Common Health and Genetic Disorders in Rottweilers

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Rottweilers may look tough, stocky, and powerful on the outside, but when it comes to health problems, they tend to encounter many issues. For this reason, I cannot repeat enough how important it is to purchase Rottweilers from reputable breeders that test their breeding specimens for hereditary disorders. Breeding specimens that test positive to any hereditary disorders are, therefore, eliminated from the breeding pool. This significantly lowers the chances of encountering any genetic disorders.

Common Health Problems in Rottweiler Dogs

Orthopedic Disorders

  1. Hip Dysplasia: This genetic disorder is a common occurrence in large and giant dog breeds. It tends to occur when the hip bone and socket bones do not adhere as they are supposed to causing severe pain and debilitation. Responsible dog breeders will only breed their breeding dog specimens after they have received clearance for OFA, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Diagnosis is obtained after reviewing hip x-rays and classifying the hips under the following categories: Excellent, Good, Fair, Borderline, Mild Dysplasia, Moderate Dysplasia, or Severe Dysplasia.
  2. Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the elbow. Just as hip dysplasia, OFA can certify dogs for elbow dysplasia on a pass or fail basis. Responsible breeders will test their breeding specimens for this disorder as well.
  3. Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This is a disease that affects the bone cartilage of growing dogs, causing symptoms similar to arthritis. Multiple joints are affected the most common ones being the shoulder and elbow followed by elbow, hock, and knee. The causes may be various, ranging from genetics, rapid growth as seen in large breeds, hormone imbalances, and nutrition.
  4. Panosteitis: Also known as growing pains, pano is a disorder affecting large breed dogs for even 18 months. The causes are unknown; however, there may be chances it can be due to genetics, nutrition, or even bacteria. Affected dogs develop lameness that typically shifts from one leg to the other.occasionally dogs may also develop a fever.

Non-Orthopedic Conditions

  1. Bloat: As any other deep-chested dogs, Rottweilers may be prone to developing bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach swells due to the presence of gas and/or fluids. Dogs may develop bloat from overeating, drinking water after strenuous exercise or after eating or eating after vigorous exercise. Affected dogs will pace, retch without being able to vomit, drool and appear restless. This is a medical emergency where time is of the essence.
  2. Von Willebrand Disease: This disease is hereditary and is somehow similar to hemophilia experienced in humans. However, unlike hemophilia, it is not sex-linked and may affect both sexes. Because this disease affects the blood's ability to clot properly, affected dogs will experience prolonged and significant bleeding even after minimal trauma such as a broken toenail.
  3. Sub Aortic Stenosis: This is a cardiac problem which has a genetic link. Responsible breeders are also working on preventing such disorder from happening. The disorder is due to a structural defect where there is additional tissue that prevents the heart from pumping the blood as it is supposed to, therefore working harder than necessary.
  4. Hypothyroidism: In other words, affected dogs have low thyroid levels causing a variety of symptoms such as being lethargic, loss of energy, a dull coat with thinning hair and irregular heat cycles in females. The condition is corrected with thyroid medication.
  5. Eye Disorders: Entropian and Ectropion are both defects of the eyelids, either rolling inward or rolling outward. Other conditions are Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Cataracts. Board-certified ophthalmologists can screen for genetic eye disorders, and the dogs free of hereditary eye disorders can be registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).
  6. Cancer: Unfortunately, bone cancers (osteosarcomas) are becoming common in this breed. There are studies suggesting a link between spaying and neutering at an early age and the incidence of bone cancer.

As seen Rottweilers may be prone to a variety of disorders. However, the chances of such disorders may be reduced greatly by staying away from a back yard breeder newspaper ads and resorting to responsible, qualified breeders only that offer health certificates. The Rottweiler's life expectancy ranges between 10–12 years of age.

Petra and Kaiser 15 months old

© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli

Chevy baby1373 on July 15, 2020:

My husband and I just had our 10 1/2 year old Rottweiler Chevy past away Sunday.

I thought maybe if i went ahead and share my love for my fur baby my heart wouldn't feel such pain. She had the most adorable face any mother could love she was very smart and even though she looked very intimidating she would lick you silly then mowe you down with excitement. my heart is broken knowing the loyalty as well as the unconditional love she adore us in for so many years is no longer. ❤WE LOVE YOU CHEVY GIRL RIP. MY FUR


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 17, 2020:

Jackie, any history of ingesting something toxic? Injuries? What happened before your dog became paralyzed? Is she a purebred Rottweiler? In what country are you? So sad that vets seem so incompetent there.

