Bernese mountain dog health issues

Bernese mountain dog puppy sitting

Understanding Bernese Mountain Dog Health Issues

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Common Health Issues
    • Cancer
    • Hip Dysplasia
    • Elbow Dysplasia
    • Bloat (Gastric Torsion)
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
    • Heart Disease
  3. Less Common Health Issues
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Von Willebrand’s Disease
    • Allergies
    • Autoimmune Diseases
  4. Signs and Symptoms to Watch For
  5. Preventive Measures
  6. Diet and Nutrition
  7. Exercise and Activity
  8. Regular Veterinary Care
  9. Quality of Life
  10. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Bernese Mountain Dogs, known for their gentle demeanor and striking appearance, are a beloved breed. However, they are prone to various health issues that owners should be aware of. Understanding these health problems can help you take preventive measures and ensure your dog lives a happy and healthy life.

2. Common Health Issues


Cancer is a significant concern for Bernese Mountain Dogs, with a higher incidence rate compared to many other breeds. The most common types include:

  • Histiocytosis: This includes malignant histiocytosis, a type of cancer affecting the white blood cells.
  • Lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphatic system, which can spread rapidly.
  • Osteosarcoma: A type of bone cancer that can cause severe pain and lameness.

Early detection through regular veterinary check-ups can improve the chances of successful treatment.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket. This can cause pain, arthritis, and mobility issues. Signs include:

  • Difficulty rising or lying down
  • Reluctance to jump or climb stairs
  • Limping or favoring one leg

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is similar to hip dysplasia but affects the elbow joint. It can lead to pain, lameness, and arthritis. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Stiffness, especially after exercise
  • Swelling in the elbow
  • Limping or favoring a leg

Bloat (Gastric Torsion)

Bloat, also known as gastric torsion, is a life-threatening condition where the stomach twists, trapping gas and causing the stomach to expand. This can cut off blood supply and lead to shock. Symptoms include:

  • Distended abdomen
  • Retching without vomiting
  • Rapid breathing and restlessness

Immediate veterinary attention is crucial if you suspect bloat.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is a genetic condition that leads to blindness. It involves the gradual degeneration of the retina, affecting night vision first and eventually daytime vision. Signs include:

  • Night blindness
  • Reluctance to go out in the dark
  • Bumping into objects

Heart Disease

Heart disease, including dilated cardiomyopathy, is a concern for Bernese Mountain Dogs. This condition weakens the heart muscles, leading to heart failure. Symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and weakness

3. Less Common Health Issues


Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, affecting metabolism. Symptoms include:

  • Weight gain without increased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Hair loss and skin issues

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is a genetic bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia in humans. It affects the blood’s ability to clot properly. Signs include:

  • Excessive bleeding from minor wounds
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bruising easily


Bernese Mountain Dogs can suffer from allergies, including food allergies, environmental allergies, and contact allergies. Symptoms include:

  • Itchy skin and ears
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Examples include:

  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA)
  • Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Symptoms vary depending on the specific disease but often include lethargy, fever, and abnormal bleeding.

"Mini Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan - a mini Bernese Mountain Dog in a vet's office, illustrating health issues that may affect the breed's lifespan."

4. Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Knowing the signs and symptoms of health issues is crucial for early detection and treatment. Watch for:

  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Lethargy or decreased activity
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Changes in coat condition or excessive shedding
  • Lameness or difficulty moving
  • Swelling or lumps on the body
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

5. Preventive Measures

Preventive measures can help reduce the risk of health issues:

  • Genetic Testing: Before breeding, test for genetic conditions to reduce the risk of passing them on.
  • Regular Exercise: Maintain a healthy weight and muscle tone.
  • Balanced Diet: Provide high-quality food that meets their nutritional needs.
  • Vaccinations: Keep up with the recommended vaccination schedule.
  • Parasite Prevention: Use flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives.

6. Diet and Nutrition

A balanced diet is crucial for your dog’s overall health and longevity:

  • High-Quality Food: Choose food rich in protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Portion Control: Follow feeding guidelines based on age, weight, and activity level to avoid obesity.
  • Fresh Water: Ensure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water.
  • Supplements: Consider supplements like glucosamine for joint health, but consult your vet first.

