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Possible Health Issues With Newfoundlands


Causes of hip dysplasia are considered to be multifactorial; including both hereditary and environmental factors. Rapid weight gain and growth through excessive nutritional intake may encourage the development of hip dysplasia. Mild repeated trauma causing joint lining inflammation may also be important.

Signs and Symptoms

The clinical signs of hip dysplasia are lameness, reluctance to rise or jump, shifting the weight to the forelimbs, loss of muscle mass on the rear limbs, and pain when the hips are manipulated. Dogs may show clinical signs at any stage of development of the disease, although many dogs with hip dysplasia do not show overt clinical signs. Some dogs are painful at 6 to 8 months of age but recover as they mature. As the osteoarthritis progresses with age, some dogs may show clinical signs similar to people with arthritis such as lameness after unaccustomed exercise, lameness after prolonged confinement, and worse problems if they are overweight.



The congenital heart defect known as aortic stenosis consists of a narrowed, malformed aortic valve. This is the valve that leads from the main pumping chamber of the heart (ventricle) to the main artery to the body (aorta). In aortic stenosis, there is narrowing and partial to near-total blockage of blood flow from the heart to the body. The blockage may involve thicked, abnormal valve flaps ("leaflets") or webs of tissue just above the valve (supravalvular aortic stenosis) or just below the valve, within the ventricle (subvalvular aortic stenosis).

Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS) is a congenital heart problem that can occur sporadically in any breed. SAS is a defect in the heart valve that will ultimately be fatal to the affected dog. No outward abnormalities are evident in a dog affected with SAS. Through auscultation with an extremely sensitive stethoscope and using ultrasound, a veterinarian specializing in cardiology can evaluate the heart function in dogs in dogs of any age, but it is preferred that a puppy be initially checked for severe cases around 9 weeks of age. Because SAS is not present in puppies at birth and is a complicated defect that develops primarily during the first six months but up to a year, it is important that each Newf return to a board certified cardiologist as close to their 1st birthday as possible for a final evaluation.

Responsible breeders should always test both the sire and dam for SAS before breeding. Again, all cardiac evaluation for SAS should be done by an American Veterinarian College of Internal Medicine (AVCIM) board certified cardiologist. certified cardiologists. Please remember that even breeding stock that has been cleared for SAS can still produce it.



Gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), known as bloat or torsion, occurs in dogs when the stomach enlarges and twists into an abnormal position. GDV is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment. Without prompt medical attention, dogs with bloat can die very quickly; about 30% of dogs that suffer bloat die from it.

Which Dogs get Bloat?

Dogs & bitches are affected equally. Deep-chested dogs seem to be at more risk. Many Newfoundlands die from this condition and at any age, especially (anecdotally) after 11pm at night.


Liverpool University did some extensive research and came to no conclusion.

Food does not seem to be a factor, but stress & large intakes of water could be. Eating from a raised bowl could also be a factor. (In the wild, dogs mainly lie down to eat). Having a first degree relative who has suffered bloat.


The earlier this is recognized and veterinary help obtained, the better.

First the dog will be restless. It may attempt to vomit every 10-15 minutes, with no relief, or a white frothy saliva may be seen.

The stomach may be distended.

The dog will then start salivating , whining & panting and shock will develop.

TAKE THE DOG TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY! This is a medical emergency and should be treated NOW.


The vet will first try and alleviate pressure build-up in the stomach and may treat the shock.

Surgery may then be affected to untwist the stomach. Often the vet will staple the stomach to the cavity wall to help prevent future twisting. Parts of the stomach may have to be removed if blood has been prevented from reaching them and has begun to die. The spleen may also be removed.


Surgery is not always successful.

Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) due to the decreased blood flow back to the heart.

Postoperative gastric ulceration, open sores on the mucous membrane of the stomach caused by accumulated gastric juices (Gastric ulcers may occur - usually within 5 to 7 days following surgery - and may rupture, causing septic peritonitis, an infection and inflammation of the peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdomen.)

Recurrence of gastric dilatation


The risk of bloat can be reduced in the following ways:

Eating small portions throughout the day (especially important for large, deep-chested dogs)

Not breeding dogs with a family history of GDV

Surgically "stapling" the dog's stomach to the inner abdominal wall (gastropexy) to prevent twisting

Waiting 1 to 2 hours after eating before exercising (especially important for large, deep-chested dogs)

Prevention measures are in no way guaranteed.


