Great Dane Puppy 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.

  • Nutrition - And its role in development
  • Vaccine Protocol
  • HOD
  • PANO
Top view of Great Dane


Diet is probably the most single important factor, aside from genetics, that can affect your Great Danes health. We discuss this even more in detail in the Nutrition section of this site. You must remember that Great Danes grow much faster than an average dog. They can grow up to 5 lbs a week during their growth spurts. They have extremely long bones and large growth plates and nutrition effects how fast these bones grow out. Properly managing their nutrition is a necessity in order to stave off problems down the road such as HOD, PANO, and even bone cancer. Here are some general guidelines to Great Dane Puppy nutrition:

  1. SLOW AND STEADY - The Golden Rule in growing a Great Dane from a puppy to an adult is slow and steady. You're Dane should remain on the skinny side, with enough fat and muscle to completely cover the spine and with only the last rib being visible. This is the standard for which you should judge your Great Danes nutritional intake. If you see the second rib becoming visible, then you will want to up the caloric intake. If you begin to lose site of the last rib, you will want to hold back on the caloric intake. If you follow this rule, the growth rate of your Dane will be balanced. You should not worry that underfeeding your Dane will result in a smaller size. The size your Dane reaches is genetically set and nutrition will not affect the ultimate outcome of how big your Dane will get. Your goal is to maintain a balance as your dog reaches his ultimate adult age of about 1-2 years old, this is when growth plates begin to close off.
  2. NEVER - Feed puppy food WITHOUT checking its contents and understanding how calorie counting works with Calcium levels. Puppy food is extremely high in calories, fat and often calcium. It is also very calorie dense. Feeding a Great Dane puppy food based on traditional cup schedules can cause considerable harm down the road. It will force growth plates to push out new bone material faster than normal and cause conditions that are ripe for HOD and osteosarcoma. Stay away from puppy food unless you understand the mathematics behind it.
  3. NEVER - Give Calcium Supplementation. According to several Great Dane studies, over-excessive calcium intake or disproportionate Phosphorous/Calcium ratios are a leading cause of bone cancer and HOD in Great Danes. Almost of AAFCO dog food is balanced in calcium so supplementation is not needed and only serves to "overload" the dogs system with Calcium. You will learn more about what the proper levels of calcium intake for your Dane are in the Nutrition section.

Vaccine Reactions

Vaccinations of your Great Dane puppy are necessary but it should be noted that during the several months of vaccination your Great Dane could be at risk for Vaccine reaction. Vaccine Reactions are probably the most dangerous issue a Great Dane puppy can develop. Without sugar coating it, if your puppy has a vaccine reaction there is little that can be done to save it unless it is caught extremely early and even then its 50/50. It is very important to find a vet that has experience with giant breed dogs and is familiar with the issues that can arise during vaccinations. At the very least, they should be willing to listen to your concerns about vaccine reaction as, brace yourself, they may not even know about it. In general vaccines are very safe. But Great Danes, particularly merle Great Danes, are susceptible to reaction. Linda Arndt, also known as the "Great Dane" Lady has a great write up on this particular disease. DYHAS highly recommends you read it and familiarize yourself with the early warning signs and take her suggestion to speak with your vet about it before staring a vaccine protocol. Be particularly cautions and vigilant in the days following vaccination shots to the puppies joints and general lethargy level. It is normal for dogs to be slightly lethargic after vaccines but with a reaction it will be very noticeable.


What you vaccinate your Great Dane with is ultimately up to you. However, our suggestion is a minimalistic approach to vaccination with lengthy intervals in-between vaccinating. It is vital that you allow your Great Dane puppies immune system plenty of time in between vaccinations to recover. Doing so can help stave off Vaccine reactions and possible issues down the road. DYHAS recommends following Dr. Ronald Shultz vaccination protocol. Dr. Schultz recommends not starting a puppy or kitten core vaccination program before 6 to 8 weeks of age, with re-vaccinations no more frequent than every 4 weeks. So for example, if you start the program at 8 weeks, you would give another dose of the core vaccines at 12 weeks, and the third dose at 16 weeks. These are the "core vaccinations". Rabies should be given after 6 months. Some state laws dictate earlier rabies shots. DYHAS does not advocate breaking laws, but to our knowledge there are no "rabies" police. Rabies shots are by far the hardest on the immune system. It is very important that they be given no closer than 4 weeks after previous vaccinations. If you wish to take an even more minimalist approach you can run titer tests after the second round of core vaccines which will tell you if the dog is indeed vaccinated. Knowing this means you would not have to give a third round of shots.

Great Dane HOD

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy

HOD is a potentially serious disease that affects puppies between 3-10 months of age. The disease affects the joints and is extremely painful. The joints, usually the knuckle bone (see image) become very large and distorted. In sever cases if nutritional changes are not made the lower leg bone will begin to become deformed, bowing in on itself.

Symptoms of HOD in Great Danes include:
  • Severe pain in the joints. Dog is lame or lethargic.
  • Fever. The dog will usually run a high temperature of 104+
  • It should be noted that Vaccine Reaction and HOD have very similar symptoms in the early stages which can make them hard to diagnose properly.

HOD causes sever swelling in the joints. It usually affects all the legs at the same time and the onset of HOD is rapid. It will usually begin with general lethargy followed by fever and finally complete lameness in all 4 legs.


Nutrition is believed to be the main cause of HOD. There is some dispute on what nutritional elements cause HOD, whether it be excessive protein or calcium.


HOD onset is in almost all cases brought on by nutrition, in particular feeding food with high calcium, improper calcium:phosphorous ratio, and in some cases high protein, though the latter is up for debate depending on some studies. A diet change is the very first change that should be made. Please read more about proper diet in the Nutrition section of this site. The puppy must remain restrained so as not to further injure the joints and bones and must in fact remained restrained from excessive movement throughout the course of healing which can take up to a month or more. Recurrence can happen until the puppies growth plates close usually between 1-2 years.

If you would like more in depth knowledge on HOD The Great Dane Lady has a great informative article. In addition, we recommend her homeopathic products to help for a more speedy and complete recovery.


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.

Cropped Great Dane Ears Natural Great Dane Ears

Natural or Cropped

Cropping is considered a controversial practice these days and is in fact banned in certain European countries. It is a process by where part of the ear is cut off and formed to a point. After healing, the ear is then "trained" to stand upright through various means. DYHAS will not get into the political correctness of the practice but will simply inform you on the difference. The history of cropping dates back to the time when they were still used to hunt wild boar. The ears were cropped and trained to stand to keep them from being ripped or torn by the tusks of the boar. It is the "classic" Great Dane look. When you think of a Great Dane, the image you probably conjure up is one with cropped ears. They are often considered more masculine in look than those with natural ears. Cropping is still widely done in the show ring here in the U.S.. While not a standard or required to show a Dane, cropped ears for what ever reason are still preferred in the ring.

In most cases, particularly if you are buying from a show breeder, they will offer the service of cropping for an additional fee. These are usually done by veterinarians that the breeder has used in the past and trusts. If the breeder does not offer the service, you will most likely need to find a veterinarian who is willing to do the operation. It should be noted that many vets no longer perform cropping.

If you decide to crop:

Be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time caring for and taping the ears. The time it will take for the ear to stand is largely based on the thickness of the "leather" or skin of the ear. The thicker the ear, the longer it will take to stand. It can take anywhere from 1 month to 1 year or more to get ears to properly stand.

These videos explain the technique of taping the ears.