Health Issues in the Anatolian Shepherd
by Holly Ballester

The Anatolian is a healthy, long-lived large breed with most living to about 12 or more years and carrying out their livestock guardian dog duties effectively. As with all breeds, they can suffer from illness and disease and there are a few diseases of which Anatolian owners and breeders should be aware. If you are considering an Anatolian dog or puppy, it is very important to be selective in choosing a responsible and reputable breeder. Ensure that the prospective puppy's parents have all health clearances. The following are the most commonly found problems in the breed.

What is it? Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development and growth of the hip joint and, in its more severe form; it can cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints.
What are the symptoms? The symptoms of hip dysplasia may include lameness, reluctance to rise or jump, dislike of standing for any length of time, abnormal sitting positions, shifting body weight to the front legs, loss of muscle mass in the rear and pain when the hips are manipulated. Dogs may show these signs at any stage of development of the disease, although many dogs with hip dysplasia do not exhibit any symptoms at all.
What causes it? Hip dysplasia begins in young dogs and is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Rapid weight gain and growth through excessive nutritional intake may encourage the development of hip dysplasia. Large breeds are most susceptible. Diagnosis is made with an x-ray and there are a variety of surgical treatment methods.
How is it treated? Most Anatolians with HD are kept comfortable with medications such as carprofen and may also benefit from a joint supplement containing Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, and Vitamin C.

What is it? OCD is a disease characterized by the separation of a portion of cartilage from bone and it occurs in young fast growing, large dogs.
What are the symptoms? Symptoms usually occur in one or both shoulders and include lameness that may worsen after periods of exercise and improve after rest. The disease begins when the cartilage that covers the joint starts to separate from the bone and forms a flap. This flap of cartilage can also break free from the bone and "float" about within the joint. The final separation of the flap may be precipitated by a relatively minor trauma and produce an acute onset of lameness. It is also possible for this floating piece of cartilage to continue to grow within the joint and impinge on various joint structures.
What causes it? The causes of OCD are nutritional, environmental and genetic. Anatolian pups should not be overfed and should be allowed to grow at a slow, steady, even pace during the first year of life. Trauma in fast growing pups may result in OCD. Certain genetic lines are more prone to this disease.
How is it treated? Treatment for dogs that have mild symptoms of OCD or where a specific lesion cannot be identified in an x-ray consists of strict rest for 1 to 2 months. Leash walking is allowed, but no running or playing. Anti-inflammatories and painkillers may be given. In cases where x-rays reveal a lesion, treatment involves surgery to remove the floating cartilage. Surgical treatment is highly successful.


What is it? Elbow dysplasia is a condition involving multiple developmental abnormalities of the elbow-joint.
What are the symptoms? Symptoms include intermittent lameness and joint swelling. Most developmental elbow abnormalities are related to osteochondrosis (OCD), which is a disease of the joint cartilage. Osteochondrosis/osteochondritis Dissecans refers to a separation of a flap of cartilage on the joint surface (see OCD above). Elbow Dysplasia can be diagnosed through x-rays and arthroscopy.
What causes it? The cause of elbow dysplasia is uncertain, but possibly includes genetics, trauma, and nutrition (including excessive calcium and decreased Vitamin C intake).
How is it treated? Treatment involves surgery when significant lameness is present.


What is it? Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy is a frustrating and painful bone disease which causes lameness and extreme pain in young rapidly growing large breed dogs.
What are the symptoms? The symptoms are 1) elevated temperature, 2) pastern joints which are hot to the touch and painful to pressure and 3) unwillingness of the dog to get up and move or the dog moves with obvious discomfort or stands in a hunched position. Fever may be present as well as painful swelling around the joints. It usually affects multiple limbs.
What causes it? The cause of the disease is currently unknown. There does not appear to be a strong inherited genetic link. One theory is that it occurs a few days after vaccination. Another possible cause may be a bacterial infection - the boney changes and high fever support this possibility. Another suspect in the disease is vitamin C - it has been shown that dogs with this disease show symptoms and boney changes which are similar to people with scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). Another possible cause of the disease may be nutritional - it has been suggested that several bone diseases in young puppies are linked to an excess of protein and calories in the diet leading to the development of these problems.
How is it treated? Treatment involves rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opiate analgesics when necessary. In most cases the disease is self-limiting and most dogs recover in several weeks, but it can recur in cycles and go on for a long period of time. Surgery may be needed to correct any changes to the bone that have taken place.