Without prompt medical attention, bloat can cause death. Death can occur even after treatment; the prognosis depends on the dog's condition during and after the surgery. The more time that passes from the onset of symptoms to the initiation of treatment, the worse the prognosis. Dogs that require removal of part of the stomach have a decreased chance of survival. Dogs that recover well 7 days after surgery have a very good chance of survival.

Recurrences are common, especially in dogs that do not undergo stomach stapling. As many as 80% of all dogs that don't have stomach stapling suffer recurrences, compared to 3% to 5% of dogs that do.



Elbow dysplasia is a multifactorial, polygenetic developmental condition affecting many large breeds including newfoundlands.

The term elbow dysplasia refers to several conditions that affect the elbow joint: osteochondrosis of the medial humeral condyle, fragmented medial coronoid process, ununited anconeal process, and incongruent elbow.

More than one of these conditions may be present, and this disease often affects both front legs. An affected dog may show forelimb lameness and elbow pain. These conditions may actually be different manifestations of a single disease process, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) . OCD is abnormal maturation of cartilage (the specialized connective tissue from which bone develops). While this in an inherited defect, environmental factors such as diet, activity, and trauma also have a role in the development and progression of the disease.

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) A fragment of cartilage peels away from the bone, within the joint.

Osteochondrosis of medial humeral condyle OCD develops on the elbow end of the humerus (the long bone in the front leg above the elbow).

Fragmented medial coronoid process and ununited anconeal process The coronoid and anconeal processes are small bones which fuse with the main part of the ulna as the animal matures. (The ulna and the radius are the two bones which make up the front leg between wrist and elbow). These terms describe the condition where those processes either break off from the ulna, or fail to fuse normally.

Incongruent Elbow The bones which form the elbow joint grow at different rates and do not fit together properly.

Elbow dysplasia is a problem in Newfoundlands. It affects some dogs clinically but more dogs sub clinically (without showing sign of the disease). However, when X-rayed the characteristic signs appear.

Lameness usually starts insidiously at 7 to 10 months of age. It is present every day, and may be most obvious when your dog first gets up, or starts to walk or run. The likely outcome depends on how far the disease has progressed when treatment begins. Good clinical results (ie. your dog will not be in pain) are usually seen if treatment starts early, before osteoarthritis (degenerative changes in the joint) has developed. If left untreated, your dog’s pain and lameness will gradually get worse.

Selection of Dogs for Breeding

To prevent Elbow Dysplacia in breed, breeders should look for animals least likely to carry genes which cause the problem into the next generation. This means identifying the dogs with clinical and sub-clinical disease. As both clinical and sub-clinical dogs will have changes in their elbow x-rays, this is the means of identifying affected dogs.


Cruciate Ligament Rupture

The knee is a fairly complicated joint. It consists of the femur above, the tibia below, the kneecap (or “patella”) in front, and the bean-like fabellae behind. Chunks of cartilage called the medial and lateral menisci fit between the femur and tibia like cushions and there are an assortment of ligaments holding everything together allowing the knee to bend the way it should and keep it from bending the way it shouldn’t.

There are two cruciate ligaments which cross inside the knee joint: the anterior (or, more correctly in animals, “cranial”) cruciate and the posterior (or, more correctly in animals, the “caudal”) cruciate. They are named for the side of the knee (front or back) where their lower attachment is found. The anterior cruciate ligament prevents the tibia from slipping forward out from under the femur.


The ruptured cruciate ligament is the most common knee injury of the dog; in fact, chances are that any dog with a sudden rear leg lameness has a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament rather than something else. The history usually involves a rear leg suddenly so sore that the dog can hardly bear weight on it. If left alone, it will appear to improve over the course of a week or two but the knee will be notably swollen and arthritis will set in quickly. Dogs can be presented in either the acute stage (shortly after the injury) or in the chronic stage (weeks or months later).

The key to the diagnosis of the ruptured cruciate ligament is the demonstration of an abnormal knee motion called a “drawer sign.” It is not possible for a normal knee to show this sign.


The veterinarian stabilizes the position of the femur with one hand and manipulates the tibia with the other hand. If the tibia moves forward (like a drawer being opened), the cruciate ligament is ruptured.

Another test that can be used is the “Tibial Compression test” where the veterinarian stabilizes the femur with one hand and flexes the ankle with the other hand. If the ligament is ruptured, again the tibia moves abnormally forward.

If the rupture occurred some time ago, there will be swelling on side of the knee joint that faces the other leg. This is called a “medial buttress” and is a sign that arthritis is well along.

