Great Dane Adult Health

Great Danes Puppies and Health Issues.

Unfortunately, Great Danes puppies can encounter health related issues. We explore the more common issues in the tabs on the right as many issues are based on the age range of the Dane. As a general overview the following are common health problems that Great Danes puppies.

  • Bloat
  • Wobblers
  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
Stomach that is bloating

Bloat | GDV | Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus

Bloat is life threating and dictates immediate action!!!

Every Great Dane owner should familiarize themselves with this condition. You should pay special attention to the symptoms, recognizing them early and acting fast can save your Danes life.

GDV is very prevalent in Great Danes and other deep chested dogs. It is caused by rapid expansion of gas in the stomach. This gas can cause the stomach to flip over on itself and cut off blood circulation to organs. It is a major killer in Great Danes and if suspected must be acted upon quickly. Prevention is possible but it can and does happen even when prevention is adhered too. It should also be noted that Bloating is not the same as GDV, they are two separate stages of the same process. It is possible for a dog to bloat without the stomach flipping though this is rare or in most cases in dogs that have had Gastropexy preventative surgery.

Symptoms of Bloating
  1. Stage 1: Actually bloating occurs. This is the process when the dogs stomach begins to fill with gas. Dog will become restless, pace, appear uncomfortable, whine, and sometimes stare straight upwards.. If treated chances of success are extremely good.
  2. Stage 2: Stomach has enlarged. Gases in the stomach have reached the tipping point. Dog will show signs of extreme salivation and attempt to vomit or dry heave repeatedly. Most of the time the dogs stomach will distend and be rock hard. Chances for success are really 50/50. Stomach begins to flip on itself.
  3. Stage 3: Stomach has rotated. The process is complete and the dog is now in a dire situation. The dog will go into shock, as gums become white and pulse slows to a crawl. At this point without surgery the dog will slip into coma and die within minutes and even with surgery chances for survival reduce considerably.
If you are reading this and suspect your dog is bloating, take action immediately. Administer the recommended dosage of Simethicone and call to inform your vet you are on your way as you believe your Dane is bloating.

Causes of Bloat

There are many factors that can cause Bloat. We wont go into all of them here but if you would like to read more about the causes of bloat this is a great article on bloating in Great Danes. The main causes believe to be involved are stress, size of meals and exercise directly after eating. Genetics are also a main factor, which is another reason we recommend show breeders if buying a puppy. Because they know the line, they will be able to tell you if there is a history of bloating in the family. Some will choose not to breed those with high prevalence.

Prevention of Bloat

There are a few things you can do to minimize bloating and GDV. You should adhere to these rules strictly to lower the chances of bloat as much as possible.

  1. Feed 2-3 smaller meals a day as opposed to one large meal
  2. NEVER exercise or allow your Dane to play or run for at least 1-2 hours after each meal. Think of it like the swimming pool rule for humans.
  3. NEVER feed your Dane prior to knowing he will need to do something stressful such as go to an unfamiliar place or to the vet. DYHAS personally believes stress is a main cause of bloat so we recommend extending this rule to not feeding 3-4 hours before going to such an event with your Dane.
  4. Limit the dogs water intake in each sitting. It is better to give several small portions of water than one large portion.
  5. Limit water intake after playing, particularly on hot days. Playing in the heat, your Dane will be very thirsty and our instinct is naturally to set out a large bowl of water for them. This is not recommended. Use ice cubes with a very small amount of water. The ice cubes will help cool down the dog and don't overload the stomach with water. When exercise has stopped and the dog has calmed down then return to regular administration of water. Always watch your dog when playing in heat for signs of heat exhaustion which is also a killer.
  6. Always have Simethicone on hand if you own a Great Dane. Simethicone is simply GasX though we recommend liquid or gel cap Simethicone for easier administration. Simethicone can save your dogs lives if administered during early phases of bloat. In some cases it can stave off bloat completely. It is also considered extremely safe for dogs. If you feel your dog is showing signs of bloat don't hesitate to give it the recommended dosage of Simethicone immediately.
  7. The last line of defense is Gastropexy surgery. This surgery is often done at the same time as neuter or spay. Gastropexy is done by cutting a incision in the lower abdomen along the belly line. The stomach is then tacked to the inner lining of the cavity wall, which in effect stops the stomach from rotating on itself. Gastropexies can stop GDV which is the life threating part of Bloat, but bloating can still occur.
Bloat Controversy