What is it? Pano, also known as "long bone disease", "growing pains" and "wandering lameness", is a spontaneously occurring lameness that usually occurs in large breed dogs. It can show up as young as 6 or 9 months and usually does not occur after a dog is 18 to 20 months.
What are the symptoms? Lameness may occur very suddenly, usually without a history of trauma or excessive exercise. In most cases one or the other front leg is affected first and then the problem tends to move around, making it appear that the lameness is shifting from leg to leg. There are often periods of improvement and then worsening of the symptoms. Pano will eventually be outgrown by 18 months, with or without treatment.
What causes it? It is possible that the disease may have genetic causes. Another theory is diet and that a low protein, low calcium diet may prevent this condition.
How is it treated? Pain control with aspirin or carprofin can help your Anatolian feel more comfortable.

What is it? The anterior cruciate ligament is located in the knee. If it is torn, the knee joint becomes unstable.
What are the symptoms? Dogs that have ruptured their cruciate ligament will appear suddenly lame, and usually hold the foot of the affected leg off the ground. The knee may become swollen. In time, the dog may start to use the leg again, but often lameness returns. If a dog with a ruptured cruciate is not treated, severe degenerative joint disease (arthritis) usually occurs. In addition, because the dog favors the affected leg, he will generally put more weight on the unaffected leg. Thus, it is not unusual for the dog to rupture both ACL's.
What causes it? It is thought that ACL problems are a genetic predisposition/conformational weakness. Obesity may also play a role.
How is it treated? TPLO surgery is the most common treatment for Anatolians and is very successful.

What is it? Entropion is an eye condition in which the eyelids fold inward, causing the eye lashes to come into contact with the eye itself. It is very uncomfortable, as the eyelashes constantly rub against the cornea.
What are the symptoms? Symptoms of entropion include redness and pain around the eye, sensitivity to light and wind, sagging skin around the eye, excessive tearing and decreased vision, especially if the cornea is damaged.
What causes it? Entropion is usually caused by genetic factors and may be congenital. The condition is usually present by six months of age. Entropion can also occur as a secondary problem and as a result of pain in the eye, scarring of the eyelid, or nerve damage. The upper or lower eyelid can be involved, and one or both eyes may be affected. When entropion occurs in both eyes, this is known as "bilateral entropion."
How is it treated? Treatment is a simple surgery in which the excess skin of the outer lids is removed. Prognosis is excellent if surgery is performed before the cornea is damaged.


What is it? Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid gland (two small lobes located in the neck) secretes insufficient thyroid hormone, which develops most commonly in middle-aged dogs.
What are the symptoms? Common symptoms include lethargy, obesity, heat-seeking, reproductive difficulty, and skin and coat problems. Less common symptoms include neuromuscular changes, cardiac problems, and behavioral changes.
What causes it? The cause is thought to be a serious genetic problem. Current evidence suggests that an abnormal immune response causes the body to attack and destroy its own thyroid gland as if it were a foreign substance.
How is it treated? Hypothyroidism isn’t life threatening and once diagnosed, the disorder is relatively easy and inexpensive to treat with medication. Treatment is lifelong.

