Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
White greyhound on a walk in the hills of New Zealand

The essentials

  • Understand the health risks — Deep-chested dogs are prone to specific health issues like bloat and exercise-related strains. Understanding their unique needs and being proactive is vital. Know when to take your dog to the ER.
  • Recognize symptoms and be prepared to respond — It’s critical to recognize symptoms such as a distended abdomen or breathing difficulties. Immediate veterinary care can save your dog’s life.
  • Manage exercise to maintain health — Deep-chested dogs require careful exercise management to prevent strain and injury. Your veterinarian can help!

Let’s discover the unique health challenges deep-chested dog breeds like Dobermans and Great Danes face. It’s important to educate yourself about health problems for any breed to reduce the risk for your pup.

Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), aka bloat

When the stomach becomes distended (gastric dilation) with gas and twists (volvulus) within the body, it creates a condition called GDV, aka bloat. Bloat is an emergency that usually requires immediate surgery.  Bloat kills 18-30% of the dogs diagnosed with it. Symptoms may include a distended or hard stomach, vomiting, dry heaving, drooling, panting, or pacing/restlessness. The only cure for GDV is a gastropexy . This surgical procedure involves tacking the stomach to the body wall so that it no longer floats freely in the abdomen. Some vets perform this surgery on deep-chested dogs during their spay or neuter to prevent GDV in the future. It’s important to note that any dog can suffer from bloat, not just large or deep-chested breeds.

🚨 If you think your dog has bloat, go to the nearest emergency vet ASAP!

Spontaneous pneumothorax 

Spontaneous pneumothorax in dogs occurs when air enters the chest cavity without any injury or medical procedure. Typically, negative pressure in the chest keeps the lungs inflated. When this pressure is lost, air accumulates, causing the lungs to collapse.

Air can enter the chest cavity through damaged lung or trachea tissue. In dogs, bullae and blebs — small air-filled sacs on the lung edges that can burst — are the most common cause of spontaneous pneumothorax and usually occur without any other lung disease.

Symptoms of spontaneous pneumothorax

Dogs suffering from spontaneous pneumothorax usually show respiratory distress:

  • Rapid breathing with or without an open mouth
  • Coughing
  • Pale or blue/gray gums or tongue (cyanosis)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Air trapped under the skin (subcutaneous emphysema)
  • Orthopneic posture (or raising and stretching the neck and pressing the forelegs/elbows out from the body)

🚨 If your dog is having trouble breathing, regardless of the reason, get to the vet right away. 

Treatment for spontaneous pneumothorax

Depending on the underlying cause of spontaneous pneumothorax, your dog may need hospitalization, thoracentesis (pulling air or fluid from the chest), and oxygen therapy. In some extreme cases, surgery to remove part of the lung (lung lobectomy) may be necessary to remove damage.

Man and woman walking dogs on a trail path

Exercise-induced strain

Deep-chested dogs are more prone to exercise-induced strain because their body shape affects how their organs and muscles function during physical activity. Problems related to exercise can include:

  • Limited space for organs: The deep chest can restrict the amount of space available for the dogs’ lungs and heart to expand during exercise. This can limit the amount of oxygen they can take in and circulate, making it harder for them to meet the demands of strenuous activity.
  • Increased stress on muscles and joints: The unique structure of these dogs’ chests can place extra stress on their muscles and joints, especially those involved in breathing and movement. This can lead to quicker fatigue and a higher risk of strains and injuries.
  • Respiratory challenges: The shape of their chest can make it harder for them to breathe deeply and efficiently. During exercise, this can lead to faster breathing rates and increased strain to other parts of the respiratory system, such as the diaphragm.

How to exercise your deep-chested dog safely 

Deep-chested dogs require careful consideration when it comes to exercise. Here’s how to ensure they stay healthy and happy:

  • Consult your vet. Before starting any exercise regimen, consult your veterinarian. They can provide tailored recommendations based on your dog’s breed, age, and health status.
  • Wait at least one hour after feeding for exercise. A large stomach full of food increases the risk of bloat. Give your dog time to digest before allowing them to play. Kennel training can be beneficial for allowing your dog to rest while their meal settles.
  • Moderate exercise. Choose moderate, low-impact activities to minimize strain on your dog’s chest and joints. Consider activities like leisurely walks, swimming, or gentle play sessions.
  • Avoid strenuous activities. Steer clear of high-intensity exercises that may put excessive stress on your dog’s body. Approach activities like intense agility training or long-distance running with caution.
  • Monitor signs of fatigue. Keep an eye out for signs of fatigue during exercise, such as excessive panting, lagging behind, or reluctance to continue. Take regular breaks and provide ample opportunities for rest and hydration.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Help your dog maintain a healthy weight to reduce strain on their chest and joints. Monitor their diet and adjust their calorie intake as needed to prevent obesity.
  • Warm up and cool down. Before and after exercise, engage in gentle warm-up and cool-down activities to prepare your dog’s muscles and joints and prevent injury.
  • Choose appropriate terrain. Opt for soft, even surfaces like grass or dirt trails to minimize impact on your dog’s joints. Avoid hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt, which can exacerbate strain.
  • Use proper equipment. Invest in well-fitting harnesses or gentle leaders to ensure your dog’s safety and comfort during walks or runs. Avoid using collars, which can put pressure on the neck and chest.

By following these guidelines, you can help your deep-chested dog enjoy exercise while minimizing the risk of injury or strain. Remember to always prioritize your dog’s well-being and consult your vet if you have any concerns.

Deep-chested dog breeds

Deep-chested dog breeds

Does your dog have a deep chest?

Deep-chested breeds often originate from dogs bred for tasks requiring endurance, stamina, and strength. Many of these dogs still work today, such as greyhounds racing and German shepherds doing police work. To determine if your dog has a deep chest, observe them from the side. Deep-chested dogs have a rib cage that is longer and narrower compared to other dogs. Typically, the lowest part of their rib cage extends down to a point between their elbows. These dogs also tend to have a pronounced waist, much higher up than the chest.

Common deep-chested dog breeds

From largest to smallest, here are some commonly thought of deep-chested dog breeds:

Deep-chested dog breeds may be more susceptible to certain diseases, but they still make wonderful additions to families worldwide. If you choose a deep-chested dog, be sure to take them in for regular veterinary check-ups. These visits are essential to keeping your dog happy and healthy.

Frequently asked questions

What is the common ailment in deep-chested dogs?

The most common problem deep-chested dogs suffer from is GDV, aka bloat.

Do big dogs have health issues?

Large dogs can suffer from a wide range of health issues, such as hip dysplasia. However, a major concern for large, deep-chested dogs is GDV.

How can you tell if a dog has poor circulation?

Signs of poor circulation in dogs include cold extremities, pale gums, slow-healing wounds, weakness or fatigue, and changes in skin color or texture. If you notice these symptoms, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What’s the difference between deep-chested dogs and barrel-chested dogs?

Deep-chested dogs have longer, narrower rib cages that usually extend between their elbows. Barrel-chested dogs, such as English bulldogs, have rounder, broader rib cages resembling a barrel, extending lower than their elbows. However, both types are considered deep-chested dogs.