Common Health Issues

Following are the most commonly encountered health problems in Swissys. With diseases such as OCD, CHD, idiopathic epilepsy and most ocular abnormalities, heredity is definitely a factor while with conditions such as GDV, splenic torsion and panosteitis, inheritance has not been clearly established.

Skeletal disorders: OCD in the shoulder - Panosteitis - CHD
Nervous system: Idiopathic epilepsy
Gastrointestinal tract: GDV - Splenic torsion
Eyes: Distichiasis and Entropion

OCD   Osteochondrosis dissecans
This is a generalized disturbance of the normal development of cartilage. The articular cartilage becomes abnormally thickened and small fissures and cracks may develop. The "dissecans" refers to the stage when the cartilage becomes dissected resulting in cartilage flaps. These flaps may remain attached or become loose and fall into the joint space.
In Swissys, the vast majority of OCD cases occur in the shoulder joints and much less frequently in other joints such as elbows and hocks. The onset of the disease may begin as early as 4 months and as late as at 14 months. The most typical age of onset, however, is between 6 and 8 months. Except for very mild cases without flap development, the clinical signs are almost invariably persistent, and less frequent, intermittent lameness. The dog may be stiff after resting and the lameness is usually aggravated by exercise. OCD is diagnosed by radiographing the affected joint. Extreme flexing and distending of the of the leg almost always will produce a reaction from the dog if the shoulder joint is affected.
Mild cases without cartilage flaps may be treated and heal spontaneously with several weeks of strict crate rest and treatment with the drug Adequan and nutritional supplements such as Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM and vitamin C. The vast majority of cases, however, will require surgery that consists of the removal of flaps and loose fragments and the scraping and smoothening of the defective surface. Surgical repair of OCD of the shoulder, whether it is done conventionally or by arthroscopy, usually renders excellent results. Surgical results involving other joints such as elbows and hocks are not as predictable.
Because mild forms of OCD can occur without presenting clinical signs, a prudent approach is to radiograph shoulders prior to breeding so that affected Swissys can be eliminated from a breeding program. In fact, Swiss health data has convincingly shown that removing affected dogs from the breeding stock, incidences of OCD can be significantly reduced.
(Top of Page)

PANOSTEITIS, also called Shifting Leg Lameness or Pano:
This is a spontaneous, self limiting inflammatory disease of the long bones in the legs of young, fast growing breeds. Most dogs are diagnosed between 5 and 12 months but pano can occur as early as 2 months and as late as 7 years. The vast majority of pano cases are resolved by the age of 2 years.
The cause of the disease is unknown but has been associated with reactions following viral or bacterial infections, the bleeding disorder von Willebrand's disease and hyperestrogenism in females associated with th first estrus.
Clinical signs are persistent or intermittent lameness that may shift from leg to leg, hence the term shifting leg lameness. Deep palpation of the affected bone will elicit a painfult response. Radigraphs may demonstrate an increased patchy density of the bone cavity with a roughened surface. Diagnosis of pano is very important as acute lameness may signal any of several orthopedic conditions such as OCD in the shoulder or elbow dysplasia.
There is no cure for pano because the disease is self limiting and hence research on this condition is almost non-existent. Treatment consists of alleviating the pain with analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs and plenty of rest as restricted activity can prevent more severe pain from developing.
Because this disease is self limiting and causes and heredity are not fully understood, most Swissy breeders do not consider it as a breeding excluding condition.
(Top of Page)

