The Bernese Mountain Dog is large, averaging 90 pounds (41 kg), with mid-length black, brown and white fur.
The breed takes its name from Switzerland’s capital city; it was developed in the region as a work dog suited to the high elevations and rugged terrain of the Alps.
Bernese are calm and friendly dogs that interact well with people and other pets, though they require a great deal of exercise and lots of space to play outside.
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Despite their great size, Bernese are somewhat delicate and tend to live only around 8 years. They are at risk for a number of health problems:
- Addison’s disease: this condition results when the adrenal gland produces too little adrenaline; affected dogs are lethargic and suffer gastrointestinal problems. Blood analysis is required to diagnose the disease, which can be difficult to distinguish from other ailments. Treatment involves lifetime administration of drugs that compensate for the defective gland.
- Hip dysplasia: these dogs may inherit a condition where the hipbone fails to fit correctly into the pelvis. Over time, wear and tear can cause these joints to become inflamed, resulting in pain and restricted movement. The condition can often be reversed with surgery. Owners are urged to ask breeders for confirmation that the hips of the parents are not affected, though this does not guarantee that puppies will not develop dysplasia.
- Histiocytic sarcoma: this highly aggressive form of cancer can attack any number of tissues, in particular, the spleen, lungs, marrow, lymph nodes and joints. The symptoms, including loss of appetite and lethargy, are not specific to the disease, making diagnosis difficult. Treatment can involve chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): as the name suggests, this disease occurs when the cells of a dog’s retinas degenerate. A single gene mutation is responsible for the problem, though as yet no genetic test has been developed. It is therefore imperative to know the breeding history before acquiring a puppy in order to ensure that none of its ancestors has gone blind. There is no treatment for PRA, though affected dogs can almost always live full lives if kept indoors (a lot of space would, however, be required for a Miniature Pinscher).
The sad fact is that Bernese are susceptible to a variety of illnesses and that they are likely to develop a life-threatening condition by age 7 or 8.
Armed with this knowledge, owners can plan for these eventualities by purchasing the right pet health care plan, so that they can concentrate on caring for their dogs rather than worrying about how to afford treatment.
For other types of dogs, check out our full list of dog breeds.
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