Health Topics

Bernese Mountain Dog Health Matters

For many years running, our breed, like many others, had an ongoing Death Survey, in our case compiled by the late and much missed Dr Malcolm Willis. This list was populated by the people who contributed their dog’s details, as well information gathered from other sources such as magazine tributes to departed friends, i.e. information put into the public domain. Some may even find this concept distasteful but it is an essential aid to improving the future of the breed…

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) has been around and known about for many years in many breeds but has been getting increased awareness and attention within our breed over the last few years with information coming to the fore that cases are occurring in not only more older dogs but some younger dogs as well. So, it is logical to say that DM is probably of increasing relevance in the list of things to consider when breeding Bernese Mountain Dogs…

Bloat is otherwise known as Gastric Torsion or GDV (Gastric Distortion -Volvulous) is a condition which can be, and usually is, fatal within (literally) a few hours or can even be shorter timescale than this. If you suspect bloat at any time of the day get in touch with your vet before it is too late. You have a real and serious emergency life threatening situation where every second counts…

The hip and elbow schemes are health checks for our breed, they are something most responsible breeders in our breed undertake so automatically nowadays that they are just part of the routine. If you are a puppy buyer and the parents of any prospective puppy are not hip scored then you really should ask why and probably walk away. Hip scoring in its present form has been a routinely accepted part of Bernese culture for such a long time that there should be no puppies from non hip scored parents…

From research in many countries it is clear that Malignant Histiocytosis or Systemic Histiocytosis) (MH or SH or Histio) is the biggest single health problem faced by our lovely breed. Presenting with a variety of symptoms, MH can be fatal in just a few days. Whilst not confirmed or exactly quantified there does appear to be an hereditary link to MH so it is a good precaution for breeders to consider this in choice of breeding dogs and for puppy buyers to ask about the family health history behind and puppy you are considering….

Most people would agree that longevity in our breed is important and most people would also agree that it needs to improve. Over the years several claims have been made about the average age at death of our Bernese. It is certainly all to true that too many of our dogs die at too young an age. However, if you are unlucky enough for your Bernese to pass on at a tragically early age please realise he or she may not be entirely typical….

First Aid

  • Many people think that reactions to spider bites are something that only happen in far away hot countries with more overtly dangerous and venomous creatures, but common British house spiders, and smal...

  • Most poisonings are the result of accidents, overdose, unusual reactions, carelessness or ignorance, but some are malicious! There are several categories of poisons: Medicines, e.g. sedatives, painkil...

  • This is an abnormally high body temperature and is more common in short nosed dogs and long haired dogs, but can happen in all breeds. Being predominantly black Bernese can be especially susceptible. ...

  • This is an abnormally low body temperature and the opposite of hyperthermia. It happens mainly to young or very small dogs. First aid treatment is geared towards slowly warming up the dog. To this pur...

  • If a dog has an epileptic fit or similar, the best thing to do is to put the dog in a quiet and darkened room and prevent it from harming itself. Clear the mouth if necessary, but beware of biting! If...

  • This condition is caused by damage to the balance organ in the inner ear. It affects mainly older dogs, who will show a head tilt, loss of balance and sometimes circling. In some cases the eyes flick ...

After a pre war start which died out during the war, the current population of Bernese in Britain started in 1969 with the first of the modern imports. The popularity of the breed rapidly grew to a fairly consistent level of around 700 registrations per year at the Kennel Club. In most informed people’s eyes the number one general health problem for our breed would be lack of longevity and the biggest factor in this would be early deaths from cancer.  However, despite what you might read about our breed, many many people do have dogs that live a decent length healthy life. However good or bad the true situation is with help it can only be improved so if you are, or one day become, the owner of a Bernese please make that little bit of effort to contribute to any breed health initiatives you can….

Bernergarde is simply a massive database of information about Bernese all over the world. Based in America and developed by Bernese lovers over there it is a fantastic achievement developed over several decades to the industrial scale it has reached today. For me it can only be viewed as a colossal effort which puts the rest of the Bernese World’s comparatively feeble efforts to shame.
Bernergarde is open to all Bernese in all countries

Many members will remember being sent a form via the club from the Kennel Club asking for details of your Bernese. Details on 629 Bernese living dogs were returned and along with the overall results for all breeds the results were recently returned to the club. The full results will be available via the KC website; my report focuses on the main areas in each category and a few items that I feel are significant…

Berner International Working Group (BIWG)