There is a study out there from Purdue university that seems to debate the age old theories on bloat. I will link it here for your perusal. I will also link Linda's (The Great Dane Lady) rebuttal to the study. You can decide for yourself. DYHAS believes that stress and genetics are the key factors in bloat... the rest is a mystery that we feel has not been thoroughly disproven or proven which is what makes Bloat so scary.

Purdue Study

Great Dane Lady Rebuttal

Simethicone dosage

1cc. = 1000mg
1.5cc. = 1500mg

Give 10 gelcaps = 1640mg Simethicone or give 1.5cc. (if liquid) Simethicone

Repeat process if you do not see a change or if dog vomits up first administration. GET TO THE VET!!! (Chances are the Simethicone will stave off the bloat if its in initial stages and the dog might be ok by the time you get to the vets office, but don't take that chance. If the Simethicone doesn't work, you will have wasted precious time getting to the vet while you waited for it to kick in. Administer and get to the vet ASAP.

Quick note about Great Dane Gastropexy

Anytime you undergo surgery with a Great Dane it is considered dangerous. For some reason, Great Danes, perhaps due to their size can have issues with anesthesia. We recommend limiting surgeries or combining such surgeries with other necessary ones such as spay or neutering.

We just recently went through Gastropexy surgery with Hank while he was being neutered We read quite a lot of stories about gastropexy, some which do not recommend you do it, and some that do. So it was really with a heavy heart that we decided to go forth with the procedure. That being said though the main reason we did is because we are lucky enough to have access to one of the greatest veterinarian schools in the world at "The Ohio State University". They are simply amazing there and I had witnessed first hand the miracles they can work when they saved my sisters Great Pyrenees through complex spinal surgery.

Going into the consultation with the surgeon I really wanted to go the newer route of "non-invasive" which involves using laparoscopy with several smaller cuts. However, the surgeon explained to me that while she had done several hundred laparoscopy surgeries that in fact it is not better than the regular procedure unless you plan to show your dog (due to smaller scars). This is because instead of one incision, three must be made. One incision is for the laparoscopy, one for the instruments, and one for a tube that pumps nitrogen into the body cavity. In addition, the laparoscopy takes up to an hour longer, which means this is an hour longer the dog is under sedation. We decided to go with the regular procedure because of this, even though the cost was the same. We were very happy with the results. The incision is large and looks scary, but it healed up very well within two weeks.

To me, it is worth the piece of mind and the safety of the dog, but only if you can find a surgeon who has a good deal of experience doing it. Our last Dane Titan did not have it, and luckily never bloated, but I can tell you I was constantly vigilant of bloating with him. While Hank can still bloat, I know that the chances of it turning life threating are much slimmer now.

Wobblers Disease

Wobblers affects younger Great Danes usually between 1-3 years of age.

tOSU is currently doing an extensive study on Wobbler's in Great Danes and Dobermans.

From The Ohio State University web site

What is wobbler syndrome?
Wobbler syndrome is a neurologic disease of dogs that affects their spine in the neck region. It is a very important and common cause of neurologic disability in large breed dogs.

Are there other names for Wobbler syndrome?
Wobbler syndrome or wobblers is the most common name used but the Veterinary literature has used 14 names to describe this condition. This is in part due to the confusion regarding the mechanisms causing it. The name most commonly used in veterinary articles is cervical spondylomyelopathy (which means a disease of the neck vertebrae affecting the spinal cord). Other common names are CVI – cervical vertebral instability, CVM – cervical vertebral malformation, CVMM – cervical vertebral malformation-malarticulation, and cervical spondylopathy.

