Genetic Health Concerns

Inherited Disorders

Simple inherited disorders are conditions that are caused by a mutation at just one gene. The inheritance of these diseases are predictable, especially with purebred dogs. 

DNA Testing

DNA tests are able to check a dog’s genetic status for known simple inherited disorders. These test will tell not only the status of the dog being tested but also the likelihood that their offspring will be affected or not. 

Berners & DNA Testing

The main simple inherited disorders known to affect Bernese Mountain Dogs are;

Von Willebrand’s Disease Type I (VWD1), SOD1B Degenerative Myelopathy (SOD1B) , & Degenerative Myelopathy (DM).

Bernese Genetic Health Concerns


Von Willebrand’s Disease Type I (VWD1)

Von Willebrand’s Disease is the most common hereditary blood clotting disorder in dogs and can result in excessive bleeding, even from minor cuts.  If  dogs require any type of surgery it is crucial to know if your dog has this disease. There is no known cure.


Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a disease of the spinal cord in older dogs with an onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination in their back legs, until the dog is unable to walk. The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic. 


SOD1B Degenerative Myelopathy (SOD1B)

DM (see above) is strongly correlated with a mutation in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene. More recently, a second mutation in the SOD1 gene has been detected in the Bernese Mountain Dog it is referred to as the SOD1B.  

Health Concerns & Preventions


Big Dogs Problems

Common Health Concerns of Bernese Mountain Dogs: elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, gastric torsion or bloat, and cancers are unfortunately common health concerns for big dogs like Bernese.

Elbow & Hip Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a condition involving multiple developmental abnormalities of the elbow-joint in the dog, specifically the growth of cartilage or the structures surrounding it. 


Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip that occurs during growth. The hip joint is a "ball and socket" joint. During growth, both the "ball" (the head of the femur or thighbone) and the "socket" in the pelvis (acetabulum) must grow at equal rates. The term ‘hip dysplasia’ is used to describe a situation in which the end of the femur does not fit into the hip socket, the way it is supposed to. 

(American Kennel Club)

Preventing Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common problem, with approximately 15% of the canine population experiencing some kind of displacement disorder with their hip joint.  

To help decrease the chance of elbow & hip dysplasia:  

  • Avoid over feeding: always feed your pup the servings suggestions and avoid feeding a high calorie, high fat, protein diet to pups that leads to rapid bone growth and can cause genetic predispositions of hip dysplasia to manifest.
  • Vitamins that promote joint health to counteract degenerative conditions, such as glucosamine.
  • Provide soft bedding for your pup. 

(American Kennel Club)

Heat Stroke

Bernese are heat intolerant.  

Berners are big, heavily built dogs with black, thick, double coats. The breed was developed by the Swiss to live in the Alps where temperatures rarely reach 75°, even in the hottest months. Most Bernese Mountain Dogs love cold weather and snow. The dogs' black coats absorb heat from the sun; many dogs seek shade, even on cool days. It is not uncommon for Bernese to be less energetic and active in hotter months. Most Bernese seek out the coolest resting spot they can find in hot weather. 

Tips for Berners in the Heat 

► Keep water available at all times.
► Provide your Berner with access to an air conditioned room, or a cool basement and flooring without rugs.
► Fans can help a Berner to stay cool on hot days.
► If you must leave you dog outside during a hot or humid day, be sure it has plenty of shade and fresh water.
► If traveling with your Berner on warm/hot days, do not leave your dog unattended in your vehicle. And take water with you if you plan a long trip that includes your dog.
► If you plan an outing on a hot day, and are unsure your destination will have trees or structures that provide shade, bring a sheet or tarp, and bungy cords or clamps to provide a shaded area for your dog.  



Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex, is a medical and surgical emergency. 

As the stomach fills with air, pressure builds, stopping blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. Blood pools at the back end of the body, reducing the working blood volume and sending the dog into shock.

As the stomach flips, it drags the spleen and pancreas along with it, cutting off the blood flow. The oxygen-starved pancreas produces some very toxic hormones. One, in particular, targets the heart and stops it cold.

In fact, a dog can go through successful treatment and seem to be out of danger, when suddenly the heart stops. 

Even in the mildest case of bloat, which is extremely rare, dogs die without treatment. 

(American Kennel Club)

Symptoms & Prevention of Bloat

Signs of Bloat:

  • An enlargement of the dog’s abdomen
  • Retching
  • Salivation
  • Restlessness
  • Pups with bloat will feel pain and might whine if you press on their belly.  

Preventing Bloat:

  • Feed your pup 2x a day: dogs who only eat one meal a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed two meals a day. 
  • Slow down your pup's eating rate: Fast eaters have five times the risk than dogs that are slow eaters. Using bowls with fingers (or center posts) or putting large rocks in the bowl slows dogs down physically, but it’s also important to address the anxiety that comes with feeding around other dogs, because that can be a risk factor as well. 
  • Separating dogs at feeding times may help reduce anxiety and stress surrounding food: dogs and those that are hyperactive are more likely to bloat.
  •  Unhappy or fearful dogs are twice as likely to bloat as those who are happy.   

(American Kennel Club)