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What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From (Answered!)



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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German shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. They are known for being loyal and intelligent dogs. However, many people don’t know that they can also be quite fragile.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common causes of death in German shepherds. We will also provide information on how to prevent these deaths from happening.

Key Takeaway

  • German Shepherds most commonly die from conditions such as hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and various forms of cancer, particularly hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the spleen) and osteosarcoma (bone cancer).
  • A German Shepherd may die suddenly due to severe health conditions such as inherited ventricular arrhythmias, internal bleeding from traumatic injuries, gastrointestinal diseases, or unobserved trauma, and less commonly, poisoning or infection.

What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From

What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From

German Shepherds typically die from health conditions like hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and various forms of cancer.

1. Cancer

What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From

German shepherds are susceptible to certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. Both types of cancers are very dangerous and treatment is a must.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. It is the most common cancer in dogs, and German Shepherds are especially susceptible.

The cause is unknown, but it may be related to the dog’s immune system. Symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, weight loss, lethargy, and lack of appetite.

Treatment typically involves chemotherapy, but some dogs may also require radiation therapy or surgery. The prognosis for dogs with lymphoma is generally good, with many dogs responding well to treatment and living for several years after diagnosis.

However, some dogs may experience relapses or develop other health problems that can shorten their lifespan.

Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that affects the blood vessels and is most commonly found in the spleen, liver, and heart. German Shepherds are especially susceptible to this disease, with a mortality rate of around 50%.

The cause of hemangiosarcoma is unknown, but there are some risk factors that have been identified, including exposure to certain chemicals and pesticides.

Treatment for hemangiosarcoma typically involves surgery to remove the affected organs, followed by chemotherapy. However, even with treatment, the average survival time for dogs with hemangiosarcoma is only about six months.

2. Seizures

What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From

Seizures are a neurological condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. German Shepherds are particularly susceptible to seizures, and they usually die from them. Seizures can be caused by genetic factors, brain tumors, or head injuries.

There are a few things you can look for that may indicate that your dog is having a seizure:

  • Your dog will lose consciousness and collapse
  • Your dog will have muscle spasms or convulsions
  • Your dog’s eyes will roll back in their head
  • Your dog may drool or foam at the mouth
  • Your dog may urinate or defecate involuntarily

If you think your German Shepherd is having a seizure, do not try to restrain them. Instead, gently guide them to the ground and clear away any objects that they could hurt themselves on.

Once they are on the ground, stay with them and keep them calm until the seizure has passed. If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes or if your dog has multiple seizures in a row, you should take them to the vet immediately.

Treatment for seizures typically involves medication, but in some cases, surgery may be necessary. German Shepherds usually do not live long after diagnosis with seizures, so it is important to get them treated as soon as possible.

Early diagnosis and treatment can sometimes extend their life by several years. If you think your German Shepherd may be having seizures, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

3. Cardiac disease

What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From

Cardiac disease in dogs is any disorder that affects the heart. German Shepherds are susceptible to a number of different types of cardiac diseases, which can often be fatal.

The most common type of cardiac disease in German Shepherds is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is a condition where the heart muscle weakens and enlarges, eventually leading to heart failure.

Other less common types of cardiac diseases that German Shepherds can develop include pulmonic stenosis, subvalvular aortic stenosis, and tricuspid valve dysplasia. While there is no one specific cause for any of these disorders, they are often seen in dogs who have been bred for certain physical traits (such as a large chest cavity).

Treatment for cardiac diseases often involves medication and, in some cases, surgery. German Shepherds who are diagnosed with a cardiac disease typically have a life expectancy of two to five years. However, with proper treatment and care, many dogs are able to live much longer lives.

If you think your German Shepherd may be showing signs of cardiac disease, it is important to contact your veterinarian right away for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can often make a significant difference in the outcome for these dogs says Huffington Post.

4. Chronic renal failure

What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From

Chronic renal failure (CRF) is a progressive, irreversible kidney disorder that eventually leads to complete kidney failure and death. German Shepherds are particularly susceptible to this disease due to their large size and high metabolism.

The most common cause of chronic renal failure in dogs is long-term exposure to toxins, such as lead or mercury. Other causes include infections, cancer, and genetic abnormalities.

