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Mastiff Breed health Issues 

This is a list of common health problems in large breed dogs, these problems can affect any canine pet but most prevalent in our big dogs. Some mastiff health issues, Hip, elbow, Dysplasia, Mastitis,  Pyometra, pyo, cruciate, ligament  injuries, Bloat, Torsion, REVACCINATION, Vaccination. Before vaccinating your pet please read below.

Hip dysplasia

All Large Dog  Breeds of dogs can be prone to  Hip Dysplasia. It can be genetic or it can be environmental.  Environmental can mean the dog had poor nutrition when growing , was over weight, or had an impact injury that caused dysplasia to develop.  Most reputable breeders X-ray the parents of their litter to assure the parents have good hips and elbows. Even if the breeder only breeds dogs with good hips and elbows this can only reduce the likely hood of their pups developing hip dysplasia, But  their is no guarantee that the off spring will not develop hip dysplasia .
    I would like to add some of my own personal observations on large dogs and hip dysplasia . I personally have seen remarkable improvements with Adaquin shots, I have also seen young dogs "1 year of age" who did OFA prelim and  come up with a diagnoses of moderate dysplasia. When  X-rays were done again latter the results came back  as good.
Dogs might exhibit signs of stiffness or soreness after rising from rest, reluctance to exercise, bunny-hopping or other abnormalgait (legs move more together when running rather than swinging alternately), lameness, pain, reluctance to stand on rear legs, jump up, or climb stairs, subluxation ordislocation of the hip joint, or wasting away of the muscle mass in the hip area. Radiographs (X-rays) often confirm the presence of hip dysplasia, but radiographic features may not be present until two years of age in some dogs. Moreover, many affected dogs do not show clinical signs, but some dogs manifest the problem before seven months of age, while others do not show it until well into adulthood.

In part this is because the underlying hip problem may be mild or severe, may be worsening or stable, and the body may be more or less able to keep the joint in repair well enough to cope. Also, different animals have different pain tolerances and different weights, and use their bodies differently, so a light dog who only walks, will have a different joint use than a more heavy or very active dog. Some dogs will have a problem early on, others may never have a real problem at all.

Each case must be treated on its own merits, and a range of treatment options exist.


The classic diagnostic technique is with appropriate x-Rays and hip scoring tests. These should be done at an appropriate age, and perhaps repeated at adulthood - if done too young they will not show anything. Since the condition is to a large degree inherited, the hip scores of parents should be professionally checked before buying a pup, and the hip scores of dogs should be checked before relying upon them forbreeding. Despite the fact that the condition is inherited, it can occasionally arise even to animals with impeccable hip scored parents.

In diagnosing suspected dysplasia, the x-ray to evaluate the internal state of the joints, is usually combined with a study of the animal and how it moves, to confirm whether its quality of life is being affected. Evidence of lameness or abnormal hip or spine use, difficulty or reduced movement when running or navigating steps, are all evidence of a problem. Both aspects have to be taken into account since there can be serious pain with little X-ray evidence.

It is also common to X-ray the spine and legs, as well as the hips, where dysplasia is suspected, since soft tissues can be affected by the extra strain of a dysplastic hip, or there may be other undetected factors such as neurological issues (eg nerve damage) involved.

There are several standardized systems for categorising dysplasia, set out by respective reputable bodies (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals/OFA, PennHIP, British Veterinary Association/BVA). Some of these tests require manipulation of the hip joint into standard positions, in order to reveal their condition on an X-ray, and since this is very painful and must be held still for a clear image, often the animal will beanaesthetised or sedated to achieve clear diagnostic results.

Torn Cruciate Ligament

Larger dogs like mastiffs , Labrador , shepherds,  rottweilers and dobermans, commonly injure themselves during playing, jumping or running around.
It is fairly easy to tell If a dog has torn a cranial cruciate ligaments . the dog will carry that leg or limp. There are surgeries to repair the torn ligament  my experience with the very large breeds of dogs is that surgery has a limited success rate .


