5 Common German Shepherd Stomach Problems
German shepherds make wonderful pets, but, unfortunately for them and their owners, they often suffer from health problems. Common among these are digestive issues and a sensitive stomach. These range from mild to fatal, so it’s very important to keep an eye on your dog’s health and (although it may be gross) bowel movements.
If you own a German shepherd, you should consult regularly with your vet about your dog’s diet. Depending on what issues it has, you may need to adjust by eliminating certain kinds of food, adding supplements, or even designing a raw food diet.
With attention and care, you should be able to keep your dog's stomach issues in check so that he can live happily and you don’t have to clean up too many messes.
Stomach and or Bowel Disorders Covered Here
- Esosinophilic Gastroenteritis
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
- Toxic Gut Syndrome
Diarrhea in German shepherds can be caused by a number of factors, but it’s most commonly caused by a food intolerance or parasite. If your dog is having diarrhea regularly, your first step should usually be to check for parasites, which your vet can then help you treat.
If there is no parasite, it’s likely your dog is reacting negatively to something in its food. Foods such as milk, fats, heavy fiber, and grains can all contribute to diarrhea. You may need to do a bit of trial and error to find what helps your dog.
Other behavioral factors such as overeating and anxiety (or being high-strung) can also lead to diarrhea. You should always make sure that you are not over-feeding your dog, German Shepherds have a sensitive stomach and can relatively quickly get diarrhea. So, make sure that you are not over-feeding your dog and that you provide regular moderate exercise to alleviate stress. Don’t do serious exercise right after eating.
2. Esosinophilic Gastroenteritis
Esosinophilic gastroenteritis is an inflammation of your dog’s intestines and stomach. Chronic diarrhea, particularly watery diarrhea, may be a sign of this disorder. Other symptoms are vomiting, lack of appetite, and weight loss.
Your vet should be able to diagnose the problem using a stool sample. Esosinophilic gastroenteritis is treatable using steroids or other medications that line the digestive track and help to reduce the inflammation. Inflammatory bowel disease, a group of disorders that also cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, causes similar symptoms and should also be treated by your veterinarian.
German shepherds are susceptible to ulcers, which can occur in relation with other digestive problems are as a result of medication for other issues (such as pain medication for hip dysplasia).
An ulcer is a sore that results from a break in the lining of the stomach or intestine. It can cause your dog pain and may result in loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting (sometimes including blood), bloody stool, weakness, and anemia. Often, treating an ulcer requires treating an underlying condition. Your vet may also need to treat your dog to bring its fluid levels back to normal.
4. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or EPI, occurs when your dog’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes. Their digestive system needs those enzymes to break down protein, fat, and starches. If a pup has EPI, it is unable to absorb nutrients for foods. That means that even if it is eating a proper diet, it can become malnourished and even starve to death if not treated properly.
If your dog has EPI, you may notice that he always seems hungry and is losing weight despite eating normally. They may also eat things they normally wouldn’t, including poops. Dogs with EPI often have a high amount of flatulence and may poop very frequently. Their stools may be runny and take on a yellow color.
EPI can be diagnosed with a blood test. Because it is so dangerous, it is important to have your pooch tested whenever it has a prolonged digestive issue, particularly if it starts to lose weight. Your vet can help you to treat EPI with a specialized diet, enzyme and vitamin supplements, and antibiotics.
5. Toxic Gut Syndrome
Toxic gut syndrome is less common than the other digestive health issues, but it occurs more commonly in German shepherds than in other dog breeds. It’s important to be aware of this syndrome because it is often fatal and can kill very quickly.
German shepherds naturally have a high level of a kind of intestinal bacteria called clostridium. In certain conditions, this bacteria can reproduce in excessive numbers, entering the dog’s blood stream and creating a toxic effect. Sadly, when this happens, the dog will usually die within a few hours. Because toxic gut syndrome kills so quickly, it is important to prevent it.
Some vets recommend a yoghurt-based supplement that helps to moderate the levels of bacteria in your dog’s intestinal tract. You should talk to your vet about the best plan for preventing toxic gut syndrome.
Which stomach issues did your Shepherd have?
Preventing Stomach Problems in German Shepherd Dogs
There are some things that you can do to prevent your dog from developing any of these conditions. The most common and simple ways to do this are by making sure that your dog is eating a diet that’s suitable for it.
To make sure that you’re not going to put your dog at risk for developing stomach problems, it’s important that you make sure you know that you’re getting quality food. Quality food, for a German Shepherd, isn’t necessarily the same quality food that you might get for another dog.
Of course, you’re going to need to make sure that you get a good mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrates. For a Shepherd, this equates to roughly 20% of its calories coming from protein and 5% coming from fat (subtracting about 2% if you’re feeding a puppy.) However, more important than the breakdown of nutrients is the quality of the ingredients and the specific ingredients used. Try to go without glutenfree or at least low grains.
In terms of protein, you’re going to want to make sure that you choose a high-quality protein source. Good sources of protein for Shepherds would be those that come from whole meats like beef, fish, and other organ meats. Chicken isn’t the best food for Shepherds because foods made with chicken often come with a lot of byproducts that aren’t good for anybody, especially not a Shepherd with a sensitive stomach.
In terms of fat, make sure that you get your food with a high-quality source of fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are the best, and you can get foods that have omega-3s added or you can choose a brand of food that uses fish as its main source of protein since fish are such great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
A German Shepherd with an upset stomach is common. Although I’ve had a one that could eat nearly everything and was very fit all the time (14 years and never an issue in his life), this is not always the case.
I had one GSD that had worms a couple of times a year like clockwork. He would get diarrhea, stop eating and get skinny in a couple of days he already looked like a sad dog. The first couple of times this can get you by surprise and you’ll not know what is happening, but you’ll learn to see the signs and take proper action. In the end, I think he was more susceptible to bowel issues, he died of bowel cancer troubles around age 10.
For another dog we had to change his food a couple of times before he would happily eat it. He’s eating well now, but enjoy eating stuff from the garden and sometimes throws up or has diarrhea, I think he’ll never learn and you can’t watch him all the time. He’s 7 years now, so I fear he’ll get himself in some serious issue when he gets older and doesn’t recover as well anymore.
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.
© 2017 Sam Shepards