Genetic Disorders of Rottweilers

Powerful and protective, rottweilers are still subject to genetic disorders.
i Rottweiler image by Stana from

Protective, robust and intelligent, it's hard to imagine your powerful rottweiler as anything but the picture of health. All pure-bred dogs are at risk for genetic disorders, however. Responsible breeders can provide you with the health background of the pairs they breed so you know beforehand what to expect.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia occurs in rottweilers when the ball joint of the thigh bone slides partly or all the way out of the pelvis socket. Osteoarthritis can occur and the condition is painful for the dog, making him weak and lame. There are many different genes involved in genetic hip dysplasia, and it isn't known how many genes or which ones are involved. Hip dysplasia and its effects can be compounded by quick growth or excessive weight gain. Surgery is recommended in cases of severe pain, but typically hip dysplasia can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and dietary supplements like glucosamine.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia can mean one or more conditions that affect a rottweiler's elbow joints. Cartilage might peel away from the bone inside the joint, the smaller foreleg bones may not fuse properly to the ulna or might break free after fusing, or the bones in the elbow joint might grow unevenly causing an improper fit within the joint. Elbow dysplasia often affects both of a dog's front legs, causing lameness and elbow pain. Scientists haven't yet been able to isolate which genes or how many of them are involved in elbow dysplasia. Weight, diet and strain on the joints can affect if, when and how severely elbow dysplasia sets in. Surgery is usually the recommended treatment in addition to controlling diet and exercise.

Subaortic Stenosis

When a rottweiler is born with excessive tissue below the aortic valve in his heart, the partial blockage is known as subaortic stenosis. The condition puts stress on the left ventricle. Cases can range from mild, with the dog showing no symptoms, to severe, which are fatal. This condition can be inherited from either or both parents. In moderate to severe cases, symptoms to watch for are difficulty breathing, coughing fits and possible collapse (in the most acute cases). With mild subaortic stenosis, no treatment is usually recommended, but in the moderate and severe cases exercise is restricted and beta-blocking medications are prescribed. Surgery is rarely recommended and, when it is, it must be performed at a specialized facility.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy can cause blindness in rottweilers as young as 1 year of age, or it can develop later in life if the dog has inherited the disorder. It will become apparent the dog is having trouble seeing in semi-dark or complete darkness. There is no treatment for PRA, but the University of Prince Edward Island's CIDD database points out that dogs affected by the condition compensate for blindness well because of their excellent senses of smell and hearing. Keep your dog's surroundings unchanged or make changes gradually to help your rottweiler through the difficulty of losing vision. Patience as your dog adjusts will be helpful as well as appreciated.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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