7. Exercise and Activity

Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and prevent joint issues:

  • Daily Walks: Aim for at least 30-60 minutes of walking daily.
  • Playtime: Engage in play sessions to stimulate them mentally and physically.
  • Outdoor Activities: Activities like hiking, running, and swimming can be beneficial.
  • Training: Incorporate obedience and agility training to keep their minds sharp.

8. Regular Veterinary Care

Routine veterinary care is essential for early detection and treatment of health issues:

  • Annual Check-Ups: Schedule at least one vet visit per year for a comprehensive health check.
  • Vaccinations: Keep up with the recommended vaccination schedule.
  • Dental Care: Regular dental check-ups and cleanings can prevent oral health issues that can affect overall health.
  • Screenings: Regular screenings for common health conditions like hip dysplasia and heart disease can help manage and treat issues early.

9. Quality of Life

Ensuring a high quality of life for your Bernese Mountain Dog involves more than just physical health:

  • Love and Attention: Bernese Mountain Dogs thrive on human companionship and affection. Spend quality time with your dog and provide plenty of love and attention.
  • Mental Stimulation: Engage your dog in activities that challenge their mind, such as puzzle toys and training exercises.
  • Comfortable Living Environment: Provide a safe, comfortable space for your dog to rest and sleep.
  • Socialization: Regular interaction with other dogs and people helps keep your dog socially healthy and happy.

10. Conclusion

Understanding the health issues that can affect Bernese Mountain Dogs is essential for providing the best care possible. By being aware of common and less common health problems, monitoring for signs and symptoms, and taking preventive measures, you can help ensure your Bernese Mountain Dog lives a healthy and happy life. Regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, adequate exercise, and a loving environment are key to maintaining your dog’s health and well-being. By staying proactive and informed, you can enhance your furry friend’s quality of life and enjoy many wonderful years together.


1. What are the most common health issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs?
Common health issues include cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and heart disease. Regular vet visits and awareness of symptoms can help manage these conditions effectively.

2. How can I prevent bloat in my Bernese Mountain Dog?
To help prevent bloat, feed your dog smaller, more frequent meals rather than one large meal. Avoid vigorous exercise right after meals, and consider feeding from a raised bowl to reduce air intake.

3. What are the signs of hip dysplasia in Bernese Mountain Dogs?
Signs of hip dysplasia include difficulty standing up, reluctance to climb stairs, limping, and stiffness after exercise. Regular check-ups and early diagnosis can help manage this condition.

4. How can I manage and treat cancer in Bernese Mountain Dogs?
Managing cancer involves regular veterinary check-ups, potential surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Early detection improves treatment options, so monitor for any unusual lumps or symptoms.

5. What is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and how can it be managed?
PRA is a genetic condition leading to gradual blindness. While there’s no cure, managing PRA involves regular vet visits to monitor the progression and adapting your dog’s environment for visual impairment.

6. How do I recognize and manage heart disease in Bernese Mountain Dogs?
Signs of heart disease include coughing, difficulty breathing, and lethargy. Management involves regular vet visits, possible medication, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.

7. What are the symptoms of elbow dysplasia, and how is it treated?
Symptoms of elbow dysplasia include stiffness, swelling, and lameness in the elbow. Treatment may include medication, weight management, and in severe cases, surgery.

8. How can I prevent allergies in my Bernese Mountain Dog?
To prevent allergies, identify and avoid triggers, which could be food, environmental factors, or contact allergens. Regular grooming and a balanced diet can also help manage and reduce allergy symptoms.

9. What steps can I take to ensure my Bernese Mountain Dog has a good quality of life?
Provide a healthy diet, regular exercise, mental stimulation, and regular veterinary care. Create a comfortable living environment and spend quality time with your dog to enhance their well-being.

10. How important is regular veterinary care for Bernese Mountain Dogs?
Regular veterinary care is crucial for early detection of health issues, maintaining vaccinations, and managing chronic conditions. Regular check-ups help ensure your dog stays healthy and happy throughout their life.

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