It is not unusual for animals to be tense or frightened at the vet’s office. Tense muscles can temporarily stabilize the knee preventing demonstration of the drawer sign during examination. Often sedation is needed to get a good evaluation of the knee. This is especially true with larger dogs. Eliciting a drawer sign can be difficult if the ligament is only partially ruptured so a second opinion with an orthopedic specialist is a good idea if the initial examination is inconclusive.

Since arthritis can set in relatively quickly after a cruciate ligament rupture, radiographs to assess arthritis are helpful. Another reason for radiographs is that occasionally when the cruciate ligament tears, a piece of bone where the ligament attaches to the tibia breaks off as well. This will require repair and the surgeon will need to know about it before beginning surgery. Arthritis present prior to surgery limits the extent of the recovery after surgery though surgery is still needed to slow or even curtail further arthritis development.


There are several clinical pictures seen with ruptured cruciate ligaments. One is a young athletic dog playing roughly who takes a bad step and injures the knee while playing. This is usually a very sudden lameness in a young large breed dog.



Cystine, an amino acid, is one of the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are part of a normal canine diet and are absorbed through the gut. Although they are filtered in the kidney, amino acids are normally reabsorbed (nearly 100%) by special kidney transporters and are not lost in the urine.

In dogs with cystinuria, the kidney transporter for cystine is defective. In acid urine, cystine precipitates to create crystals, which may further precipitate to form calculi (stones) in the kidney and bladder. These calculi can cause serious illness. Although cystinuria affects many dog breeds, the most severe form affects Newfoundland dogs.

Cystinuric dogs often show signs of a recurrent urinary tract disorder. Clinical signs may start at almost any age. Affected dogs may have problems with urination. They may produce blood-tinged urine and pass calculi, or they may be unable to void urine despite numerous attempts. Because male dogs have a narrower urethra than female dogs, male dogs are more likely to become completely blocked. In this case, the bladder may distend grossly and rupture if not properly managed. Urine may then back up into the kidneys, and the resultant pressure on the kidney may cause cell necrosis and kidney failure. Without appropriate and immediate care, such complications can lead to death.

Within just a few generations, breeders who selectively screen their breeding stock will make great strides toward the realistic possibility of eliminating cystinuria in the Newfoundland breed. Carriers should only be bred to non-carriers, while affected dogs should be eliminated from breeding programs.



is the turning in of the eyelid, allowing the eyelashes to rub on the cornea and can cause complications. The direct cause of this is some what complicated, but is primarily due to the massive size of the Newfs head which commonly has larger eye sockets. While the actual eye ball can often be of normal size, if the socket is too large, the eye balls seems to be small but instead is just set back into the socket. Thus, it is common to find the lower eyelid "hitting" the lower part of the eye ball instead of gently rolling up and over to the middle of the eye to meet the upper eyelid with each blink or squint. Not only can this cause irritation, but another concern for this condition can occur when the dog reaches an older age. Because the eye ball has a "fat" layer behind it, as the dog progressively ages, the "fat" layer thins and can cause the eye to sink back even deeper. When considering potential puppies, try to look at their parents eyes. Although the standard calls for a smaller eyed Newf, it is important that the eye not be set back into a large deep socket or problems may arise as the dog ages.

Ectropion is an outward turning of the lower eyelid, which is condition that is mainly inherited due to the genetic make up of the more massive type Newfoundland heads. Typically a dog that has a massive head, will also have extra skin that can accommodate their growing skulls. Since the head type is genetic, these dogs will often have more elasticity also which allows their skin to stretch over the head. The combinations of these issues can lead to ectropion, which leaves the eye exposed to irritation and/or infection. Surgery can be performed to correct it. Again, when considering potential puppies, try to evaluate their parents eyes yourself.

Cherry Eye is a prolapsed tear duct, showing as a mass of red tissue at the corner of the eye of the third eyelid. It usually occurs in younger growing puppies/dogs, affecting one eye first, but then typically the second within a few weeks. Surgical removal of the entire gland is required, but if corrected, the dog can not be shown.


These are just some of the main health issues that Newfies can have.  There are others that I have not listed that may not be as common.  As with any living creature, there is never a guarantee that an illness won't come up or an injury will occur, even with the best of breeders and owners.  We highly recommend pet insurance.  I have listed a company that has been highly recommended and you can design your own plans for as little as $80 per year, depending on what kind of coverage you would like. 

As the wise Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"...

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