Greater swiss mountain dogs are generally healthy dogs. Strong, playful, and active. Their life expectation is approximately 10 years, which is high compared to other breeds of the same size. Longevity is inversely related to breed size.
in any breed there are several inheritable diseases, that we try to
eliminate through responsible breeding. Responsible breeding is
important as it contributes to the health of the breed.
What is responsible breeding ?
Breeding is about learning, and educating yourself. Once you start thinking about breeding you very quickly realize this
is not so easy, if you want to do it well. There are a lot of things to consider. What age should you start ? Some say you can start when the bitch is around 18 months old, which in my view is way to early for several reasons. Ideally, the bitch is around 2,5 – 3 years old as she is mature at that age and you have more knowledge on her health. Same is valid for the male. What about health ? Which checks do I need to do and where ? Does she have the right character? What about the male you choose ? Which one to choose and from where ? Some males are very far away, like in our case we have to travel 1100 kilometers to go to the male.
What can help, next to having experience with the breed, is to contact specialized organizations like the greater swiss mountain dogs clubs that are present in many countries in Europe and in the US. They have established health checks, character tests, and they try through carefully selecting breeding partners to keep the greater swiss mountain dog healthy. Other breeders might also help sharing their experience with you.
In my view responsible breeding is to do your utmost to breed mentally and physically healthy pups that can enjoy a happy and long life with their new owners. Even when, just as with humans, there is no guarantee that your pup will never get ill, certain diseases are known to be genetic, meaning that they can be passed on from father or mother, or both, to the pups. Genetic effected dogs should therefore not be bred, or only with selected partners. Also aggressive dogs should be taken out of the breeding program
There are several health checks that are recommended to check for genetic deficiencies, such as radiographs for HD, ED and OCD, and an eye check with a veterinarian that is a member of The European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ECVO)
there is one disease that scientists think is genetic, but the exact
mode of inheritance is not yet known. This disease is epilepsy.
How can you prevent a disease of which you do not know exactly how it is passed on? That is a difficult question. Scientists believe that it is genetic and is passed on. Wisest thing to do at this moment is therefore not to breed with any dog that has epilepsy, of course, or produced epilepsy before. If possible, prevent breeding with parents that have epileptic siblings or grandparents. I say if possible because for some reasons there are people that will not tell that their dog has or had epilepsy. And if you as a breeder don’t know, you can’t exclude that particular dog. Therefore another part of responsive breeding is being honest. As long as we do not know how epilepsy is exactly passed on, we can only try to exclude it by excluding affected dogs as I mentioned before. Using older dogs is also something that is wise to do. Epilepsy most often presents itself between the age of 1.5 and 3 years. By using older dogs you have more certainty that he or she does not have epilepsy.
Having had an epileptic dog myself in the past I know what a horrible disease this is. Our sweet Barrat died of epilepsy from his second status at the age of only 3.5 years old. Therefore for us, health and particularly trying to exclude epilepsy for which there is no cure yet, is our top priority. We can only base ourselves on what we know, and on that basis we will try as much as we can to take wise decisions when it comes to breeding.