There's one unfortunate truth that Great Dane lovers must come to grips with -- this giant breed doesn't have a long lifespan. Danes don't fully mature until about the age of 3, but while a smaller dog is middle-aged at 10, that's very old age in the Dane.
Better known as bloat, gastric torsion occurs when the stomach twists, causing the abdomen to swell and stopping blood circulation. Bloat is a red-alert emergency, as the dog dies painfully within hours without surgical intervention. It's the primary killer of Great Danes, and while other deep-chested breeds are at risk, the level of risk is highest for this breed, according to the Great Dane Club of America. Your vet can perform a surgery on your dog that lessens the risk of bloat, called preventative tack or stomach tacking.
Cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease, often plagues Danes. Likely genetic in origin, dilated cardiomyopathy cause heart enlargement. Unfortunately, the initial symptom may be the dog's death, but if your dog develops difficulty breathing, take him to the vet. Danes are also subject to tricuspid valve disease, a congenital problem in which a heart valve doesn't work properly. Mitral valve disease may cause the left side of the heart to fail.
The most common types of cancer diagnosed in Great Danes are osterosarcoma, or bone cancer, and lymphoma. The latter disease usually appears initially as lumps in various parts of the body, with malignancy spreading through lymph tissues. With all cancers, treatment depends on the stage of the disease.
This malformation of the hip joint often occurs in large breeds, with the Dane being no exception. Your dog's breeder should provide a guarantee of the hips, based on radiographs of the parent's hips. Hip dysplasia ranges from slight lameness to paralysis, with less-affected dogs prone to arthritis as they age. In some cases, surgery can correct the condition.
Technically known as cervical vertebral instability, this disease gained the name of Wobbler's because that's what affected dogs do. The congenital form usually appears by the time the dog is a year and half old. Wobbler's syndrome may also be caused by trauma. Signs of the disease include the odd gait, lethargy and lack of coordination. The earlier you take your Dane to the vet, the better the prognosis for this progressive disease.
This lack of thyroid hormone causes weakness, lethargy, hair loss and other subtle symptoms. If you feel your Dane is just not quite right but can't put your finger on it, hypothyroidism could be the cause. Take him to the vet for testing. There's good news for this medical problem -- treatment consists of thyroid supplementation.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.