcium. To slow down the growth rate, Rottweiler puppy owners should feed a large-breed puppy diet.

Since Rottweilers are particularly predisposed to OCD affecting mostly the hock joint, which is located in the back leg below the stifle (knee), yet it usually occurs elsewhere in other breeds, this is highly suggesting that there must be a genetic component at play.


Also known as growing pains, pano is a disorder affecting large breed dogs for even 18 months. The causes are unknown; however, there may be chances it can be due to genetics, nutrition, or even bacteria.

Affected dogs develop lameness that typically shifts from one leg to the other. Occasionally dogs may also develop a fever.

My female Rottweiler "toe-touching" after a CCL tear

My female Rottweiler "toe-touching" after a CCL tear

Other Health Problems in Rottweilers

The health problems in Rottweilers do not end here. There is a vast array of other health issues that are common in this breed.

Parvo Virus

Rottweiler puppies are predisposed to parvo along with other breeds such as Doberman Pinschers and English Springer Spaniels. This highly contagious viral disease may present in two different forms: cardiac and intestinal.

The most common type is the intestinal form which causes diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss and potential death in young puppies who haven't finished their vaccinations.


As with any other deep-chested dogs, Rottweilers may be prone to developing bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach swells due to the presence of gas and/or fluids. Dogs may develop bloat from overeating, drinking water after strenuous exercise or after eating or eating after vigorous exercise.

As the stomach swells, it risks twisting itself like a hammock leading to a complication known as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV).

Affected dogs will pace, retch without being able to vomit, drool and appear restless. This is a medical emergency where time is of the essence.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Rottweilers, along with several other breeds, are predisposed to inflammatory bowel disease, a condition known for causing loss of appetite and chronic vomiting and diarrhea.

Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand Disease (VWD) has a higher prevalence in Rottweilers compared to other dog breeds and is hereditary. It is somehow similar to hemophilia experienced in humans. However, unlike hemophilia, it is not sex-linked and may affect both sexes.

Because this disease affects the blood's ability to clot properly, affected dogs will experience prolonged and significant bleeding even after minimal trauma such as a broken toenail.

Subaortic Stenosis

This is a cardiac problem that has a genetic link. It is the most common heart disorder in Rottweilers. Responsible breeders are also working on preventing such disorders from happening.

The disorder is due to a structural defect where there is additional tissue that prevents the heart from pumping the blood as it is supposed to, therefore working harder than necessary.

Affected Rottweilers may develop congestive heart failure, syncope and even sudden death.


In other words, affected dogs have low thyroid levels causing a variety of symptoms such as being lethargic, loss of energy, a dull coat with thinning hair and irregular heat cycles in females. The condition is corrected with thyroid medication.

Eye Disorders

Entropian and Ectropion are both defects of the eyelids, either rolling inward or rolling outward. Other conditions are Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Cataracts.

Board-certified ophthalmologists can screen for genetic eye disorders, and dogs free of hereditary eye disorders can be registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).


Although any dog breed can be affected, vitiligo has a higher incidence in Rottweilers. This is a progressive condition that causes the destruction of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells of the skin.

Affected Rottweilers show patchy areas of skin with no pigment. The most commonly affected areas are the lips, nose, eyelids, face and footpads. The first signs are most often seen between 1.5 and 5 years of age.

Hansen Type II Disc Degeneration

Hansen type II disc degeneration mostly affects large dog breeds, in particular German shepherds, Dobermans, Labrador retrievers and Rottweilers.

Most affected dogs do well when they are young and active, but start suffering from neck or back pain between the ages of six and eight.

It is caused by a gradual, chronic protrusion of material from the disc (disc bulge) into the spinal cord. The bulged material ends up potentially pressings against the nerves causing spinal cord compression.

Affected dogs show signs of progressive pain such as yelping, a reluctance to jump, an arched back, low head carriage, holding the neck stiffly, looking with the corner of the eyes, restlessness and panting.

