The Bernese Mountain Dog, known for its striking tri-color coat, gentle demeanor, and robust physique, has captured the hearts of dog lovers worldwide. Originating from the Swiss Alps, these dogs were bred for herding and draft work, showcasing their strength and endurance. However, their popularity isn’t just for their work ethic or beauty; the Bernese Mountain Dog’s friendly and affectionate nature makes them excellent family companions.

Despite their many admirable qualities, Bernese Mountain Dogs are predisposed to certain health issues, a fact that potential and current owners must be aware of. Recognizing the signs of these conditions early on and understanding the value of preventive care can significantly impact the management and outcome of these health challenges. This article aims to shed light on the most common health issues faced by Bernese Mountain Dogs, offering insights into symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures to support their well-being.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

One of the most prevalent concerns among Bernese Mountain Dogs is hip and elbow dysplasia, conditions characterized by malformed joints that can lead to pain, lameness, and arthritis.


  • Difficulty rising or jumping
  • Visible discomfort during or after exercise
  • A swaying gait

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early diagnosis, typically through X-rays and genetic screening, plays a crucial role in managing these conditions. Treatment options range from lifestyle adjustments and physical therapy to surgical interventions in severe cases. Responsible breeding practices are essential to reducing the prevalence of these genetic conditions.

Cancer Risks in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs have a higher predisposition to certain types of cancer, notably histiocytic sarcoma and mast cell tumors.

Signs to Watch For

  • Unexplained lumps or swellings
  • Sudden changes in appetite or weight
  • Lethargy or decreased interest in usual activities

Potential Treatments

Treatment varies based on the type and stage of cancer but may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Regular veterinary check-ups are vital for early detection and treatment.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic disorder leading to the degeneration of the retina and eventual blindness in Bernese Mountain Dogs.


  • Night blindness progressing to complete blindness
  • Dilated pupils with a noticeable increase in eye shine
  • Reluctance to navigate in the dark


Currently, there is no treatment for PRA. However, genetic testing before breeding can help reduce the incidence of this condition. Owners can also make adjustments to their dog’s environment to ensure safety and comfort as their vision declines.

Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)

Bloat, or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off blood flow.


  • Distended abdomen
  • Unproductive retching
  • Restlessness and pacing

Emergency Treatment

Bloat requires immediate veterinary intervention.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

An inherited blood disorder, Von Willebrand’s Disease, affects the blood’s ability to clot, posing risks during surgeries or injuries.

Diagnosis and Management

Blood tests can diagnose this condition. While there’s no cure, treatments focus on managing bleeding episodes, often through transfusions or medication during surgical procedures.

Aortic Stenosis

Aortic Stenosis is a congenital heart defect characterized by the narrowing of the aorta, affecting blood flow from the heart.

Symptoms and Treatment

  • Fainting or weakness after exercise
  • Heart murmur detectable by a veterinarian

Treatment may involve medication to manage symptoms, though the severity of the condition can vary. Regular cardiac evaluations are recommended for early detection and management.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

Von Willebrand’s Disease is a less commonly known yet significant health issue that can affect Bernese Mountain Dogs. This inherited condition impacts the blood’s ability to clot, posing risks during surgeries or when injuries occur.

Understanding Von Willebrand’s Disease

  • Symptoms: Owners may notice excessive bleeding from minor wounds, bleeding gums, or blood in the stool.
  • Diagnosis: A specific blood test can diagnose the condition, usually performed if the dog is known to be at risk or before surgical procedures.
  • Management: While there’s no cure, treatments can manage bleeding episodes. This may include the use of clotting agents or blood transfusions in severe cases.

Responsible breeders often test for this condition to minimize the risk of passing it onto offspring. Awareness and preparedness are key for owners of dogs with Von Willebrand’s Disease.

Aortic Stenosis

Another condition of concern is Aortic Stenosis, a heart defect that can be present in Bernese Mountain Dogs from birth. It involves the narrowing of the aorta, affecting blood flow from the heart to the body, and can range from mild to severe.

Recognizing and Treating Aortic Stenosis

  • Symptoms: Some dogs may show no signs, while others might exhibit fainting, weakness, or intolerance to exercise.
  • Diagnosis: A veterinary cardiologist can diagnose the condition through echocardiograms.
  • Treatment: Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may require monitoring, while more severe forms could necessitate medication or surgical intervention.

Ongoing veterinary care and regular check-ups are crucial for managing Aortic Stenosis, ensuring affected dogs maintain the best possible quality of life.

The Importance of Preventive Care and Responsible Breeding

Preventive care, including regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, and parasite control, plays a vital role in maintaining the health of Bernese Mountain Dogs. Early detection of conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, and heart defects can significantly impact treatment outcomes and quality of life.

Advocating for Responsible Breeding

  • Responsible breeding practices are paramount in reducing the incidence of genetic diseases in Bernese Mountain Dogs. Prospective owners should seek reputable breeders who perform genetic testing and health screenings on their breeding dogs.

A Call to Action for Owners

  • Educate yourself on the common health issues affecting Bernese Mountain Dogs.
  • Engage in regular veterinary care and consider genetic testing where applicable.
  • Support and advocate for responsible breeding practices to help ensure the future health of the breed.

Conclusion: Proactive Health Management for Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs, with their gentle nature and striking appearance, make wonderful companions. However, their predisposition to certain health issues requires owners to be vigilant and proactive in their care. Understanding the health risks and recognizing the symptoms early can make a significant difference in the outcome.

Key Takeaways for Bernese Mountain Dog Owners

  • Early Detection and Preventive Care: Regular veterinary check-ups and preventive measures, such as vaccinations and parasite control, are vital in maintaining your dog’s health.
  • Knowledge is Power: Educating yourself about the breed-specific health issues can help you spot early warning signs and seek timely veterinary advice.
  • Responsible Breeding Practices: Supporting breeders who prioritize health, perform genetic testing, and adhere to breeding standards can help reduce the prevalence of inherited conditions.
  • Partnership with Veterinarians: Building a strong relationship with a trusted veterinarian ensures your Bernese Mountain Dog receives the best possible care, tailored to their unique health needs.

Encouragement for Continuous Learning and Advocacy

Owners are encouraged to continue educating themselves on the health needs of their Bernese Mountain Dogs. Advocacy for health screening, responsible breeding, and breed health research contributes not only to the well-being of individual dogs but to the health of the breed as a whole.

Additional Resources for Bernese Mountain Dog Owners

For those seeking more information, the following resources provide valuable insights into Bernese Mountain Dog health, care, and breeding practice.

Final Thoughts

Caring for a Bernese Mountain Dog is a rewarding experience that comes with the responsibility of being informed and attentive to their health needs. By embracing preventive care, supporting responsible breeding, and fostering a close relationship with veterinary professionals, owners can ensure their Bernese Mountain Dogs lead long, healthy, and happy lives.

Let’s work together to safeguard the health and future of this beloved breed. Your dedication to their well-being is a testament to the deep bond shared between Bernese Mountain Dogs and their owners.