What are the signs of Wobbler syndrome?
Dogs with wobbler syndrome typically have a “wobbly” gait mostly in the back end (thus the name “wobblers”). This wobbly gait may only be visible in slippery floors and when the dog walks slowly. They may walk with their head down, which is usually a sign of pain. In the more advanced stages of the disease the problems become obvious in all four legs, and they may have trouble getting up, appear very weak, and even “buckle over” with the front legs. Approximately 5% of dogs with wobblers may become acutely paralyzed in all four legs.

Which kind of dog gets wobbler syndrome?
Wobbler syndrome is primarily a disease of large and giant breed dogs. Small breed dogs occasionally get the disease but it is uncommon. In a study with 104 dogs with wobblers only 5 were small dogs.

What are the breeds most commonly affected?
Dobermans and Great Danes are the breeds most commonly affected. A recent survey of the Veterinary Medical Database showed that 4.2% of Great Danes have wobblers, whereas the disease is present in 5.5% of Dobermans. Dobermans usually have the classic form of the disease in large breed dogs whereas Great Danes have the typical form seen in Giant breeds. Other breeds are Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Weimaraners, German Shepherds, Bernese Mountain dogs, Swiss Mountain dogs, but any large or giant breed dog can have the disease.

Is the disease the same in Dobermans and Great Danes?
Generally speaking no, the disease tends to be different in these breeds. Dobermans usually have the disease when they are middle aged to older (mean age 6 years), whereas Great Danes are typically younger (mean age 3 years).

What causes the disease?
We don’t know yet what exactly causes the disease. Many people believe that there is a genetic basis for the disease, which may well be true, but the evidence for genetics is still not clear. We are investigating the genetics of the disease in Dobermans and have plans to study it in Great Danes in the future.

Why do they have the neurological signs or pain?
The neurological signs happen because affected dogs typically have spinal cord compression. The compression can be caused by a combination of a small spinal canal with disc herniation (as commonly seen in large breeds such as the Doberman), or a small spinal canal secondary to bony changes impinging upon the spinal cord. The spinal nerves or nerve roots can also be compressed. When the nerves are compressed this causes a great deal of pain/discomfort.

How can I find out if my dog has wobblers?
Your dog has to be first examined by your Veterinarian. During the examination he/she will perform a physical and a neurological examination to find out if the reason for the difficulty in walking can really be attributed to a neck/neurologic problem. To specifically diagnose the disease we need to do some imaging tests. We typically do X-rays first to see if we can identify any obvious bony lesion or diagnose other diseases that can mimic wobbler syndrome. To confirm the disease more advanced imaging tests are required. In the past we used to do myelograms (an X-ray with dye injected around the spinal cord). This technique is rarely used these days because there are better, more sensitive tests. The best test is an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) (when we compared myelogram and MRI head to head we saw that MRI was clearly superior). MRI is also very safe. We do not see any neurological worsening after MRIs, whereas this happened frequently with myelograms (typically the worsening was mild and temporary). A CAT scan (computed tomography) is a good test too, but probably not as good as the MRI. Typically these tests are done by specialists in larger Hospitals or specialty clinics.

What are the treatment options?
Dogs can be treated medically or surgically. Medical management usually consists on the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (steroidals or non-steroidals) with restricted activity. Because they have a neck problem, neck leashes should not be used, and a chest harness is strongly recommended.

How is surgery done?
Surgery can be done in many different ways. There are at least 21 different types of surgery to treat wobbler syndrome. Several factors must be taken into consideration when deciding on the type of surgical treatment, for example how severe are the symptoms, how many lesions are present in the spine, how severe is(are) the spinal lesion(s), the presence of other concurrent medical conditions, such as dilated cardiomyopathy, etc. The attending Neurologist or Surgeon will discuss the options with owner, taking into consideration the short and long term expectations of the family.

What is the success of the treatment?
We have done a study looking at the success of surgery and medical management of wobblers in 104 dogs. Based on that study we learned that approximately 50% of dogs will improve with medical management, approximately 30% will remain stable and 20% will worsen. Surgical treatment offered a success rate of approximately 80%. The other 20% of dogs either remained stable or worsened. We have had very good success with both medical and surgical management.

