Urinary incontinence (UI) is defined as involuntary urination, and most often occurs in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs as leaking of urine while sleeping; it is a non-life-threatening condition. It seems that more than 20% of the females are affected, usually after being spayed. Incontinence is occasionally found in males as well. Incontinence can occur for many reasons, such as a weak bladder sphincter – generally the most common cause in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs – urinary tract infection, excessive water consumption, congenital structural defects and spinal cord disease.
The two most common eye issues that Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs face are distichiasis and entropion, with distichiasis being the most common issue. Distichiasis is the presence of extra eyelashes along the eyelid. Distichiasis has been reported in 19%, of the breed and in the vast majority of cases it is non-symptomatic and does not cause an issue for the dog. Extra eyelashes can be seen along the eyelid; sometimes extra eyelashes grow so that they irritate the eye. Treatment varies from vet to vet, some choosing to freeze the affected hair follicles and others choosing to use electrocautery. Entropion, found in about 3% of the breed, is the rolling in of the eyelids, which causes the eyelashes to irritate the eye. Entropion is a condition that often requires surgery to fix, but once corrected causes no future issues for the dog.
Lick fit is the frantic licking in which Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can be prone. This has been reported in 17% of the breed. When in the middle of a lick fit, the dog will lick anything they can — carpet, floors, walls — and will eat anything they can find, including grass, leaves, dirt, carpet, and will gulp air and swallow constantly. Their actions make it obvious they are in severe gastrointestinal discomfort. Many owners are able to prevent lick fits by ensuring the dog never has an empty stomach by frequent, smaller meals and large dog biscuits as between meal snacks.
Idiopathic epilepsy (IE) is the condition of frequent seizures with no identifiable cause. Seizures occur when nerve cells in the brain become hyperexcited and send rapid-fire messages to the body. Treatment of IE depends on the severity of the case and may involve daily administration of anticonvulsant drugs. IE is present in all Greater Swiss Mountain Dog lines; it typically surfaces between the ages of 1 to 3 years, but it can become evident as early as 12 months and as late as 5 years.
Abdominal health issues
Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat, is the greatest killer of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. GDV occurs in deep-chested breeds and requires immediate veterinary care. It can be caused by wolfing down too much water, too much food too fast, exercise after eating, stress or unknown conditions. Symptoms are distended abdomen, excessive salivating, depression and lethargy. When GDV occurs it cuts off the esophagus, and blood supply to the heart is lessened causing low blood pressure as well as other cardiac problems; the dog can go into shock. Organ damage can occur as well and the stomach may rupture causing peritonitis to set in. If not treated, the dog may die.
The spleen is located in the left cranial abdomen and is held loosely in place by ligaments. Primary diseases of the spleen are splenic torsion and splenic tumors. Splenic torsion occurs when the spleen twists along the axis of the blood supply. Symptoms of splenic torsion include lethargy, abdominal distension and pale mucous membranes. One theory for the development of splenic torsion is that for dogs with chronic intermittent gastric dilatation, the dilation causes the spleen's ligaments to stretch and increases the spleen’s mobility within the abdomen. The spleen becomes torsed because it is no longer anchored in its correct location. In a normal Greater Swiss Mountain Dog the spleen is smooth and uncreased; it is about 6 to 8 in (15 to 20 cm) by 2 in (5.1 cm), and less than 1 in (2.5 cm) thick. Most of the spleens removed from Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are 18 to 24 in (46 to 61 cm) by 8 to 10 in (20 to 25 cm) and very thick. This size spleen is not an abnormal finding in this breed. It seems apparent that many dogs of the breed suffer enlarged spleens for no obvious reason other than the spleen may have been constantly twisting, folding and unfolding.
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is the irregular formation of the joint that joins the femur – the longest bone in the body – to the hip socket. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint and the femoral head must fit well into the socket for the joint to function properly. Early signs of CHD include a reluctance to go up and down stairs or to jump; difficulty rising or lying down; and bunny hopping when running – both hind limbs move together. CHD is among the principal orthopedic diseases in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog; it is rarely severe and crippling. Unless x-rays are taken many owners are not aware that they have a dysplastic dog. A goal for raising a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog from puppyhood is to feed them so they mature more slowly than smaller breeds to help avoid hip and other orthopedic problems in adulthood. The form of Canine Elbow dysplasia most often diagnosed in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs appears to be a degerative joint disease – a slowly progressive form of cartilage degeneration usually caused by trauma or abnormal wear on the joint. Evidence suggests that most dogs of this breed diagnosed with degenerative joint disease by x-rays of the elbows have the mildest form Grade I. They don't display clinical signs such as pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion or lameness.
Osteochondrosis is a disturbance in the normal development of cartilage; cartilage becomes abnormally thickened, and small fissures and cracks may develop. Dissecans is when cartilage becomes dissected resulting in cartilage flaps, which may remain attached or become loose and fall into the joint space. In Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs most of these cases occur in the shoulder joints and occasionally in elbows and hocks. Except for very mild cases without flap development, the clinical signs are persistent or intermittent lameness. The dog may be stiff after resting and the lameness is usually aggravated by exercise. It is diagnosed by x-rays, and treatment depends on the severity of the case. Mild cases without cartilage flaps may be treated and heal with several weeks of rest and treatment with medication and supplements. Many cases require surgery to remove the flaps and loose fragments, and scraping and smoothing of the defective surface. Surgical repair of the shoulder usually has excellent results, surgical results involving other sites are not as predictable.
Sudden Onset Aggression (SOA) or Rage Syndrome has been reported in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs.