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5 Common Bernese Mountain Dog Health Problems

March 23, 2021 by The Spot Pack
Bernese Mountain Dog laying in the grass

Bernese Mountain Dogs offer so many positive qualities to their owners. In fact, it’s easy to put these good-natured, mellow dogs squarely in the “great family dog” category. Bernese Mountain dogs also do well with strangers and other pets, especially when their owners take time to make sure their dogs are well socialized.

Take a look at the following common health problems that afflict these pets, especially if you think you may want to adopt a Bernese Mountain Dog. On the other hand, if you already have a Bernese Mountain Dog and you want to make sure your dog has a long, healthy and happy life, consult this list!

Common Bernese Mountain Dog Health Problems

Hip Dysplasia

Bernese Mountain Dogs are a giant breed, on average, weighing 80-115 pounds (male), 70-95 pounds (female) (1). Large dogs are at risk of canine hip dysplasia, which causes the head of the femur bone to join into the hip socket incorrectly. Bernese mountain dogs may inherit canine hip dysplasia.

If you notice your dog suffering from pain or discomfort, lameness or stiff legs, it could signal hip dysplasia. You might also notice a strange gait when your dog runs, difficulty getting up from a laying down position or an unwillingness to chase or run.

Maintain a healthy weight and get appropriate to minimize the severity of dysplasia. Treatment may involve surgery.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia, an inherited condition, involves malformation and degeneration of your Bernese Mountain Dog’s elbow joints.

If you notice that your dog experiences forelimb pain, a diminished range of motion and a tendency to hold the forelimb away from the body, your dog may have elbow dysplasia.

Both hip and elbow dysplasia may be treated with medications, surgery, and dietary supplements by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may suggest surgery to correct the affected joints.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive retinal atrophy means the retina degenerates and the result means that dogs suffer impaired vision and often blindness. Bernese Mountain Dogs can suffer from either early- or late-onset PRA:

  • Early-onset PRA: Veterinarians can detect abnormal cell development problems in Bernese Mountain Dogs as early as 3 months old.
  • Late-onset PRA: Cells develop normally in late-onset PRA but degenerate later in life, causing vision problems in Bernese Mountain Dogs aged three to five years old.

Bernese Mountain Dogs may experience night blindness, dilated pupils and may not want to explore new places because they can’t see well.

Veterinarians cannot cure PRA. Dogs typically go blind within a year of diagnosis and your veterinarian may order a DNA test to predict PRA in your Bernese Mountain Dog.

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Bernese Mountain Dogs can become at risk for bloat, which is also called gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). This means the stomach twists on itself and fills with gas, cutting off blood supply to the stomach and sometimes the spleen. Bloat can result in death in as little as 30 minutes.

If your Bernese Mountain Dog tries to throw up (but nothing comes out), can’t relax or tries lying down in a strange position (with front feet down and rear end up), your dog may have bloat.

If you see these symptoms, take your pet to your veterinarian or veterinary hospital immediately!


You might imagine that a long, scary-sounding word like histiocytosis means cancer, and that’s exactly right. The most common type of cancer in Bernese Mountain Dogs, histiocytosis occurs in the dog’s histiocytes, a type of white blood cell. The cancer reproduces rapidly and invades tissues. Other breeds don’t usually carry histiocytosis, but histiocytosis occurs in approximately 25% of all breed cases.

Bernese Mountain Dogs can carry either malignant or systemic histiocytosis. Look for lethargy, loss of appetite and weight loss to indicate histiocytosis. You may find that your Bernese Mountain Dog experiences skin conditions with systemic histiocytosis.

Veterinarians cannot prescribe successful treatment for histiocytosis and there is no cure. The malignant form usually leads to death in a matter of weeks. Systemic histiocytosis episodes come and go but eventually leads to death.

How Long do Bernese Mountain Dogs Live?

Whether you have a Bernese Mountain Dog now or are thinking about adding one to the family, it’s helpful to know what to expect. While it varies depending on things like lifestyle and extraordinary events, the average life expectancy for a Bernese Mountain Dog is 7 - 10 years. (1)

Pet Insurance for Bernese Mountain Dogs

Your Bernese Mountain Dog is an important member of the family, and with the right veterinary care, you can help your dog live a healthy life!

Sign up for a pet insurance policy today while you have a young Bernese Mountain Dog so that you can be reimbursed later on in life if your dog develops a chronic illness or other covered condition.

Let Spot Pet Insurance help you with the costs of giving your Bernese Mountain Dog the best veterinary care possible, throughout your dog’s life.

Melissa Brock is the founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her free essential timeline and checklist for the college search!

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