Would wobblers shorten the life expectancy of my dog?
It might. Again, it depends on how severe are the spinal lesions, how much neurological impairment is present and the type of treatment. Typically, based on our studies, the mean survival time of dogs with wobblers is approximately 4 years. This survival is the same whether the dogs is treated medically or surgically.

Are you doing any studies at Ohio State?
We have a strong program to better understand and treat dogs with wobbler syndrome. We just finished two large projects and the manuscripts of these studies are being written and published. Gait analysis of Dobermans with and without wobbler syndrome We used state-of-the-art computerized systems to study the gait of Dobermans with and without wobbler syndrome. Our goal is to develop a reliable, unbiased system to assess the success of treatments for wobbler syndrome. Video of the computerized gait of a Doberman dog Anatomic and functional characterization of Great Danes with and without signs of wobbler syndrome. This study aims to characterize and to compare the presence of spinal abnormalities in normal and wobbler Great Danes using MRI and other tests. We are also involved in a number of other investigations namely: Genetics of wobbler syndrome in Dobermans Mechanisms leading to neurological deterioration after treatment Newer methods of treatment. We are starting to use artificial disc replacement to treat wobbler syndrome. This is a new surgical technique that is considered to be the gold standard treatment for humans with disease very similar to wobblers called cervical spondylotic myelopathy). Question/comments please contact

Dr. Ronaldo C. da Costa, DMV, MSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM – Neurology (

There are some great advances in Wobblers. Check out this inspirational video of something called the Ivivi collar

A Great Dane Senior

Great Danes are susceptible to several forms of cancer.

Among these types of cancer are osteosarcoma, lymphoma, and hemangiosarcoma We will discuss each in detail below.


Osteosarcoma or in la-mens terms, bone cancer is the more prevalent cancer you will see in Great Danes. This is because of the extremely long bones and rapid growth rates of those bones. This is also why nutrition at an early age is so very important for Great Danes. Genetics also play a key role in bone cancer in Great Danes. Another reason to buy from reputable breeders. It can affect Great Danes from as early as 1-2 years throughout the course of their lives.

Causes of Osteosarcoma

Genetics is thought to play a key role in the contraction of this cancer. In addition, nutrition, particularly calcium intake can attribute to the disease. Other causes include environmental such as exposure to cancer causing agents in certain insecticides, fertilizers, etc.

Synopsis of Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma affects most large breed dogs. Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, etc. can all be affected by this terrible disease. It is considered highly malignant and particularly aggressive. It most preventively targets the long bones in the dogs legs. There is also a correlation between spay and neutered Great Danes and the prevalence of Osteosarcoma. DYHAS does not recommend spaying or neutering a Great Dane until after at least 1 year old. It is thought that hormones play a key role in bone development so removing those hormones at an early age can affect bone development.

Symptoms of Osteosarcoma in Great Danes

Symptoms generally start out as leg pain and can affect both back and front legs and shoulders. Front legs are considered more dangerous as it can spread faster to the shoulder and soft tissue areas in the chest cavity. In advanced stages the area will be sore and feel hot to the touch.

Treatment of Osteosarcoma in Great Danes

Treatment should be begin with a trip to the vet on first signs of lameness. It is imperative that the disease be caught early to maximize survivability. Treatment may consist of Chemotherapy, Radiation, Amputation or a combination of those treatment depending on the aggressiveness of the tumor. Newer forms of treatment include stereotactic radiosurgery such as that being performed at the University of Florida. Factors need to be considered to treatment options such as age, cancer stage, etc. and should be discussed with your vet to determine the best course of action. This disease is, like other aggressive cancers, quite awful and unfortunately you may need to make that dreadful decision of Euthanasia. This is something you should discuss with involved parties such as your family and vet to determine the correct course of action.

Additional Osteosarcoma Resources
- Top 10 Facts about Osteosarcoma
- Osteosarcoma in dogs
Great Dane Club of America Bone Cancer Research


Lymphoma is life threating cancer that Great Danes can contract. Like Osteosarcoma the outlook is often dim and when the signs show it is often too late. Little is known about how a dog contracts lymphoma but it is thought Genetics play a large role along with environmental factors such as herbicides.

