Have you done a breed post on Rottweilers?

Have you done a breed post on Rottweilers?

I have not, yet. Let’s change that, shall we?

But first, as usual, please note the disclaimer. These
posts are about the breed from a veterinary viewpoint as seen
in clinical practice, i.e. the problems we are faced with. It’s not
the be-all and end-all of the breed and is not to make a judgement
about whether the breed is right for you. If you are asking for an
opinion about these animals in a veterinary setting, that is what you
will get. It’s not going to be all sunshine and cupcakes, and is
not intended as a personal insult against your favorite breed. This
is general advice for what is common, often with a scientific
consensus but sometimes based on personal experiences, and is not a
guarantee of what your dog is going to encounter in their life.


Rottweilers are an interesting breed that get a lot of bad press, though not as much lately as Pit Bulls get in the media. As the risk of coping some backlash at saying this, some of these dogs are dangerous.Some of them are poorly trained, poorly managed, highly reactive and having them in the vet clinic is like having a lion or a bear that we have to treat while also not having any tranquilizer darts. More on that later.

Most of them are pretty nice dogs, but the few that are bad are so bad that it’s hard to not let them taint your view of the breed. They were on my ‘to own’ list as a vet student, but I would not have the time or home that a dog of this breed requires any time soon.

From a medical perspective elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia are very prevalent. This is a reoccurring problem in new rotties that I see, and I kind of suspect that many of these dogs are coming out of breeders who are breeding for ‘guard dogs’, that is tough looking or outright aggressive dogs, and not health screening. The sort of breeders that think the bigger the head, the better. Both of these conditions vary in severity but can result in lameness, pain and early arthritis.

They are also deep chested enough to be able to develop Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, so either prophylactic measures or careful feeding regimes should be implemented for this breed.

In addition to their potential chronic lameness from elbow and hip dysplasia, this breed is also known to develop
Osteochondritis dissecans

(OCD, not to be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), where flaps of cartilage are damaged and may lift off. The shoulder and hock seem particularly common sites to be affected, so some of these poor dogs literally end up without a good leg to stand on.

Individuals can develop entropion, because the last thing we need is a painful eye condition that results in hair rubbing constantly against the eyeball. This can also occur later in life if the individual dog has been overweight, and then lost weight rapidly for some reason (eg illness), causing fat around the eye to reduce.

Now, due to unknown mechanisms but probably related to an immune system quirk due to inbreeding and homozygosity within the breed, rottweilers seem to be more vulnerable that average to Demodex and to parvovirus. This might be anecdotal, but vets worldwide report these observations. Interestingly, they’re also reported in other black and tan breeds, like the doberman, dachshund and kelpie. Whatever the mechanism is for this, it’s currently unknown but bound to be interesting.

The breed does develop osteosarcoma more often than average, and any dog that’s suspected of being arthritic in one limb only is highly suspicious. Delayed desexing may reduce the rate of osteosarcoma, but it’s by no means a magic preventative as entire dogs still get it. 

The breed is also prone to obesity. I sometimes wonder if this is because owners wanted a dog that would be ‘big’ and are getting confused about what’s a muscular dog and one that’s obese. Associated with this, I often see them for pancreatitis.

The range of temperament in this breed is interesting in veterinary setting. While there are certainly a lot of owners with rottweilers who’s dogs are perfectly nice dogs, just big and on the goofy side, there are also quite a lot of people who get a rottweiler because they want a big, scary dog as they’re often portrayed in the media.

And these dogs are often poorly trained, don’t come inside to live with the family, are often obese, usually only seen when they’re lame and more often than not the owner can’t make it walk into the clinic, or can’t put a muzzle on.

They are, needless to say, a serious challenge to deal with in small animal practice.

But for some reason the owners are proud of these dogs for being huge and impossible to handle. It’s just beyond my comprehension to see somebody so proud with all the wasted potential in that dog when it could have been happy and bonded, and much easier to treat in a veterinary setting. Or even easier to touch. I just think it’s sad because I know what these dogs could have been, but see what they’ve been turned into because somebody actually wanted that stereotype from the media.

Sure, they’re not exactly beginner dogs to train, but being proud of completely failing to do so just confuses me.