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10 Common Health Problems in Rottweilers (In 2023)

vet holding a rottweiler puppy

Rottweilers are medium-large muscular dogs known for their steadfast loyalty and devotion. Male rottweilers can weigh up to 135 pounds and reach 27 inches at the shoulders. These hardy dogs tend to live 9 to 10 years. Rottweilers are descendants of Roman herding dogs subjected to further selective breeding in Central Europe.

During the Middle Ages, these dogs were used to herd cattle and as protection against attacks. Rottweilers, also known as Rotties, were the 8th most popular dogs in the United States in 2021. While this breed tends to be relatively healthy, Rottweilers are predisposed to developing certain medical conditions.

Read on for more information about 10 health problems commonly seen in rottweilers and a few tips on how to keep your pet as healthy as possible.

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The 10 Common Health Problems in Rottweilers

1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia¹ is a painful condition in which the hip joint becomes lax, leading to pain, instability, and the eventual erosion of the joint. While almost any dog can end up with the problem, it’s particularly prevalent in larger breeds, including rottweilers.

Overweight animals of all sizes are also at heightened risk of developing the debilitating joint condition. Dogs can begin showing signs of the disease as early as 4 months old; others don’t have trouble until they reach their senior years. Mild cases can often be managed with medication, weight control, physical therapy, and nutritional supplementation. More severe cases often require surgery.

rottweiler dog lying on grass
Image Credit: mar_qs, Pixabay

2. Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis is a hereditary cardiac condition defined by the presence of an abnormally narrow aortic valve that forces the heart to work extra hard to pump blood through the body. It often goes virtually undetected in dogs with mild symptoms.

Often the only sign of the condition is a heart murmur. Sometimes aortic stenosis-related heart murmurs aren’t detected until a dog is 1 year old. Dogs with more serious symptoms¹ often faint, have difficulty with exertion, and cough. Medication is usually prescribed to improve heart function. But with medication and mild activity adjustments, many dogs diagnosed with this heart valve problem live long and healthy lives.


3. Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia occurs when fragments of a dog’s ulna break off into the elbow joint and cause arthritis. Anywhere from 30% to 50% of rottweilers may be affected by the condition, which can strike puppies as young as 4 months old. There appears to be a strong genetic link to the disease, but it’s not currently possible to determine if a dysplasia-free animal carries the responsible gene.

Diagnosis¹ usually requires a physical examination, X-rays, and CT scans. While surgical treatment options are available, they don’t seem to slow the overall joint deterioration process. Rottweilers are one of the breeds most likely to develop this painful condition.

a rottweiler dog walking on grass
Image Credit: Avis_Colors, Pixabay

4. Entropion

Entropion is a painful condition in which an animal’s eyelid curls inward instead of outward, bringing eyelash hair into constant contact with the cornea, often resulting in painful ulcerations. If left untreated for long enough, the condition can result in significant vision loss due to corneal scarring.

Common signs¹ that a dog has the condition include squinting, ocular discharge, and excessive tear production. It’s usually diagnosed when dogs are still puppies; the only real treatment is corrective surgery after the dog reaches adulthood. Many veterinarians prescribe antibiotics and lubricant drops to prevent the development of vision-limiting infections until puppies grow old enough to undergo surgery safely.


5. Ectropion

In ectropion, a dog’s lower eyelid droops towards the outside. The dog’s delicate inner eyelid is exposed to the air, drying out the dog’s entire eye and causing conjunctivitis. Everything loses moisture because of the inner lower eyelid’s exposure, including the cornea, which often leads to corneal inflammation, abrasions, and ulcers.

Both eyes are usually equally affected, and the condition is generally found when dogs are still puppies if it’s hereditary. Diseases such as hypothyroidism can also cause ectropion¹. Treatment usually involves the regular application of antibiotics and lubricating eye drops, although surgery may be recommended in particularly severe cases.

a sad rottweiler dog lying outside
Image Credit: Catherine-B, Pixabay

6. Cruciate Ligament Ruptures

The cruciate ligament is located in the canine knee and works with other anatomical structures to stabilize the joint. While some dogs end up with a ruptured cruciate ligament because of an accident, some breeds are more inclined to suffer a rupture of the ligament resulting from long-standing joint inflammation.

According to one study, rottweilers are 3 to 7 times¹ more likely to end up with this sort of rupture than other dogs. Limping is the most commonly seen symptom. The condition is usually treated with surgery, rehabilitation, and weight management. There’s a genetic component to the disease, but as of yet, no way to test for the trait.


7. Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD occurs when a dog’s joint fails to develop correctly due to inflammation. Instead of turning into bone, with OCD, flaps of cartilage often slough off into the joint, creating pain and restricting movement. It’s an inherited disorder most often found in larger dogs such as massifs, Bernese mountain dogs, and rottweilers and is more common in male than female dogs.

Symptoms include¹ limping, lameness, and pain. Once the disease process begins, the condition progresses until treated. Treatment includes weight management, medication, and exercise restrictions. Surgery is often appropriate for severe cases. Working with a reputable breeder who screens for inherited orthopedic conditions can decrease the chance you’ll end up with a dog with the disease.

a rottweiler dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: Il_grafico_con_levriero, Pixabay

8. Cancer

Rottweilers are also more likely than other breeds to develop cancer¹, specifically osteosarcoma and lymphoma. Dogs suffering from osteosarcoma, a painful bone cancer, often become lame and lethargic. Many refuse to play as movement often causes extreme pain. Surgery to amputate the affected limb is the standard treatment for the condition.

Common symptoms of lymphoma include lethargy, weight loss, and fever. Life expectancy depends on when the disease is discovered and the stage at which treatment begins. Treatment often results in remission when started early enough. However, the cancer will eventually become active again. Large breeds are more likely than their smaller brothers to develop cancer. And there’s also a genetic component to the condition.


9. Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis & Polyneuropathy (JLPP)

JLPP is an inherited disorder found mostly in rottweilers and black Russian terriers. It’s a recessive trait, so dogs need two copies of the gene, one from each parent, to actually display signs of the disorder. Dogs with the syndrome¹ often have weakened or paralyzed laryngeal muscles and sometimes have difficulty getting sufficient air when stressed.

Some dogs also have hind-leg weakness that progresses to the front legs over time. Aspiration pneumonia is always a possibility with this condition and needs to be treated aggressively when it occurs. JLPP is most often diagnosed in puppies. It’s often identifiable in puppies as young as 3 months old.

Rottweiler dog in park
Image Credit: BidaOleksandr, Shutterstock

10. Allergies

Rottweilers have a tendency to develop allergies¹. The breed is generally prone to skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis, so it makes perfect sense that rottweilers often suffer from skin allergies, which often cause intense itching and painful lesions.

Common locations for these lesions include around the paws, face, and tummy. While the majority of skin allergies are caused by physical contact with specific allergens, some dogs have itchy skin due to food allergies. And while true food allergies aren’t all that common in dogs, they do occur more often in rottweilers than most other breeds.

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Conclusion

Rottweilers are gorgeous, athletic dogs with muscular frames and sleek coats. They’re loyal, eager to please, and easy to train. Untrained rottweilers can sometimes be a bit aggressive or territorial, making obedience training critical. These sturdy dogs were originally herders responsible for keeping Roman legions’ cattle herds under control.

However, they have also been bred to defend against attacks, so they have a tendency to be a bit territorial. Rottweilers are smart and enjoy pleasing humans, making them well-suited for work as police and search and rescue dogs. They’re also popular therapy and service dogs.

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Featured Image Credit: rui vale sousa, Shutterstock

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