For some reason the large breeds of dogs, expecially mastiffs are very prone to pyo.

 Pyometra is a result of hormonal and structural changes in the dogs uterus lining. This can happen at any age, whether she has bred or not, and whether it is her 1st or 10th heat (although it becomes more common as the dog get older). The main risk period for a female is for eight weeks after her peak standing heat (or estrus cycle) has ended. Normally during this period, the cervix, which was open during her heat, begins to close, and the inner lining begins to adapt back to normal. However, cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH) may occur at this time in some bitches.

Cystic hyperplasia of the endometrium(inner lining of the uterus) occurs as an inappropriate response to progesterone. Bacteria (especially E. coli) that have migrated from the vagina into the uterus find the environment favorable to growth, especially since progesterone also causesmucus secretion, closes the cervix (preventing uterine drainage), and decreases uterine contractility.] Bitches that have received estradiol as a mismating shot in diestrus are at risk for more severe disease because estrogen increases the number of progesterone receptors in the endometrium. 25 percent of bitches receiving estradiol in diestrus develop pyometra. Pyometra is less common in female cats because progesterone is only released by the ovaries after mating.

The condition of the cervix also determines the severity of the disease.

If the cervix is open, the infected material can leave the body, and this is far easier and safer to treat. This is known as open pyometra.

If the cervix is fully closed, there is no discharge from the vulva, and like in appendicitis, the uterus may rupture and pus escapes into the abdomen, causing peritonitis and possible rapid death. This is known as closed pyometra.


The most obvious symptom of open pyometra in dogs is a discharge of pus from the vulva in a bitch that has recently been in heat. However, symptoms of closed pyometra are less obvious. Symptoms of both types include vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, and increased drinking and urinating. Fever is seen in less than a third of bitches with pyometra. 

Closed pyometra is a more serious condition than open pyometra not only because the there is no outlet for the infection but also because a diagnosis of closed pyometra can easily be missed due to its insidious nature. Bloodwork may show dehydration, increased white blood cell count, and increased alkaline phosphatase. X-rays will show an enlarged uterus, and ultrasoundwill confirm the presence of a fluid filled uterus.


The most important aspect of treatment of pyometra in dogs is quick action. Bitches are often septic and in shock (see septic shock). Intravenous fluids and antibioticsshould be given immediately. The treatment of choice is an emergency spay, to remove the infected organ, but as this prevents a bitch from breeding it is worth noting that some advances have been made in treating pyometra with longterm antibiotics and an agent to cause contraction of the uterus and expulsion of the pus.

Surgical treatment

Spaying your dog (ovariohysterectomy) completely and promptly removes the infection, prevents uterine rupture and peritonitis, and of course prevents recurrence, in most cases. Spayed dogs very rarely develop pyometra in the uterine stump. Still, OHE is the most effective and safest treatment.

Alternative treatments

There is another treatment option for bitches that the owner wishes to breed.Prostaglandin F2-alpha (PGF2-α) and longterm antibiotics can be used to expel the pus from the uterus of the dog and treat the infection. PGF2-α stimulates the uterus to contract, and requires at least three to five days to completely remove the infected material.  This treatment should only be used with an open pyometra, because otherwise uterine rupture may occur. Less than 30 percent of bitches with closed pyometras are successfully treated in this way.  Use of PGF2-α should only be considered in bitches that are medically stable due to the length of time treatment takes. These bitches should be bred at the next estrus cycle and then spayed afterparturition, because 70 percent will develop pyometra again in the next two years.

Canine Mastitis

Mastitis is more common in larger breeds of dogs and and very common in mastiffs.

Canine mastitis is a breast infection in brood bitches, usually occurring a few weeks after whelping. It is very common in mastiff and large breeds.  When nursing the bitches breast should be checked every day. If you feel hard lumps , and see redness and swelling , this could be a sign of mastitis. which is extremely painful for the brood bitch . Canine mastitis can be caused by weaning puppies too early, severe scratches from puppies claws or some other infection.