CHD  Canine Hip Dysplasia
This is the irregular formation of the coxofemoral joint. This is the joint that connects the femur, the longest bone in the body, to the hip socket. The hip is a ball and socket joint, and the ball (femoral head) must fit well into the socket (cup) for the joint to function properly. The main contributors to the development of CHD are joint laxity and the depth of the acetabulum (cup).
Early signs of CHD include:
- Reluctance to go up and down stairs
- Difficulty rising or laying down
- Bunny hopping when rinning, i.e. both hind legs move together
Diagnosis is made through radiographic findings, either by the method used by the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) or by PennHIP (U of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program) which measures hip laxity.
While CHD is among the common orthopedic diseases in the GSMD, fortunately for Swissys, it manifests itself rarely in a severe and crippling form. Indeed, unless radiographs are taken, Many Swissy owners are not even aware that they have a dysplastic dog. Quite often, mildly and moderately affected Swissys do not show any or only very subtle signs of the disease.
While surgical options for severely dysplastic dogs are available, we will not discuss them here as they so rarely are applicable to Swissys.
Prior to breeding, Swissys should be screened for CHD and evaluated by an established registry such as the OFA or PennHIP. It is preferable to use only CHD free animals.
(Top of Page)

This term is used by most experts to describe the condition of frequent seizures with no identifiable cause.
Seizures occur when nerve cells in the brain become hyperexited and send rapid fire messages to the body. If nerve cells in an isolated part of the brain are defective, only part of a dog's body is affected resulted in a partial seizure. Partial seizures are exhibited by localized body movements such as head bobbing or imaginary fly-biting. If circuits throughout the entire brain misfire, the dog has generalized or grand mal seizures. Tonic-clonic seizures involve loss of consciousness, teeth gnashing, frantic thrashing of the limbs, excessive drooling and loss of bodily function resulting in uncontrolled urination and defacation.
There is no cure for IE. Treatment depends on the severity, i.e. the frequency and intensity  of the case and may involve daily administration of anticonvulsant drugs phenobarbital, potassium chloride and others. Unfortunately, all anticonvulsants have some undesired side effects. Some can make the dog drowsy or hyperactive or may cause vomiting or constipation. Long term use may affect liver functions.
IE is present in all Swissy lines. While it is not rampant, it is of considerable concern to all dedicated Swissy breeders. It typically surfaces between the ages of 1 and 3 years but can become evident as early as 9 months and as late as 5 years. Unfortunately, no method to identify carriers of IE exists to date. It is only after a dog or a bitch has produced offspring with IE that we can assume that this particular sire or dam is probably a carrier of IE. However, the mode of inheritance of this disease is so complex that at the moment no one specific management method will assure complete control of the condition. Prudent Swissy owners will not continue to breed a dog or a bitch that has produced several offspring with different mates, and of course, no serious breeder would ever consider breeding an affected animal.
Many Swissy breeders and owners participate in the multiple breed DNA research project to locate the genetic marker for IE conducted at the University of Missouri/Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine since the late 1990s. We all hope that this research eventually will produce a reliable method to identify carriers of IE and thus help breeders to better control or even erradicate this hearbreaking, unpredictable and sometimes lethal disease.
(Top of Page)

Commonly called bloat and stomach torsion, this is a potentially fatal condition in which a dog's stomach distends with gas, food or fluid and then rotates and twist. the twisting action blocks the entrance to and the exit from the stomach. Distention and twisting can occur independently of one another. But when both take place at the same time, immediate veterinary intervention is absolutely critical.
Signs of GDV may include:
- Abdominal swelling and tenderness
- Unsuccessful attempts to vomit
- Excessive drooling
- Restlessness
- Panting or labored breathing
GDV, which can be positively diagnosed by radiograph, requires immediate surgery. This entails the possible removal of necrotic stomach tissue and repositioning of the stomach. If the dog's condition allows it, a gastropexy (stomach tacking) is perfomed at the same time. The most widely used technique is the incisional gastropexy which involves suturing the cut muscle of the stomach wall to the cut muscle of the inner abdominal wall. As the tissues heal, they result in a strong adhesion of the stomach to the body wall.
A word of caution: A gastropexied stomach can still dilate, i.e. the dog can still bloat. While there is a remote possibility that with extreme dilation, the pressure could loosen or detach the adhesions, it is rather unlikely, hence the gastropexy will greatly reduce the risk of fatal torsion and give the owner more time to get the dog to the vet.
Between 1994 and 2004, Purdue University conducted a study on 1991 dogs representing 11 breeds to determine the cause and incidence of GDV in large and giant breed dogs. The findings of this research are available on the following web site:
The Purdue study has advanced the knowledge about this often fatal condition. However, because the GSMD and other large and giant breeds were not included in this study of 11 breeds, the researchers stated "(..) these risk factors and estimates may not be accurate in other large and giant breed dogs". In fact, many Swissys have and likely will continue to experience GDV on an entirely empty stomach. Therefore, while Swissy owners now are better equipped to deal with GDV, in the absence of more breed specific data, this condition unfortunately will remain one of the common health concerns in the breed.
This is why we strongly recommend to have an elective gastropexy done at the time a dog is neutered between 12 and 18 months and a female is spayed after the first heat cycle.
(Top of Page)