MALOCCLUSION: (Note: the UKC Anatolian Breed Standard requires a perfect scissors bite; the AKC standard allows an even bite)
What is it? Malocclusion is a “bad bite”. There are 6 forms: 1) Overbite (upper jaw is longer than lower jaw and there is a space between the upper and lower incisors when the mouth is closed), 2) Underbite (the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw. If the upper and lower jaw meet each other edge to edge, the bite is referred to as an even or level bite), 3) Anterior Crossbite (both sides of the bite close normally. Except that one or more of the lower incisors are positioned in front of the upper incisors), 4) Posterior Crossbite (one or more of the lower premolars overlaps the upper premolars), 5) Wry Mouth (one side of the jaw is longer than the other side), 6) Base Narrow Canines: (the lower canine teeth project inward in relation to the jaw).
What are the symptoms? A bite that is less than a perfect scissors bite.
What causes it? Most bite problems are genetic.
How is it treated?
Anterior crossbite is not considered to be genetic and is usually correctable. Base narrow canine problems are often due to retained baby teeth and usually can be corrected. If your dog has an undershot or an overshot jaw, it is normally left alone unless it is causing a severe problem. In serious cases, treatment is given specifically to prevent trauma to the mouth and involves orthodontic appliances (braces) which move the teeth into a more normal position.

What is it? Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures. Canine Epilepsy is divided into idiopathic and symptomatic disorders. Idiopathic Epilepsy, also called Primary Epilepsy, occurs between the ages of one and five and has no identifiable brain abnormality other than seizures. Symptomatic Epilepsy (also called Secondary Epilepsy) has seizures that are the consequence of an identifiable lesion or other specific cause.
What are the symptoms? Seizures
What causes it? A genetic basis for Idiopathic, Primary Epilepsy is strongly suspected. There are many other causes for Symptomatic, Secondary Epilepsy such as hypoglycemia, anemia, infection, and distemper.
How is it treated? Anticonvulsant drugs are normally used and they must be given exactly as prescribed- inconsistent administration of medication or abrupt changes in medication can be worse than no treatment at all. Acupuncture and Vitamin B6 may also be used in conjunction with medications.

What is it? Mange is a parasitic infestation of the skin. There are 2 types of mange: Demodex and Sarcoptic..
Demodex or “Red Mange” or “Puppy Mange” is not contagious and is most commonly diagnosed in puppies between the ages of 3 months to one year. Demodex mites live their entire life cycle on most dogs and some cats. When the dog’s immune system is doing its job, the number of mites is kept in check. When the immune system becomes depressed, then the number of mites can get out of control and symptoms of mange start to develop.
Sarcoptic mange or “Scabies” is contagious. The female mite burrows deep into the skin to lay eggs which makes the animal very itchy. It can infect dogs of any age. Humans can develop lesions, red papules, from the mite and should call their doctor if signs develop.
What are the symptoms? Symptoms of both types of mange may include hair loss and red, itchy, inflamed skin along with a secondary bacterial infection
What causes it?
Demodex Mange is caused by an impaired immune system, intense stress, or malnutrition. It occurs only in younger dogs with poorly developed immune systems or older dogs with depressed immune systems. The mites reproduce rapidly, causing symptoms that range from mild irritation and hair loss on a small patch of skin to severe and widespread inflammation, secondary infection and, in rare cases, a life-threatening condition.
Sarcoptic Mange or Scabies is a skin condition caused by a tiny mite burrowing just beneath the surface of the skin causing intense, extremely uncomfortable itching. Transmission occurs through direct contact with a carrier animal or when a mite falls off the skin of a carrier and survives long enough for it to infest a new host animal. Coyotes, foxes and other mammals can be carriers.
How is it treated?
Demodex: The most common treatment is medicated shampoo or antibiotics. Young dogs that "outgrow" the mange as their immune systems develop sometimes have symptoms recur during times of stress.
Sarcoptic: Sarcoptic mange is often misdiagnosed as an allergy, but a skin scraping can confirm a diagnosis. Rinses and dips (particularly Lyme Sulfer dip) are commonly used. Ivermectin, Interceptor, and Revolution have recently been used successfully. The effected dog must be isolated from other dogs and their bedding and places they have occupied must be thoroughly cleaned. Other dogs in contact with a diagnosed dog should be evaluated and treated.