A bitch with canine mastitis may be running a fever, be listless and possibly be off her food. She may not allow her puppies to nurse.

Treating Canine Mastitis

If your brood bitch shows signs of breast infection it may be canine mastitis, so get her to your vet immediately. I have known bitches to die from  Mastitis. But thank goodness, most of the time a good antibiotic treatment is all that is needed.


Bloat, Torsion. Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Call it what you will, this is a serious, life-threatening condition of large breed dogs. While the diagnosis is simple, the pathological changes in the dog's body make treatment complicated, expensive, and not always successful.

A typical scenario starts with a large, deep-chested dog, usually fed once daily. Typical breeds affected are Akita, Great Dane, German Shepherd, St. Bernard, Irish Wolfhound, and Irish Setter. Sighthounds, Doberman Pinschers, Weimaraners, Bloodhounds, other similar breeds, and large, deep-chested mixed breeds are also affected.

Factor in the habit of bolting food, gulping air, or drinking large amounts of water immediately after eating to this feeding schedule and body type. Then add vigorous exercise after a full meal, and you have the recipe for bloat.

Of course, the fact that not all bloats happen in just the same way and the thought that some bloodlines are more at risk than others further complicates the issue.

Simple gastric distention can occur in any breed or age of dog and is common in young puppies who overeat. This is sometimes referred to as pre-bloat by laymen. Belching of gas or vomiting food usually relieves the problem.

If this condition occurs more than once in a predisposed breed, the veterinarian might discuss methods to prevent bloat, such as feeding smaller meals or giving Reglan (metoclopramide) to encourage stomach emptying. Some veterinarians recommend, and some owners request, prophylactic surgery to anchor the stomach in place before the torsion occurs in dogs who have experienced one or more bouts of distention or in dogs whose close relatives have had GDV.

The physiology of bloat

Torsion or volvulus are terms to describe the twisting of the stomach after gastric distention occurs. The different terms are used to define the twisting whether it occurs on the longitudinal axis (torsion) or the mesenteric axis (volvulus). Most people use the terms interchangeably, and the type of twist has no bearing on the prognosis or treatment. When torsion occurs, the esophagus is closed off, limiting the dog's ability to relieve distention by vomiting or belching. Often the spleen becomes entrapped as well, and its blood supply is cut off.

Now a complex chain of physiologic events begins. The blood return to the heart decreases, cardiac output decreases, and cardiac arrythmias may follow. Toxins build up in the dying stomach lining. The liver, pancreas, and upper small bowel may also be compromised. Shock from low blood pressure and endotoxins rapidly develops. Sometimes the stomach ruptures, leading to peritonitis.

Abdominal distention, salivating, and retching are the hallmark signs of GDV. Other signs may include restlessness, depression, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, or a rapid heart rate.


GDV is a true emergency. If you know or even suspect your dog has bloat, immediately call your veterinarian or emergency service. Do not attempt home treatment.

Do take the time to call ahead.; while you are transporting the dog, the hospital staff can prepare for your arrival. Do not insist on accompanying your dog to the treatment area. Well-meaning owners are an impediment to efficient care. Someone will be out to answer your questions as soon as possible, but for now, have faith in you veterinarian and wait.

Initial diagnosis may include x-rays, an ECG, and blood tests, but treatment will probably be started before the test results are in.

The first step is to treat shock with IV fluids and steroids. Antibiotics and anti-arrythmics may also be started now. Then the veterinarian will attempt to decompress the stomach by passing a stomach tube. If this is successful, a gastric levage may be instituted to wash out accumulated food, gastric juices, or other stomach contents. In some cases, decompression is accomplished by placing large-bore needles or a trochar through the skin and muscle and directly into the stomach.

