Health Issues

The genetics of the dog and the environment in which it lives combine to influence the health of a BMD. The dog will inherit strengths and weaknesses from its parents. You should become informed about the known problems in the breed but be aware that there may be other problems, which have not been identified.

Diseases Affecting Bernese:

Hip Dysplasia: This results from an unstable hip socket and the degenerative arthritic changes that result from this instability. Unfortunately this can very rarely be detected at 8 weeks of age when puppies go to their new homes. Whilst some affected animals will experience painful arthritis, many will show no signs. HD can affect dogs from 6 months of age. Whilst these is no guarantee for puppies to be free from HD, studies have found that dogs free from hip dysplasia generally produce fewer offspring with HD. This disease can only be diagnosed and evaluated by x-ray. As there is a genetic component to this disease there is no guarantee that puppies will not develop some degree of HD.

Elbow Dysplasia: This describes several different abnormalities of the elbow joint. ED is another disease which causes arthritic changes in the elbow joint. It can be seen in puppies as young as 5 months of age. Lameness from ED may subside when a dog reaches adulthood. ED can only be diagnosed and evaluated by x-ray. Once again puppies are less likely to be affected if their parents do not suffer from ED.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD): This is a disease of the cartilage and leads to arthritic changes. There are genetic components to this disease but no studies to determine the heritability of OCD.

Panosteitis: This is a disease of the bones that affects growing dogs up to 2 years of age. It is more likely to be seen around 7 to 8 months of age. Diagnosis can be done by x-ray but it can be difficult to detect. Whilst the disease can cause pain and impair movement it will generally resolve with rest and disappear completely once the dog reaches maturity. The symptoms appear to be as the result of trauma, but Panosteitis is not related to an accident. It has not been determined whether it runs in families.

Entropion and Ectropion: (eyelids turned in or out). The eyelids of the BMD should be tight fitting and either of these conditions can damage the dog’s eye. Entropion causes the eyelid to roll inward causing irritation to the surface of the eye. Ectropion is where the eyelid rolls out causing dirt to collect and irritate the inside of the eyelid.
Allergies: Some dogs are prone to allergies especially those that are food related. They are difficult to diagnose and there may be a hereditary component to this problem. The family history of a dog should be considered prior to purchasing the puppy.

Bloat: (gastric torsion and/or volvulus) is potentially life threatening. It appears rapidly and occurs when the stomach fills with gas. The stomach may then rotate. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY AND REQUIRES IMMEDIATE TREATMENT TO SAVE THEIR LIFE.
Dogs that have bloated once have a higher tendency to do so again. The bloat chart link is a good reference, which members can use as a guide.

Bloat chart
Print off for ready reference

Cancer: This disease is found in many Bernese families and about 65% of dogs will succumb to some form of cancer. There at least two types of cancer that are inherited – Mast Cell Cancer and Malignant Histiocytosis. Early detection can help but is not guaranteed to improve the prognosis. Improved veterinary care has led to increased longevity.

Berner-Garde is a non profit organisation dedicated to accumulating and dissemination of health information in Bernese Mountain Dogs and working with researchers to determine how genetic faults can be minimized or eliminated in the breed.