Rottweilers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Not all Rotties will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.
If you’re buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Rotties, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
- Elbow Dyplasia: Elbow dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the elbow joint. The severity of the dysplasia can only be determined by x-rays. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem, or medication to control the pain.
- Aortic Stenosis/Sub-aortic Stenosis (AS/SAS): This common heart defect is sometimes seen in Rottweilers. The aorta narrows below the aortic valve, forcing the heart to work harder to supply blood to the body. This condition can cause fainting and even sudden death. It’s an inherited condition, but its mode of transmission isn’t known at this time. Typically, a veterinary cardiologist diagnoses this condition after a heart murmur has been detected.
- Osteosarcoma: Generally affecting large and giant breeds, osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer. The first sign of osteosarcoma is lameness, but the dog will need x-rays to determine if the cause is cancer. Osteosarcoma is treated aggressively, usually with the amputation of the limb and chemotherapy. With treatment, dogs can live nine months to two years or more. Luckily, dogs adapt well to life on three legs and don’t suffer the same side effects to chemotherapy as humans, such as nausea and hair loss.
- Gastric Dilatation-volvulus (GDV), also called Bloat or Torsion: This is a life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs like Rottweilers, especially if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Some think that raised feeder and type of food might be a factor in causing this to happen too. It is more common among older dogs. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid itself of the excess air in its stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. It’s important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
- Panosteitis (Pano): This is sometimes referred to as “growing pains” because it usually occurs in puppies when they are around four months old. The primary symptom is lameness. Often, rest will be all that is needed, but if your puppy starts limping, it’s a good idea to have your vet check him.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone and may produce signs that include infertility, obesity, mental dullness, and lack of energy. The dog’s fur may become coarse and brittle and begin to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be managed very well with a thyroid replacement pill daily. Medication must continue throughout the dog’s life.
- Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs. Allergies to certain foods are identified and treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog’s diet until the culprit is discovered. Contact allergies are caused by a reaction to something that touches the dog, such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals. They are treated by identifying and removing the cause of the allergy. Inhalant allergies are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. The appropriate medication for inhalant allergies depends on the severity of the allergy. Ear infections are a common side effect of inhalant allergies.
It’s important for Rottweilers to live in the home with their people. If they’re left alone in a backyard all the time, they can become bored, destructive, and aggressive. Although they’re large, Rottweilers are inactive indoors.
A Rottweiler is a homebody, but he requires a fenced yard not only to protect him from traffic but also because he can be aggressive toward other dogs and strangers who come onto his property. An underground electronic fence can’t keep your Rottie in your yard if he really wants to get out. More important, it doesn’t prevent people or other animals from coming onto your property. Put up a sign advising strangers and non-family members not to come onto your property without your escort.
The Rottweiler’s energy level ranges from couch potato to whirlwind. Be sure to tell the breeder what kind of energy level suits you so she can help you choose the best puppy for your lifestyle. Moderately active Rottweilers will appreciate a couple of 10- to 20-minute walks each day. They also enjoy playing with balls and going hiking. More energetic Rotties may need longer exercise times and more structured activities. Their athleticism, intelligence, and trainability make them well suited to agility and obedience competition, as well as tracking, therapy work, and their traditional job, pulling a cart or wagon. Perfect for parades!
When training your Rottweiler, keep in mind that he thrives on mental stimulation. He likes to learn new things and is eager to please you. He might be willful at times, with a “Show me why I should do this” attitude. Be fair, consistent, and firm, and your Rottweiler will reward you with his quick ability to learn.
Your Rottweiler shouldn’t be difficult to housetrain given a consistent schedule, no opportunities to have accidents in the house, and positive reinforcement when he potties outdoors.