Jackie on February 16, 2020:

Hi my dog is Maggie she's 9month old just recently she got paralysised on all four legs and she hasnt gotten up since. Shes quite active even lying down on her tummy but when ever i massage her legs shes in total pain how do i help her the vets in my coumtry dont run test on dogs they just guess whats going own whether wrong or right and based on their judgement they diagnose them and give them drugs and injection. Please help me out.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 03, 2019:

Beverly Walker, so sorry to hear about your daughter's Rottweiler. I have lost my two best friends one year apart from cancer and it's devastating when they get older and start acting ill. Has a neurologist been seen? There are board-certified vets specialized in nerve function. A CT scan or MRI perhaps can help screen for cancers. Differentials that come to mind include facial nerve paralysis, mini stroke, nerve sheath tumor, lymphosarcoma, cancer of the trigeminal nerve, some type of nerve inflammation, Cushing's disease, hypothyroid neuropathy to just so name a few. Unfortunately, I hate to say this, but in dogs over the age of 10 cancer is quite rampant, affecting 1 in 2 dogs. Both my Rotties got cancer, my female at almost 11 and my male at almost 12.

Beverly Walker on September 03, 2019:

I am writing this in hopes of maybe saving my daughter's rottweiler.

She had just lost her other rotty about 2/3 months ago from blood disease.

Now this one was so much healthier and he has fallen sick.

His face is paralysed and cannot eat or drink well. His eye won't close and he cannot blink. She has been trying her best to help keep him alive.

She raised him from a 2 month old baby.

Now he is over 10 years old. He had been so healthy and all of a sudden she noticed that his eye was drooping and that's when she knew there was something wrong.

The vet has been checking him over but he is fast deteriorating.

Please we do not want to lose him if there can be some cure or help we may be missing. But even the vet has no idea what it is.

Mike on March 13, 2012:

Hey, My name is Mike, somone please contact me, [email protected] i want to share pictures of my dog, she has an issue with her coat that i need help adressing. I have a female Rottweiler she is 4 years old, she’s beautiful and healthy, although she does have an issue with her coat, she lives outside all year, she has a big heated dog house, during the winter she grows a thick coat with a white undercoat,

When spring comes she looses her thick coat slowly but a weird patchy pattern appears on her back on both sides, it’s not hair loss because the patch is thinner shorter hair and its dark brown in color and the rest of her coat is black… I know it’s a problem because when I take her for walks people always ask me what’s wrong with her, while she sheds, the white undercoat becomes visible near her bum and on the back of her neck, this never happened before, she use to have a butiful thick dark black coat and its depressing for me to see her coat so ugly, shes still gorgeos... she was born with a white patch on her chest aswell, the white patch never went away and she still has it, i plan on breeding her this year but i want to figure out what the problem is before, any help would be greatly apriciated

Nathan on December 03, 2011:

AHh that's so sad millionstars when i moved to indianapolis from gary we had to take our rott to the vet to hold her for 1 day exactly when we came back the next day they had put her down the said she was being vicious when everyone in my family no she wasint and friends knew she wasint either she accepted strangers very easily

millionstars on September 06, 2011:

have to put our rott down today due to hip Dysplasia she has been a great dog. protective and loving to all our family. great with the kids. it is a sad day for us. we are going to miss her. her pain is just to much now.

Lyudmyla Hoffman from United States on June 10, 2011:

A proud owner of a rottie over here. Enjoying browsing through your topics. We have much in common. (:

shelley on November 22, 2010:

it is important to train them at a young age or they will control you rottweilers are a intellegent breed and will be a great dog with proper socilizing and training

brad4l from USA on June 23, 2009:

My friend has a rotty and he is a great dog, although still very young and in need of a little bit more discipline then he is getting. This is an excellent Hub!!

ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on June 22, 2009:

nice dog pictures. makes me rememebe passing by one place on the way to walking my kid to school.

Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on June 22, 2009:

The pictures are great. I never owned one, but the ones I've met have been great.

5 common genetic diseases of dogs

Genetic diseases are the health problems that are generated by the changes in genetic material (DNA) of living beings. The common perception is that genetic disorders are present in the human race only, but the fact is, animals are equally prone to these diseases. Dogs are no exceptions there are several genetic diseases of dogs they suffer from. It is seen that most of the genetic disorders in dogs are associated with purebreds only. Mixed breeds seem to be more resistant to these hereditary diseases.

The best thing associated with genetic disorders is that it is possible to anticipate them. The prediction of genetic disease before time enables us to respond rapidly when the symptoms appear. This attribute also helps us in choosing the healthier dog breed as our pet, as some breeds are less predisposed to genetic problems than the others. Here is the list of the five most common genetic diseases of dogs that you need to know as a dog lover.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

The term brachycephalic means “short-headed”. It refers to the dogs that have smushed faces such as Pugs, an English bulldog, French bulldog, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and Boston terrier. These dog breeds are the most popular one these days but their conformation resulted in difficulties in breathing for them. The problems present in brachycephalic syndrome include deformed trachea, everted laryngeal saccules and narrowed) nostrils. Along with respiratory problems, these breeds are also more heat sensitive and have trouble exercising.

