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Home      Awards      Breed Information      Green Star & FCI      In Memory      Judging      Links      News
Pedigrees      Puppies      Up Coming Litters       Rathleague Champions       Rathleague Stud Dogs      Vincent


The following is a brief list and outline of the major potential and actual genetic diseases that affect the St Bernard breed. You should be fully aware of the nature and consequences of these before purchasing your St Bernard.

Hip Dysplasia:
Hip Dysplasia is a genetically inherited condition that is affected by environmental influences such as weight, diet and exercise, which can interact to cause wear and tear of the hip joint. Dogs with hip dysplasia appear to be born with normal hips and then develop the condition later. At present, the strongest links to contributing factors other than genetic predisposition appears to be to rapid growth (excessive weight gain), obesity and over exercise. Puppies should be kept lean and not fat, obviously a puppy which is carrying around too much weight will increase wear on the joints. Exercise is the other main contribution. Many people over-exercise young puppies, or give them the wrong type of exercise. Up to at least six months of age, exercise on hard surfaces should be kept at a minimum. Correct exercise for puppies includes running and playing in the garden or in a park, although games that involve jumping and very rough play should be avoided, and the puppy should be allowed to rest as soon as he has had enough and must not "over-do" it. Swimming is also an excellent form of exercise which builds up the muscles without putting stress on the joints.

Gastric Dilation: (Bloat)
A serious condition that affects all deep chested dogs regardless of size from the Dachund to the Great Dane including the St Bernard. Gas ferments accumulates in the stomach often due to eating air, the stomach increases in size and twists preventing release of the gasses, inhibits the returning vena cavil and portal blood supply to the heart causing decreased cardiac output which leads to tissue hypoxia due to diminished arterial blood supply. Arterial hypotension leads to decreased coronary blood supply and myocardial hypoxia multiple other complications and eventually death. Attempts to vomit only brings up frothy saliva. Your saint will not be able to burp if the stomach has already twisted on its axis but will attempt to vomit, again only bringing up frothy saliva. Gross swelling of the abdomen is also noted. Often your saint will seek you out and the stomach will feel tight and if you tap it you will notice a sound like tapping on an empty drum. Possible causes include overfeeding at a young age, large dry infrequent meals, exercising directly after feeding and consuming large quantities of water after feeding. No one really knows what causes it but a familial causal relationship has been indicated. It is rapid in onset and of high lethality and the difference between life and death is the amount of time it takes to get veterinary help.

Heart Disease: 
There are several heart diseases known to affect large breeds including the St Bernard. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) being the most prevalent with a high lethality and minimal lifespan after diagnosis. The heart dilates causing cardiac muscle weakness and subsequent disturbances in blood pumping capacity. Signs include fainting (not to be confused with sun stroke), reduced activity tolerance and an increase in the size of the abdominal region.

Hypothyrodism: (Thyroid)
A genetic disorder in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones for a variety of necessary bodily functions. This can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. Can be suspected in cases of infertility, weight gain, dry brittle coat, skin puffiness, cooling, infections, intolerance of cold. If your saint presents with any or all of the above symptoms, screening is recommended.

A genetic condition where the eyelids turn out excessively causing extreme discomfort. Not to be confused with the characteristic of looseness of the eye. Diagnosed by a Vet.

A genetic disorder where the eyelids turn inward and the eye lashes rub on the cornea leading to ulcers and eventually blindness. This can be surgically corrected. Diagnosis is made by a Vet.

A genetic or environmental disorder that describes two types of seizures.
  Primary epilepsy is genetic in origin. Age of onset is usually from 6 months to 5 years old and      actual diagnosis is almost impossible so diagnosis is made by ruling out any other possible cause of seizures.
*  Secondary epilepsy under the age of 12 months is usually toxic, metabolic, infectious, degenerative, developmental, nutritional or traumatic. 

Life Span:
As with most giant breeds, Saint Bernard's commonly have short lives from 7-11 years. A few individuals may live longer, but shorter lives are the rule and not the exception.


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