About Great Danes

Are you thinking about adding a Great Dane to your family? Here is some information to consider before making that decision.

Before selecting a Great Dane, ask yourself the following questions:

  • The Great Dane is a giant breed that takes up more room in the house, needs an appropriate sized car to ride in safely and will cost considerably more to maintain than a small breed. Have you taken all this into consideration?
  • A Great Dane, especially a rambunctious puppy, can knock down a small child in play. A Great Dane must never be left unsupervised with small children.
  • A Great Dane can be very destructive to your furniture, woodwork, garden, and personal belongings. Are you prepared to deal with this?
  • Big dogs have big medical expenses and require the same amount of medicine as an adult person. Are you prepared to purchase canine health insurance or face huge bills in the event of a health emergency?
  • A Great Dane MUST be obedience trained to obtain control. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to train your dog properly?
  • The Great Dane is a sociable, friendly breed. Great Danes needs to have human contact, affection, regular socialization with other people and animals, and firm, consistent training. Are you ready to provide this?
  • Great Danes require exercise appropriate to their age. Many do not “self-exercise.” Are you committed to providing proper exercise in all types of weather?
  • Great Danes have good noses and many have a “stubborn streak.” When not on a leash, they need a fenced yard or they may “follow their noses.” Can you commit to putting up a sturdy, appropriate fence?
  • Great Danes can be excellent companions for almost any activity you wish to pursue including jogging, but you must wait until after your pup is two years old to avoid damage to growing joints. If you are looking for a puppy, are you willing to wait for it to grow up?

Health Conditions in Great Danes

The following health information and articles are courtesy of The Great Dane Club of America.

Screening tests are not always available for conditions that are common in the Great Dane breed. The following information is intended to aid those seeking health information on the breed, and should not be used to form a diagnosis replacing regular veterinary care by a qualified veterinarian.


Cardiomyopathy is suspected to be an inherited disease in the Great Dane and current (preliminary) research indicates that this disease may be sex-linked in our breed. Research is ongoing. An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but will not guarantee that the disease will not develop in the future. Regular exams on breeding stock are recommended. There are some congenital heart defects also occasionally found in the breed. For an in-depth article on the subject, see “Heart Disease in the Great Dane.”


Hip Dysplasia is an inherited disease with multifactorial expression. Clinically, the disease may be seen as simply poor rear end conformation or lessened athleticism to such malformation of the hip joint that the dog becomes crippled. It is recommended that breeding stock be x-rayed as normal. OFA and PennHIP both offer certification programs. See OFA and PennHIP.


Hypothyroidism in dogs is generally the result of a heritable disorder of the immune system. This condition results when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately maintain the dog’s metabolism. Happily, it is easily treated with thyroid replacement pills. Thyroid testing (T4, TSH and autoantibodies) on breeding stock should be performed on a routine basis. Finding autoantibodies to thyroglobulin is normally an indication that the dog has autoimmune thyroiditis. Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated and monitored on a regular basis. Dogs with confirmed thyroid abnormalities should not be bred. See the Hypothyroidism update article. Another autoimmune endocrine disease that can affect the breed is Addison’s disease.


Although not common, cataracts have been described in the Great Dane and can be blinding. Eyelid abnormalies (e.g. entropion) are also not unheard of in the breed. For breeding stock a CERF exam can insure that the eyes are normal in all aspects. See CERF data for the breed.


Bloat is the number one killer of Great Danes & Great Danes are the #1 breed at risk for bloat. For reasons not fully understood, in certain deep-chested breeds in particular, the stomach distends, then has a tendency to rotate, which cuts off the blood supply to various parts of the body, as well as effectively shutting down digestion. This condition is extremely painful as well as a true emergency that is rapidly life threatening. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (technically called “Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus”) will die in great pain in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken: surgery is normally necessary. The reasons for GDV are currently not understood, however most would agree that multiple small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes can help reduce the chances of bloat. Many breeders and owners of Great Danes consider a surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy (“preventative tack”) which can help prevent some of the more serious aspects of GDV. Discuss this with your veterinarian and your Dane’s breeder. Click HERE to find a detailed chart on dealing with bloat/torsion. See also this chart on Prophylactic Gastropexy (the preventitive “tack” surgery).


Danes can suffer from a variety of cancers as do many other breeds of dogs as well as many mixed breed dogs. Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and lymphoma appear to be the two forms of cancer most commonly seen in the Great Dane, and along with heart disease and bloat (GDV), cancer is a leading cause of death in Great Danes. Research into both types of cancer is ongoing and treatment options are improving every day. See The Genetics of Cancer.


Wobblers syndrome is a result of pressure on the spinal cord in the neck region and results in a “drunken” gait & increasing instability & potential paralysis. The congenital form of Wobblers in Danes usually presents in adolescent Danes and is the result of a malformation of the cervical vertebrae thought to result from a combination of nutritional effects and inherited traits; it is considered a form of DOD (Developmental Osteodystrophy) and is referred to as cervical vertebral malformation or CVM. A whiplash sort of traumatic injury to such long-necked dogs as Danes can occur in adult dogs and can also be referred to as “Wobblers” or cervical vertebral instability (CVI). Great Danes are considered at risk for both congenital & trauma induced “Wobblers.”


These are painful conditions of the bones that occur during the rapid growth phase of puppyhood causing lameness and general malaise. By far HOD is the more serious one and can be deadly. Pano is usually self-limiting and may not need treatment. HOD stands for Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy. Pano is short for Panosteitis. Information on growth and other puppy issues is available HERE.

Recommended Disease Screenings

OFA offers a public database where breeders can record the health status of their dogs. The minimum recommendations for the Great Dane to be used for breeding are a baseline at approximately two years with normal hip, heart, thyroid & eye results established. Heart & thyroid testing should be repeated at least every 2-3 years as results done on young adults do not remain valid for the life of the dog. Echocardiograms (for heart testing) are recommended for all adult Great Danes used for breeding, but are particularly important for stud dogs. Records of other disease issues should be maintained on all potential breeding stock (i.e. these four tests are not enough on their own). Note owners may wish to perform any &/or all of these tests on their own dogs, as health is a concern for all owners, not just breeders of Great Danes, and results publicly recorded can benefit the whole breed. For more information see the AKC-CHF’s CHIC program for the Great Dane.

How Big are Danes Really?

Good Question. Have a look at our Great Dane growth chart for a comparison of age, weight, and height; or, check out this page for insightful descriptions.

Logically, with great size comes increased expenses. Your out of pocket cost for things like dog medicine and health care can be quite a shock. Great Dane health insurance, however, is a wise choice that can really help keep medical costs in check.

(Courtesy of http://www.all-about-great-danes.com).

Additional Resources

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