Treatment for chronic renal failure typically involves aggressive hydration therapy and dietary changes. In some cases, dialysis or transplant may be necessary. Unfortunately, once symptoms of chronic renal failure appear, the disease is often fatal within a few months.

German Shepherds typically die from complications related to chronic renal failure before they reach the age of ten.

5. Intestinal disorders

Intestinal disorders in dogs are a common occurrence and can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from dietary indiscretion to infections.

German Shepherds are particularly susceptible to intestinal problems due to their long, deep chests which give rise to a condition called bloat.

Bloat is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off the blood supply.

German Shepherd owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of intestinal disorders so that they can seek treatment for their dog as soon as possible.

Some common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the successful management of intestinal disorders in dogs.

What Causes a German Shepherd To Die Suddenly?

Cause of Sudden DeathPercentage
Inherited ventricular arrhythmias (heart condition)14%
Internal bleeding from trauma or tumors12%
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)10%
Foreign body obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract8%
Sudden acute infections7%
Unobserved trauma (e.g., car accidents)5%
Other health conditions39%

At What Age Do Most German Shepherds Die?

Most German Shepherds die between the ages of 7 and 10 years, although some can live until they are 13 years old or more.

In my experience as a veterinarian, the lifespan of a German Shepherd can vary greatly depending on factors such as diet, exercise, genetic predispositions, and overall care.

Many of the German Shepherds I have treated lived to be around 9 to 10 years old, which is consistent with the average lifespan for the breed. However, I’ve also seen German Shepherds that have surpassed this average, living well into their teens.

Health issues are a significant factor in a German Shepherd’s lifespan. Conditions like hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy, both common in the breed, can lead to a decrease in quality of life and a shorter lifespan.

Similarly, various forms of cancer can also affect a German Shepherd’s longevity.

Are German Shepherds More Prone To Certain Diseases Compared To Other Breeds?

Health ConditionGerman ShepherdsOther Breeds
Hip DysplasiaHigh RiskModerate to Low Risk in many breeds
Elbow DysplasiaHigh RiskModerate to Low Risk in many breeds
Degenerative MyelopathyHigh RiskLow Risk in most other breeds
Exocrine Pancreatic InsufficiencyHigh RiskLow Risk in most other breeds
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)High RiskModerate Risk in large, deep-chested breeds
Von Willebrand’s DiseaseModerate RiskVariable Risk across breeds
Perianal FistulaHigh RiskLow Risk in most other breeds


Q: What is hip dysplasia?

A: Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, resulting in an improper fit between the ball and socket of the hip joint. This can cause pain, lameness, and eventually, arthritis.

Q: What is degenerative myelopathy?

A: Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive neurological disease that affects the spinal cord. It can lead to weakness in the hind limbs, difficulty walking, and eventually paralysis.

Q: What is bloat?

A: Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists. This can lead to decreased blood flow to the stomach and other vital organs, which can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Q: Can German Shepherds get cancer?

A: Yes, German Shepherds can be prone to certain types of cancer, including hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and lymphosarcoma. These cancers can affect various organs and tissues in the body and can be highly aggressive.

Q: What are common heart diseases in German Shepherds?

A: German Shepherds can be susceptible to several heart diseases, including dilated cardiomyopathy and degenerative valve disease. These conditions can lead to heart failure and, ultimately, death if not managed properly.

Q: How can I prevent hip dysplasia in my German Shepherd?

A: Although hip dysplasia has a strong genetic component, certain strategies can help reduce the likelihood of it developing. These include selective breeding from healthy parents with good hip scores, providing a balanced diet and appropriate exercise, and avoiding excessive stress on the joints during the puppy’s growth stage.

Q: Can German Shepherds live long lives if properly cared for?

A: Yes, with proper care, German Shepherds can live long and healthy lives. Regular veterinary check-ups, a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and a loving environment can all contribute to their overall well-being and longevity.

Q: How can I provide the best care for my German Shepherd to prevent health issues?

A: Providing the best care for your German Shepherd involves regular veterinary visits, keeping up with vaccinations and preventive medications, feeding a balanced diet, providing regular exercise, socializing, and training, and monitoring for any changes in their behavior or health.

Conclusion and final thoughts

In conclusion, German Shepherds are known to be a strong and resilient breed. However, they are still susceptible to certain health issues that can ultimately lead to their death.

It is important for German Shepherd owners to be aware of these common health problems in order to prevent them or catch them early on.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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