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Frequently Asked Questions


What is wrong with these German Shepherds?
At this point in time, the cause of the hindlimb anomalies is unknown.  The current thought is that this is a neurologic abnormality.

Do the dogs get worse as they get older?
There is a thought that as they age, forelimb problems may develop as a result of the weight shifting onto their forelimbs that these dogs do throughout their lives.  The oldest known dog is seven years old, and is doing well with no degenerative changes seen. 

Are they painful?
Some veterinarians who have evaluated affected dogs, have stated that they believe they have to be painful.  Four dogs have been evaluated by a veterinary pain specialist who reported them to be non painful except when their hindlimbs were maximally extended.  Owners don’t believe that their dogs are painful during their day to day activities. One commented "From the minute he wakes up, every chance he gets he's tossing his ball at me, asking to play fetch.  If I'm busy, he barks and barks (spoiled brat that he is) until I comply.  The farther I throw it the better he likes it!  He is tireless, AND, he jumps on me!  I'm not making this up.  And he is most certainly not a fine-boned, delicate boy--he's huge!  He rears up with his upper body and paws/claws me until I throw that stupid ball!!  All behaviors of a dog who is not in any discomfort (for which I am very grateful)".

Can they walk?
YES, not only do they walk, but they run, play and can even climb steps.  The time taken to learn how to walk does vary.  Some are “up and running” within a couple of months, others it has taken 6 – 8 months before they can reliably stand and walk.

Do they need rehabilitation/physical therapy?
Some owners have elected to take their dogs to a canine rehabilitation specialist, while others work with their dogs at home, performing core strengthening and balance exercises (e.g. balance boards, physio balls, just playing with other dogs), and using slings to support them as they learn to walk.

Do they have other medical problems?
At this time there have been no other medical problems detected.

Can their legs be “fixed”?
No – Given their bone deformities and muscle contractures, it is not possible for these dogs to have “normal” hindlimbs.  Surgery was attempted on a couple of dogs when they were puppies, but it was deemed to be unsuccessful.  Affected dogs are very well adapted to their disabilities and have no idea that they are any different to other dogs.

Do they have problems with their legs?
Given their anomalies and that they are typically active dogs, hindlimb injuries are a possibility.  Two dogs have subluxated their tarsus, one healing with rest, the other requiring surgical stabilization.

Do they need any special care?
Not really.  Most dogs bunnyhop around, although a few do prefer to pull themselves round in a sitting position.  All do need to be watched for abrasions on their feet and legs.

Do they have anything my family / other animals can catch?
As far as we know, NO.  Bloodwork is normal, and titers for Neospora and Toxoplasmosis (other diseases that can produce similar hindlimb anomalies) have been negative except for one mixed breed dog who was positive for Neospora.  Neospora is treatable with antibiotics and has never been known in humans.