In some cases, this medical therapy is sufficient. However, in many cases, surgery is required to save the dog. Once the dog's condition is stabilized, surgery to correct the stomach twist, remove any unhealthy tissue, and anchor the stomach in place is performed. The gastroplexy, or anchoring surgery, is an important procedure to prevent recurrence, and many variations exist. Your veterinarian will do the procedure he feels comfortable with and which has the best success rate

Recovery is prolonged, sometimes requiring hospital stays of a week or more. Post-operative care depends on the severity of the disease and the treatment methods employed and may include a special diet, drugs to promote gastric emptying, and routine wound management. Costs may run $500-1000 or more in complicated cases.


Clearly, prevention of GDV is preferable to treatment. In susceptible breeds, feed two or three meals daily and discourage rapid eating. Do not allow exercise for two hours after a meal. As previously mentioned, some owners feel that certain bloodlines are at greater risk and choose to have gastroplexy performed as a prophylactic measure.

While the genetics of GDV are not completely worked out, most breeders and veterinarians feel there is some degree of heritability. Therefore, while prophylactic gastroplexy will probably help an individual dog, it makes sense not to breed dogs who are affected or who are close relatives of those suffering from GDV.

Kathleen R. Hutton, DVM
Vaccination and the mastiff  

Rethinking Annual Vaccinations

by Karen Caton

Consider the following: "A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccinations. ALMOST WITHOUT EXCEPTION THERE IS NO IMMUNILOGIC REQUIREMENT FOR ANNUAL REVACCINATION. Immunity to viruses persists for years or for the life of the animal. Successful vaccination to most bacterial pathogens produces an immunologic memory that remains for years, allowing an animal to develop a protective anamnestic (secondary) response when exposed to virulent organisms. Only the immune response to toxins (such as tetanus) requires boosters... and no toxin vaccines are currently used for dogs or cats. The practice of annual vaccination in our opinion should be considered of questionable efficacy unless it is used as a mechanism to provide an annual physical examination or is required by law (i.e. certain states require annual revaccination for rabies)." 

The above statement can be found on page 205 of Current Veterinary Therapy XI, a reference published every two to three years and considered to be "the bible" for veterinary medicine. Could it be possible that we are unknowingly doing more harm to our pets than good? More and more veterinarians believe this to be true and are moving towards annual wellness exams rather than annual revaccination. Although most veterinarians feel that some degree of vaccination is needed, problems may arise from repeated exposure over a period of years.

More and more animals are suffering from adverse reactions to vaccinations. These adverse reactions can include lethargy, fever, stiffness, sore joints, abdominal tenderness, anaphylactic shock (an allergic reaction that causes swelling of critical airways which can result in death within minutes), liver and kidney problems and more .(1) If an animal has a preexisting health problem, vaccinations can expedite a decline in health of that animal as they are known to depress the immune system. Many animals with chronic problems fail to improve or respond to traditional treatment. The homeopathic community refers to these adverse reactions as "vaccinosis", which broadly means the vaccinations interfere with the body's own ability to heal itself.

Recent studies have begun to link several chronic health problems to vaccines. There is epidemiologic evidence linking feline leukemia and rabies vaccines to sarcomas at the site of injection. These soft tissue tumors are usually malignant and quite aggressive and most often fatal. Sarcomas may occur as often as I in l000.(2),(3) Skin problems such as hair loss, lesions, ulcers, indurations (hard lumps) at and near the injection sites have been associated with some rabies vaccines. 4 Typically these problems are treated with long-term usage of steroids and/or surgical removal. Though the risk of these types of adverse reactions may not be at epidemic proportions, it is certainly real enough to warrant reexamination of traditional vaccination practices.

We are not trying to create an alarmist attitude about this situation, but we would hope that readers will at least start asking questions about your pets health care. All too often, the best we do is the usual "knee jerk" response, only because it is what we've been doing for years. As a result of these findings, along with the recommendations of our shelter veterinarian Dr. Linda East, and some first hand experiences with adverse reactions of shelter cats, we at Cat Care Society have significantly modified our own vaccination procedures. We strongly encourage our adopters, as well as supporters, to start asking questions before automatically agreeing to any procedure or practice that concerns your pets health.

the way - when was the last time you had your "baby' shots? Paws for thought.