With this condition, the spleen which is attached to the stomach rotates around its own axis, either away or towards the stomach. The spleen then becomes engorged with blood and may expand to several times its normal size. If the spleen rotates away from the stomach, it may twist several times. As many as 6 revolutions have been observed. If the spleen rotates towards the stomach, it may pull it along causing a partial or even complete torsion of the stomach, creating a very dangerous and potentially fatal situation calling for instant medical attention.
Unless the stomach is involved and obvious signs of GDV are present, unfortunately, signs of splenic torsion are often quite vague and may vary from case to case.
Symptoms may include:
- Inappetence
- Vomiting,  diarrhea or constipation
- Low level fever, general listlessness
- Tucked up abdomen, tenderness of the abdomen or slight
   abdominal distention
- Pale gums, this is a sign of inadequate blood circulation, at this
   stage, immediate medical attention is required to prevent the
   dog from going into shock.
Splenic torsion may not always start as an emergency, but it can become one very quickly. While the above listed symptoms (with the exception of the pale gums) may not always be a definite indicator of spleen problems as they are applicable to many other gastrointestinal problems, it is far better to do one ultrasound or radiograph too many than to lose a dog to a condition that has an excellent survival rate with timely surgical intervention.
The best diagnostic tool is ultrasound, but good radiographs can also show the condition and position of the spleen. In the surgical procedure calle a splenectomy, the spleen is removed and if the dog's conditions allows it, a preventive gastropexy is often performed at the same time.
The causes of splenic torsion are not known. Like with GDV, the condition seems to primarily affect large deepchested breeds. In Swissys, dogs over 5 years appear to have a higher incidence, hhowever, quite a few cases of younger Swissys have been reported. For the GSMD, splenic torsion unfortunately is one of the common health problems. As with GVD, the most important tool to prevent a fatal ending to splenic torsion is to recognize the signs and get immediate veterinary care.
Remember, splenic torsion will kill if not recognized in time to perform life saving surgery!
(Top of Page)

Distichiasis - eye lashes or row of lashes growing from the inside margin of the eye lid referred to as distichia  and Entropion - eyelid rolling inward, are the common eye defects in Swissys. Symptomatic cases left untreated are not only very uncomfortable for the dog, they also cause corneal ulceration.
Distichiasis: Probably the majority  of Swissys will have distichia at one time as these pesky hairs can come and go. It is not so much the presence of the extra lashes but their position that determines whether or not the condition becomes symptomatic and requires medical attention. If the hairs grow crocked and bend towards the cornea, irritation occurs and the condition becomes symptomatic.
Entropion:  In Swissys, this condition occurs mainly in part or all of the lower lid. In growing puppies, very mild cases sometimes resolve spontaneously but in most cases, surgical correction becomes necessary.
Symptoms: Tearing, squinting, ocular discharge
Treatment: Both conditions require surgery to alleviate the discomfort and prevent the ulceration of the cornea
For distichia, the two most commonly used methods are cryo (freezing of the hairs with liquid nitrogen) and laser surgery.
For entropion, the method of surgery depends on the age of the dog but both the suture and pinch techniques are relatively simple procedures producing very good results.
(Top of Page)

Brush Creek Farm
Kiwi Calf Feeding System
Powered By Myke Bates Powered By Myke Bates