GUIDE TO SOME CONGENITAL,
HERITABLE, and OTHER DISORDERS COMMON (AND NOT SO COMMON) TO GREAT DANES
By Louise Feddema
There are many considerataions
about getting a Great Dane, but some things to think about are Congenital,
Genetic or those things which Great Danes have a predisposition to.
This list is here so that if and when you talk to
breeders you can ask questions about your dog's family's health history.
- Acral lick dermatitis: a skin disease caused by an animal
licking a localized area excessively, specially
on the legs and paws.
- Bloat: a condition where a dog’s stomach
produces excessive gas and enlarges severely enough to cause death
without immediate treatment. Usually associated with gastric torsion. (See
- Calcinosis circumscripta: the development of lumps of hard
calcium deposits in the skin.
- Cardiomyopathy: a disease of weakened heart muscles.
- Cataract: as in humans, a change in structure of
the lens of the eye leading to cloudiness and usually to blindness.
- Cerebellar hypoplasia: a condition where the cerebellum, a
part of the brain, is poorly formed (too small or absent) and doesn’t
function properly or at all.
- Cervical disc disease: a degeneration or malformation of the
cushioning discs between the spinal column bones (vertebrae) in the neck.
(Also see Wobblers)
- Cervical vertebral malformation or
instability: a malformation
of the vertebrae in the neck usually leading to nerve damage.
- Color mutant alpaca: a condition where certain colored areas of a dog’s skin grow less or no fur.
- Combined immunodeficiency: a severe combined deficiency of
cell-mediated immunity (T-cell function) and low concentrations of serum immunoglobulins (IgA, IgG, and variably IgM).
Affected puppies usually die from viral infections by 12-16 weeks of age.
- Complement deficiency: a deficiency in serum concentrations
of the third component of complement that impairs neutrophil
function and causes recurrent infections.
- Cystinuria: an abnormal excretion of a substance
(cystine) in the urine.
- Deafness: an inability to hear, due to many
different causes. (Usually related to color) BAER
- Demodicosis: a kind of skin disease (mange) caused
by microscopic Demodex canis
mites living within the skin layers and producing an immunodeficiency
- Dermoid cyst: a small growth composed of skin-like
- Distichiasis: abnormally growing eyelashes.
- Ectropion: an abnormal rolling outward of the eyelids.
- Entropion: an abnormal rolling inward of the eyelid.
- Eversion of nictitating membrane: a condition where the third eyelid is
- Gastric torsion: a condition where the stomach twists,
thereby impeding input and output. (See Bloat.)
- Glaucoma: abnormally high pressure in the eye. Test
- Hemeralopia: inability to see in daylight. Test available
- Hip dysplasia: a developmental malformation or subluxation of the hip joints. Test available
- Histiocytoma: a tumor composed of certain skin tissue
cells (i.e., histiocytes).
- Hygroma: a fluid-filled sac usually occurring on the elbows of large breed
dogs such as the Great Dane.
- Hypertrophic osteodystrophy:
a condition of
rapidly growing giant breeds where there is an
abnormal inflammation of bones pain and development of excessive bony
- Hypothyroidism: a common endocrine disease where the
body produces an abnormally low amount of thyroid hormones. An autoimmune
destruction of the thyroid gland that affects more than 50 dog breeds. (See . Lymphocytic thyroiditis, Thyroiditis.)Test
- Iris heterochromia:
a condition where
one iris is a different color from the other or
has more than one color to it.
- Lymphocytic thyroiditis: an autoimmune disease causing
inflammation and destruction of the thyroid gland, which becomes infiltrated
with lymphocytes (white blood cells) and leads to hypothyroidism. This is
the most common endocrine disease of the dog and has an inherited
- Metabolic bone disease: any of a number of diseases affecting
the bones due to an abnormality of metabolism.
- Microphthalmia: a condition where one or both eyes are too small.
- Missing teeth
- Mitral valve defects: a group of abnormalities of the mitral valve of the heart.
- Multiple epiphyseal
dysplasia: a condition where many of the long
bones develop abnormally due to changes in the growth plates.
- Muscular dystrophy: a congenital and often inherited form
of generalized muscle dysfunction which causes signs such as poor growth,
weakness, abnormal gait, difficulty eating and swallowing, and muscle
atrophy. Affected animals have serious health problems and may die or be euthanatized.
- Necrotizing myelopathy: a condition where the spinal cord
- Osteochondritis dissecans—OCD: a specific form of inflammation of
the cartilage of certain joints that causes arthritis.
- Osteochondrosis: a group of developmental diseases
resulting in abnormal formulation of joint cartilage. Commonly involves
the shoulder, stifle, hock or elbow.
- Osteosarcoma: a cancer arising from the cells of the bones.
- Persistent right aortic arch: a developmental abnormality where one
of the fetal blood vessels near the heart does
not atrophy, as it should.
- Pododermatitis: a skin infection of the paws.
- Progressive ataxia: a condition where the animal’s sense
of coordination deteriorates. Test available
- Progressive retinal atrophy: a disease where the retina slowly
deteriorates, producing night blindness. Test available
- Retinal dysplasia: a condition where the retina is
malformed. Test available
- Spondylolisthesis (Wobbler’s syndrome): a condition where the vertebrae of the
neck slip out of joint and are malformed causing progressive in
coordination of the rear legs.
- Thyroiditis: an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the thyroid gland. Test
- Von Willebrand’s
disease: a type of
bleeding disorder caused by defective blood platelet function. An autosomal trait affecting both sexes. Test
- Wobbler’s syndrome (see Spondylolisthesis)
Disclaimer: This list is probably not inclusive of
all the diseases Great Danes are "prone to", there are many (not
listed here) that all dogs are potential
candidates for. There are also some that I have missed. Some of the diseases or
conditions are very rare, some are more common. Some are life threatening, some
are fairly easily treated. There is no priority (other than alphabetical) for
the conditions listed. I am not a vet or anything like one -- just a Dane
Copyright 1997, V. Louise Feddema. All rights reserved. Our thanks to the willingness to share this article for educational