Wobbler's Disease

This is a neurological condition that is passed down genetically. As the name implies, it causes a wobbly, drunken gait. Wobbler's disease takes place when there is a narrowing of the vertebrae in the neck that ends up pinching the spinal cord and associated nerves.

When the nerves are pinched, they are unable to send clear signals to the brain, and therefore, the affected dogs lose their ability to sense their feet and their placement which causes a staggering gait.

A Word About Cancer

It's unfortunate, but the Rottweiler breed is particularly prone to cancer. Indeed, Rottweilers rank high among the dog breeds with the highest cancer rates. The following types of cancer are known to occur frequently in Rottweilers.

Bone Cancer

Unfortunately, bone cancers (osteosarcomas) are very common in this breed. This is a very painful type of cancer that first presents with lameness and leg pain. This type of cancer tends to metastasize and spread to the lungs.

On average, bone cancer affects dogs in the 7 to 7.5-year range. Sadly by the time the cancer is discovered, almost 90 percent of cases have already metastasized,

There are studies suggesting a link between spaying and neutering at an early age and the incidence of bone cancer. Studies suggest that neutering or spaying before 1 year of age appeared to increase the risk of osteosarcoma in both male and female Rottweilers.


Often referred to as "the silent killer," hemangiosarcoma in dogs is a cancer that affects internal organs like the spleen or the heart, but sometimes also the bone marrow or muscle.

It preferably affects mostly dogs in their senior years, generally between the ages of 6 and 13, but can also be seen occasionally in younger dogs.

What makes this condition devastating is the fact that it leads to internal bleeding, which when severe enough, can cause a dog to weaken and drop dead sometimes fairly quickly.

Histiocytic Sarcoma

This is not a very common cancer, but it has been identified as being more common in Bernese mountain dogs, Rottweilers, flat-coated Retrievers, Doberman pinschers, Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers.

The term histiocytic sarcomas derives from the fact that these are sarcomas that originate from histiocytes, a special type of cell that plays a role in the dog's immune system.

Most diagnosed Rottweilers are middle-aged dogs. Signs are rather vague initially and may comprise lethargy, loss of appetite and weight loss. Cancer may originate from the dog's skin, spleen, lung, bone marrow, central nervous system, tissue and around the joints and lymph nodes.

There is also a disseminated form that affects multiple organ systems at once which is known as s disseminated histiocytic sarcoma (DHS), and a hemophagocytic aggressive form originating from splenic tissue and rapidly progressing.


Rottweilers can also be predisposed to lymphomas. In lymphoma, the body forms abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Often, affected dogs develop swollen lymph glands.

On the positive side, this is a type of cancer that responds pretty well to chemotherapy when caught early. It is also rather easy to diagnose considering that it can be often identified easily through a blood test and fine-needle aspiration of any suspicious lumps.

Always Adopt From Reputable Breeders!

As seen Rottweilers may be prone to a variety of disorders. However, the chances of such disorders may be reduced greatly by staying away from a back yard breeders, newspaper ads and pet stores, while sticking to responsible, qualified and ethical breeders who health and temperament test their breeding specimens.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli


Chevy baby1373 on July 15, 2020:

My husband and I just had our 10 1/2 year old Rottweiler Chevy past away Sunday.

I thought maybe if i went ahead and share my love for my fur baby my heart wouldn't feel such pain. She had the most adorable face any mother could love she was very smart and even though she looked very intimidating she would lick you silly then mowe you down with excitement. my heart is broken knowing the loyalty as well as the unconditional love she adore us in for so many years is no longer. ❤WE LOVE YOU CHEVY GIRL RIP. MY FUR


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 17, 2020:

Jackie, any history of ingesting something toxic? Injuries? What happened before your dog became paralyzed? Is she a purebred Rottweiler? In what country are you? So sad that vets seem so incompetent there.