What is it? Osteosarcomas are highly aggressive malignant bone tumors, characterized by local invasion/destruction and spread to other organs. Osteosarcoma commonly affects the limbs of large to giant breed dogs, but can also occur in the skull, ribs, vertebrae, pelvis, which is a more common primary site in smaller dogs.
What are the symptoms? The signs associated with a bone tumor may be nonspecific and depend on the primary location. Tumors in the limbs often cause various degrees of lameness and pain, and a firm swelling may become evident as the tumor size increases. The pain can cause other problems such as irritability, aggression, loss of appetite, weight loss, whimpering, crying, sleeplessness, and reluctance to exercise. Tumors in non-weight-bearing bones may initially appear as a solid, firm mass.
What causes it? The cause is unknown.
How is it treated?
The treatment of osteosarcoma depends on tumor type, tumor location, and extent of disease (stage). Various diagnostic tests such as radiographs, bloodwork, and a biopsy are required to determine the most appropriate treatment.

What are they? These tumors (also called mastocytomas, mast cell sarcomas) are the most frequently recognized malignant or potentially malignant neoplasms of dogs and most often occur in dogs of 8-10 years old. They may occur anywhere on the body surface as well as in internal organs, but the limbs (especially the posterior upper thigh), ventral abdomen, and thorax are the most common sites. Many breeds appear to be predisposed. The tumors vary markedly in size, and clinical appearance alone cannot establish a diagnosis. The behavior of mast cell tumors is variable in that some are rapidly fatal and others are benign.
What causes it? A viral etiology has been speculated but remains controversial.
What are the symptoms? They appear as raised, nodular masses that feel soft to solid.
How is it treated?
• Grade I: A solitary tumor confined to the dermis without nodal involvement. The preferred treatment is complete removal with a wide margin; at least 3 cm of healthy tissue surrounding all palpable borders should be removed in an attempt to excise both the nodule and its surrounding "halo" of neoplastic cells.
• Grade II: A solitary tumor with regional lymph node involvement. Treatment options include removal of the mass as well as the affected regional node (if feasible), prednisolone, and radiotherapy, used either singly or in combination.
• Grade III: Multiple dermal tumors with or without lymphnode involvement. There is no agreed upon method of treating these tumors, which are almost always fatal.
• Grade IV: Any tumor which has spread. There is no agreed upon method of treating these tumors, which are almost always fatal.


What is it? Lymphoma is the third most common cancer diagnosed in dogs. It is a cancer of lymphocytes (a type of blood cell) and lymphoid tissues. Lymphoid tissue is normally present in many places in the body including lymph nodes, spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. The average dog with lymphosarcoma is between 6-9 years although dogs of any age can be affected. Males and females are equally at risk.
What are the symptoms? Symptoms will vary greatly depending upon the location of the cancer.
What causes it? The cause is unknown.
How is it treated?
Treatment depends upon the type of lymphoma.

What is it? Breast cancer. Intact female dogs are seven times more likely to get breast cancer than a spayed dog. One out of four intact female dogs over 4 years of age will probably develop one or more breast tumors along the mammary gland chains. Half of all tumors are malignant and unfortunately, half to 75% of them will kill the dog by recurrence or spreading (metastasizing) to the lungs within one to two years.
What are the symptoms? Single or several tumors may occur in one or more glands. The last two sets of glands are most commonly affected. The tumors can be firm or soft, well-defined lumps or diffuse swellings. Tumors can be attached to underlying tissues or moveable, skin-covered or ulcerated. They can be different sizes, and they may grow slowly or quite fast. Most dogs are feeling well. A few dogs are diagnosed with advanced metastasis (tumors that have spread to elsewhere in the body, such as the lungs and lymph nodes) and might be feeling ill from their tumors when they come for treatment.
What causes it? Sex hormones produced by canine ovaries during their six-month cycle cause a harmful sensitization or pre-programming of the breast tissue. This hormonal influence ultimately causes mutations in the genes of the breast tissue cells that dictate tumor growth. Progesterone and estrogen are the hormones that cause this effect. Progesterone therapy may also cause breast tumors in dogs.
How is it treated? Mammary gland tumors can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) and arise from the different types of tissues. Half of all mammary gland tumors are benign and can be treated successfully with surgery alone. The other half are malignant and have the potential for metastasis. Mammary gland masses are surgically removed and biopsied to determine the tumor type. Dogs with benign tumors usually do not require further treatment. Cases with malignant tumors should be evaluated for stage, and treatment will be based on the evaluation.