Medical examination and surgical procedures at an early age can help to reduce respiratory problems. Owners of these dogs should avoid their exposure to extreme temperatures.

Hip Dysplasia

This disorder is more predominant in larger breeds of dogs such as German shepherds, Saint Bernard, Neapolitan Mastiffs, Golden Retrievers, and Rottweilers. The incidence of hip dysplasia is highest in bulldog (73.6%) and Pug (61.7%). These large dogs grow fast and put a lot of muscle mass that results in malformation of the hip joint. Dogs with this disease experience difficulty in climbing stairs, jumping on furniture or into cars and walking.

Surgical and medical treatments are available to treat hip dysplasia. Pain medication, cold laser treatments, physical therapy, and stem cell therapy are the treatment options depending upon the condition of your dog.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy is a condition in which neurons of the spinal cord degenerate. The dogs that are affected more by this disorder are usually German Shepherds, Corgis, Pugs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. The symptoms of this disease appear in senior dogs when they are in their old phase of life. These dogs suffer from weakness in the hindlimbs and difficulty in standing and urination that finally lead to paralysis.

There is currently no cure for this disease, the dogs experience no pain due to nerve degeneration but this condition has psychological effects on both pet owners and the dog.


Epilepsy in dogs is as painful as in humans. It is a neurological disorder of the brain. While having a seizure, the dog stiffens and falls on the ground, the head is drawn backward and the legs start paddling. Muscles of the body are not in control and move erratically. A single seizure is not dangerous most of the time, but if a dog has several seizures in a short period, the dog may develop hyperthermia which is quite dangerous. Current research has shown that German Shepherd, Beagles, Belgian Tervurens, Keeshonds, Dachshunds, and Labrador Retrievers are more likely to suffer from epilepsy.

Anticonvulsant medication like phenobarbital and potassium bromide is used to decrease the frequency of seizure but there is no permanent cure for epilepsy.

Kidney stones

If your dog is having difficulty in urinating, is urinating very frequently or has blood in his urine, he may be suffering from kidney stones. Although any dog is susceptible to have stones in his kidney or urinary bladder, some dogs such as Dalmations, Newfoundlands, the Bichon Frise, and Miniature Schnauzers have more chances to develop these stones than others. Kidney stones may go undetected for a long time your veterinarian can test the presence of these stones using ultrasound or sonograms.

Treatments of kidney stones include surgical removal of these stones, laser lithotripsy, and cystoscopy. If you have a dog breed that is more prone to developing kidney stones, give him a healthy diet and have regular meetings with your veterinarian to prevent this disease.

There is a long list of genetic disorders of dogs, only the most common and frequently observed genetic diseases and listed here. If you love the purebred dogs, do your research on your breed of interest and make sure to find a reputable and reliable breeder. Ask him all the questions you have in mind regarding the health problem associated with your favorite breed, no need to be hesitant about it.

Rottweiler Joint Problems

Rottweilers are susceptible to a number of joint problems, including:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease. It refers to an abnormal development of the hip joint. It affects mostly large breed dogs such as the Rottweilers.

The typical sign of hip dysplasia is limping and bunny hopping. The condition can range from “mild” to “severe”. Treatment includes medical therapy and/or surgery.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a group of congenital elbow diseases in dogs.

Specifically, there is malformation of the elbow joints. Because of the malformation, the bone or cartilage can become damaged. This in turn leads to the beginning of degenerative joint issues, such as osteoarthritis.

Large breed dogs such as the Rottweilers are prone to this disease. Dogs with elbow dysplasia usually have varying degrees of limping in the front limbs. Lameness may start as early as 4 months of age. Surgery is the treatment of choice.


Panosteitis (aka “Wandering Lameness” or “Pano”) is a disease of large, rapidly growing puppies between 5 and 12 months of age. Dogs with pano have intermittent lameness in one or more legs.

The pain and lameness tend to shift from one limb to another over the course of several weeks or months (hence the name “Wandering Lameness”). The disease is self-limiting and symptoms usually disappear by the time the dog is 20 months old.


Thinking about getting a dog? It's important to understand the potential health issues that could affect your breed and the steps your breeder is taking to reduce your puppy's chances of inheriting health conditions. Here's what you need to know.

Thinking about getting a dog? It's important to understand your breed's potential health issues and the steps your breeder is taking to reduce your puppy's chances of inheriting health conditions. Here's what you need to know.

