German Shepherds For Dummies
To keep your German Shepherd healthy, you should know how to do a routine health check, know when to take your German Shepherd for urgent care, and have important emergency care phone contacts on hand. The American Kennel Club (AKC) defines the breed standard for German Shepherds.
AKC German Shepherd Breed Standard in Brief
The American Kennel Club (AKC) determines the accepted breed standard for German Shepherds in the United States. Here is a shortened version of the AKC breed standards of German Shepherds:
Overall strong, agile, well-muscled, and full of life
Longer than tall, deep-bodied, with an outline of smooth curves
Males 24 to 26 inches; females 22 to 24 inches at the shoulders
Noble, strong, chiseled head; long muzzle parallel to back of skull
Moderately pointed ears facing forward and set parallel to one another
Shoulders are higher than back, which is level and straight
Sternum reaches to elbows; moderately tucked-up loin
Tail is bushy, set low, and hanging in slight curve
Shoulder blades obliquely angled with well-angulated wrists
Broad thigh with a right angle between upper and lower thigh
Double coat of medium length, with dense, straight, harsh outer coat
Most colors are permitted (except for white); rich colors preferred
Gait is ground-covering and effortless
Temperament is confident, fearless but aloof; eager, alert, and willing to work
Quick Health Check of Your German Shepherd
To ensure a lifetime of good health for your German Shepherd, spend a few minutes checking for these signs of a potentially dangerous health situation. If you see any of these signs on your German Shepherd, a trip to the veterinarian is in order:
General: Lameness, lack of coordination, asymmetry of muscles, weight change, bloated abdomen, swelling, coughing, gagging, lethargy, increased aggression, appetite, or water consumption
Mouth: Red, bleeding, swollen, or discolored gums; loose or dirty teeth; sores of the tongue or gums; bad breath
Eyes: Squinting, discharge, cloudiness, discolored whites, unequal or unresponsive pupils
Ears: Bad odor, redness, debris, crusted tips, head shaking or tilting, ear scratching
Nose: Thick or colored discharge, crusted top
Feet: Abrasions, split nails, swollen or misaligned toes
Anal region: Redness, swelling, discharge, tracts; also scooting or licking of the area, black or bloody stool
Genitals: Mammary or testicular changes, discharge from penis or vulva, changes in urine or urination
Skin: Parasites, hair loss, crusts, red spots, lumps, sores
Emergency First Aid for Your German Shepherd
In case of a medical emergency involving your German Shepherd, stay calm, administer first aid if possible, and get veterinary care immediately for your German Shepherd if any of the following situations occur:
Abdominal bloating, restlessness, and attempts to vomit: Go to the emergency vet immediately. The problem could be gastric dilatation volvulus.
Airway obstructions: Wrap your hands around the dog’s abdomen behind the rib cage and compress once briskly; doing so should dislodge the obstruction. If the dog is unconscious, pull his tongue forward and explore his throat, removing any obstruction you find.
Bleeding: Cover the wound with clean dressing, apply pressure, elevate the wound site, and apply a cold pack.
Burns: Cool burned areas with cold packs or towels soaked in water. Cover the area with a clean bandage or towel and monitor the dog for shock.
Drowning: Hold the dog upside down so that water can run out of his mouth, and then give artificial respiration or take him to the emergency vet.
Heatstroke: Wet the dog and place him in front of a fan, or immerse him in cool (not icy) water. Offer small amounts of water for drinking.
Hypothermia: Warm the dog gradually by wrapping him in a warm blanket and placing plastic bottles filled with hot water outside the blanket, not touching the dog.
Insect stings: Remove any visible stingers as quickly as possible. Administer baking soda and water paste to bee stings and vinegar to wasp stings. Call the vet immediately if your dog has an allergic reaction, including swelling that could interfere with breathing, or any change in consciousness.
Poisoning: Call the vet or poison control hotline and give as much information as possible; they can advise whether you need to induce vomiting or bring your dog in to be examined.
Important Pet Phone Numbers
If your dog, cat, or other pet needs immediate medical help, you don't want to be caught fumbling with a phone book and trying to find the right number. In case of an animal emergency, keep these numbers near your phone, and make sure you program them into your cell phone!
Your veterinarian's phone number
The phone number for an after-hours or emergency clinic
The National Animal Poison Control Center:
800-548-2523 or 888-4ANIHELP (888-426-4435) — $30 per case, charged to your credit card
900-680-0000 — $30 per case, charged to your phone bill