Symptoms of Lymphoma in Great Danes

General signs of Lymphoma are depression, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, loss of hair or fur and vomiting. There are several different kinds of lymphoma but the most prevalent is Multicentric Lymphoma which presents with enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, jaw, armpits, or groin area.

Treatment of Lymphoma in Great Danes

If you feel lumps on your dog in any of the aforementioned areas you need to see the vet immediately. Prognosis is usually achieved via a biopsy of affected area. If the diagnoses is positive than you will have some tough decisions to make, not unlike Osteosarcoma. Chemotherapy is usually the preferred treatment method. Even with Chemo, remission is usually short lived.

Lymphoma Resources
- Canine cancer: Lymphoma
- Web MD
Animal Cancer Center article

Hemangiosarcoma in Great Danes

Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant cancer that arises from the cells lining blood vessels. It most commonly arises as one or more tumors in the spleen, liver or heart, but can also be found as a primary tumor in the skin or bone.

My first Dane, Titan was lost to Hemangiosarcoma, or so we believe he was. It came on very sudden over the course of a couple of weeks before he ultimately succumbed to it, even after surgery to remove it off his skin. Shortly after removal of a skin nodule he developed more and got to a point where we had to make that fateful decision. Titan passed just two days before his 11th birthday on Dec. 22cd. You can read more about Titan in the "About" section of the site.

Causes of Hemangiosarcoma in Great Danes

The cause is unknown, though it is more prevalent in large breed dogs. It is most likely genetic or environmental.

Symptoms of Hemangiosarcoma in Great Danes

Sudden weakness is a key sign of this cancer. The onset is usually quite rapid. With Titan, we noticed he did not want to go up or down the stairs anymore and when he did he seemed to have a lot of trouble. It was shortly after that we began seeing the lumps on and under his skin. This disease can cause the vessels to pop and internal bleeding follows. When this happens death can occur within an hour.

Treatment of Hemangiosarcoma in Great Danes

Treatment for the skin variation is limited. By the time the dog presents with tumors, the cancer has already traveled through the bloodstream. Even know as I write this I remember how very quickly things went downhill. Unfortunately there is not much more I can add about this terrible cancer.

Hemangiosarcoma Resources
- Healthy Pet article
- More articles


Panosteitis or PANO as it is more commonly called is a self limiting and the least threatening of the bone diseases that puppies can contract. In effect, PANO is really just Growing pains. PANO can affect Great Danes until their growth plates close between 1.5-2 years of age.

Symptoms of Pano in Great Danes include:
  • Joint pain.
  • Lameness or limping in the legs both front and back.
Causes of PANO

In most cases PANO is simply part of the Great Dane growing process. Nutrition may be a factor in some cases but for the most part it is simply the process of such large bones and growth plates going through their natural aging process.

Treatment of PANO

Pano is a self limiting disease in that it will heal on its own. If you feel your Dane is experiencing Pano, you should limit his exercise and motion. In general PANO can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Heart disease known clinically as DCM is another ailment that could effect you're great Dane. DCM usually occurs in middle-late age Great Danes. It is a condition by where the myocardium of the heart is stretched and can no longer pump blood efficiently. The blood can begin to "backup" most usually in the lungs. DCM affects many different large breed dogs.

Causes of DCM in Great Danes

The causes remain unclear. Most believe it is genetically linked.

Symptoms of DCM in Great Danes

Usually the signs are not seen by owners until congenital failure presents. Some early warning signs can include:

  • lethargy
  • labored breathing
  • Coughing or clearing of throat
Treatment of DCM in Great Danes

Unfortunately there is no cure and not much that can be done for a Dane with DCM in the long term. General treatment consists of using several medications to prolong the life of the dog and make their quality of life better. Digoxin is often prescribed to help strengthen the heart and Lasix can help with fluid build up in the lungs. There are several homeopathic remedies that you may wish to try. The Great Dane Lady offers a package of several homeopathic ingredients that can help a Dane with DCM. I have seen her products work first hand on other health issues so I place some stock in her advice.

DCM Resources
- HWhat is Dilated Cardiomyopathy?
GDCA - Heart Disease in Great Danes