What is health testing?

A: Every breed is susceptible to certain health conditions or diseases. Just like humans, dogs can inherit health conditions from their parents. Responsible breeders make an effort to lessen the likelihood of their puppies inheriting these issues by screening their breeding dogs for heritable conditions and making informed matches when breeding.

Can health testing ensure that my puppy is healthy?

A: Health testing is a vital piece of a responsible breeding program when heritable conditions are present, but diet, exercise, environment, and genetics can all factor into whether a dog develops a health condition or disease. When breeders use health testing to identify risk factors in potential breeding dogs, it can significantly decrease the likelihood of many conditions appearing during your dog's lifetime. Performing the proper health tests is key, but it's just as important to work with your breeder to understand how diet, exercise, and environmental conditions affect your specific breed.

Health issues vary widely across breeds

It's important to note that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to health testing. Breeders perform specific health tests on their dogs based on the common conditions and diseases found in their breed.

*Keep in mind: Reliable screening tests still don't exist for many hereditary diseases. Additionally, some health tests for complex conditions are not always predictive of the development or severity of the condition in the puppies. However, it's a powerful tool that responsible breeders utilize to produce genetically, physically, and emotionally sound puppies.

Genetic versus phenotypic – and why it's important to understand the difference

There are generally two different types of tests that can be performed, genetic health tests and phenotypic testing:

Genetic health tests can be performed on the DNA of dogs to screen for the presence of certain disease-causing mutations.

Phenotypic tests include physical examinations by veterinarians (or in some cases, specialist veterinarians) and diagnostic tests such as x-rays and ultrasounds.

Questions to ask your breeder

Q: How do you think about reducing health issues in your puppies?

Q: What health problems commonly occur in Rottweilers?

Q: Can you tell me about any health tests you perform on your dogs and why?

Q: If you have done health testing, where can I see the results?

Q: Have any of the dogs in your breeding program ever been afflicted with these conditions?

Explore Rottweiler Breeders

Dig into the Learning Center

Why working with a responsible breeder is so critical

A breeder’s practices have a huge impact on the health, temperament and well-being of your pup.

The fundamental difference between purebred dogs and well-bred dogs

Never assume that a dog came from a reputable breeder simply because it’s purebred.

Taking Care of Your Rottweiler at Home

Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Rotts. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.

Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise

Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Rottie live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.

  • Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
  • She has low grooming needs. Brush her coat as needed, at least weekly.
  • Rottweilers generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
  • Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
  • She's a smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active, or she'll get bored. That's when the naughty stuff starts.
  • She can be sensitive to warm temperatures avoid any prolonged exposure and be very alert to the signs of heat stress.
  • She should be leash walked and a sturdy fence is a must due to her large size.
  • Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
  • Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
  • Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.

What to Watch For

Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Rottweiler needs help.

Office Calls

Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Change in appetite or water consumption
  • Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
  • Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking) hair loss
  • Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
  • Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
  • Dry, scaly, sometimes itchy hairless patches on face or paws
  • Lumps or bumps – regardless of size
  • Swollen lymph nodes or glands, unexplained weight loss


Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
  • Inability or straining to urinate discolored urine
  • Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
  • Dry heaving or a large, tight, painful abdomen
  • General reluctance to run or play
  • Leg stiffness reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, or jump “bunny hopping”
  • General listlessness, droopy facial expression, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Vomiting and bloody, watery diarrhea
  • Coughing, fainting episodes, tiring easily

Just like other large breed dogs, Rottweilers are susceptible to joint problems, such as:

    Hip Dysplasia:Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip joint.

If your Rottie has hip dysplasia, he will have problem getting up and walking with ease because of the pain and inflammation in the hip joints. The dog will have stiffness in the back legs and will be limping or walking with an abnormal gait.

Depending on how serious the problem is, surgery may be needed.

Elbow Dysplasia: This is a hereditary disease (although it may also be caused by poor nutrition or injury), and characterized by the malformation of the elbow joints of the front legs.

If your Rottweiler has elbow dysplasia, you will see him limping and trying not to put weight on the affected limb. Signs and symptoms can start showing as early as four months of age. Depending on the seriousness of the problem, elbow dysplasia can sometimes be treated by surgery.

Panosteitis: Panosteitis (aka "long bone disease," or "pano") is a health condition that can affect growing large breed dogs (between 5 and 12 months) such as Rottweilers.

Due to excessive bone production on the long bones of the front and hind legs, inflammation results causing pain and limping. Usually the affected dog will grow out of the problem by 18 months old, but it is painful.

The most important thing to remember is NOT to feed growing Rottweiler puppies a diet that is too high in protein to prevent them from growing too fast.

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