Jackie on February 16, 2020:

Hi my dog is Maggie she's 9month old just recently she got paralysised on all four legs and she hasnt gotten up since. Shes quite active even lying down on her tummy but when ever i massage her legs shes in total pain how do i help her the vets in my coumtry dont run test on dogs they just guess whats going own whether wrong or right and based on their judgement they diagnose them and give them drugs and injection. Please help me out.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 03, 2019:

Beverly Walker, so sorry to hear about your daughter's Rottweiler. I have lost my two best friends one year apart from cancer and it's devastating when they get older and start acting ill. Has a neurologist been seen? There are board-certified vets specialized in nerve function. A CT scan or MRI perhaps can help screen for cancers. Differentials that come to mind include facial nerve paralysis, mini stroke, nerve sheath tumor, lymphosarcoma, cancer of the trigeminal nerve, some type of nerve inflammation, Cushing's disease, hypothyroid neuropathy to just so name a few. Unfortunately, I hate to say this, but in dogs over the age of 10 cancer is quite rampant, affecting 1 in 2 dogs. Both my Rotties got cancer, my female at almost 11 and my male at almost 12.

Beverly Walker on September 03, 2019:

I am writing this in hopes of maybe saving my daughter's rottweiler.

She had just lost her other rotty about 2/3 months ago from blood disease.

Now this one was so much healthier and he has fallen sick.

His face is paralysed and cannot eat or drink well. His eye won't close and he cannot blink. She has been trying her best to help keep him alive.

She raised him from a 2 month old baby.

Now he is over 10 years old. He had been so healthy and all of a sudden she noticed that his eye was drooping and that's when she knew there was something wrong.

The vet has been checking him over but he is fast deteriorating.

Please we do not want to lose him if there can be some cure or help we may be missing. But even the vet has no idea what it is.

Mike on March 13, 2012:

Hey, My name is Mike, somone please contact me, i want to share pictures of my dog, she has an issue with her coat that i need help adressing. I have a female Rottweiler she is 4 years old, she’s beautiful and healthy, although she does have an issue with her coat, she lives outside all year, she has a big heated dog house, during the winter she grows a thick coat with a white undercoat,

When spring comes she looses her thick coat slowly but a weird patchy pattern appears on her back on both sides, it’s not hair loss because the patch is thinner shorter hair and its dark brown in color and the rest of her coat is black… I know it’s a problem because when I take her for walks people always ask me what’s wrong with her, while she sheds, the white undercoat becomes visible near her bum and on the back of her neck, this never happened before, she use to have a butiful thick dark black coat and its depressing for me to see her coat so ugly, shes still gorgeos... she was born with a white patch on her chest aswell, the white patch never went away and she still has it, i plan on breeding her this year but i want to figure out what the problem is before, any help would be greatly apriciated

Nathan on December 03, 2011:

AHh that's so sad millionstars when i moved to indianapolis from gary we had to take our rott to the vet to hold her for 1 day exactly when we came back the next day they had put her down the said she was being vicious when everyone in my family no she wasint and friends knew she wasint either she accepted strangers very easily

millionstars on September 06, 2011:

have to put our rott down today due to hip Dysplasia she has been a great dog. protective and loving to all our family. great with the kids. it is a sad day for us. we are going to miss her. her pain is just to much now.

Lyudmyla Hoffman from United States on June 10, 2011:

A proud owner of a rottie over here. Enjoying browsing through your topics. We have much in common. (:

shelley on November 22, 2010:

it is important to train them at a young age or they will control you rottweilers are a intellegent breed and will be a great dog with proper socilizing and training

brad4l from USA on June 23, 2009:

My friend has a rotty and he is a great dog, although still very young and in need of a little bit more discipline then he is getting. This is an excellent Hub!!

ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on June 22, 2009:

nice dog pictures. makes me rememebe passing by one place on the way to walking my kid to school.

Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on June 22, 2009:

The pictures are great. I never owned one, but the ones I've met have been great.