Nurturing Berner Health and Welfare: Ensuring the Well-being of Bernese Mountain Dogs

berner health and welfare

Title: Berner Health and Welfare: Nurturing the Well-being of Bernese Mountain Dogs


Bernese Mountain Dogs, or Berners as they are affectionately called, are magnificent and gentle giants known for their loyalty, intelligence, and striking appearance. However, like any breed, they have specific health considerations that require attention and care. In this article, we will explore the importance of Berner health and welfare and discuss key aspects that contribute to their overall well-being.

Responsible Breeding:

Responsible breeding practices play a crucial role in ensuring the long-term health and welfare of Bernese Mountain Dogs. Reputable breeders prioritize genetic testing to identify potential hereditary diseases that can affect the breed. By carefully selecting breeding pairs with healthy lineage, they aim to reduce the risk of passing on genetic conditions to future generations. Responsible breeders also provide proper socialization and early care for puppies to foster their physical and mental development.


A well-balanced diet is vital for maintaining optimal health in Berners. High-quality dog food formulated specifically for large breeds is recommended to meet their nutritional needs. It should contain adequate protein for muscle development, healthy fats for coat condition, vitamins and minerals for overall well-being, and joint-supporting ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin.


Regular exercise is essential for keeping Bernese Mountain Dogs physically fit and mentally stimulated. These dogs have a moderate energy level but are prone to weight gain if not given enough exercise. Daily walks, playtime in a secure area, or engaging in activities like hiking or swimming can help maintain their ideal weight while strengthening their muscles.

Routine Veterinary Care:

Routine veterinary care is crucial in monitoring the health of Berners throughout their lives. Regular check-ups allow veterinarians to detect any potential health issues early on and provide appropriate treatment if necessary. Vaccinations, parasite prevention (such as flea and tick control), dental care, and annual blood work are all important components of maintaining their well-being.


Berner grooming is essential to maintain a healthy coat and overall cleanliness. Regular brushing helps remove loose hair, prevents matting, and keeps the skin healthy. Paying attention to their ears, nails, and teeth is also important to prevent infections or other complications.

Mental Stimulation:

Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent and thrive on mental stimulation. Engaging them in activities like puzzle toys, obedience training, or interactive play sessions not only helps prevent boredom but also strengthens the bond between owners and their furry companions.


Proper socialization from an early age is crucial for Bernese Mountain Dogs to develop into well-rounded individuals. Exposing them to various environments, people, animals, and situations helps them become confident and adaptable dogs.


The health and welfare of Bernese Mountain Dogs should always be a top priority for owners, breeders, and enthusiasts alike. By promoting responsible breeding practices, providing proper nutrition and exercise, routine veterinary care, grooming, mental stimulation, and socialization opportunities, we can ensure that these magnificent dogs live happy and fulfilling lives. Remember that every effort made towards their well-being contributes to the longevity of this beloved breed’s legacy for generations to come.


FAQs: Bernese Mountain Dogs – Health and Welfare in the UK

  1. What should Bernese mountain dogs be tested for?
  2. What is degenerative myelopathy in Bernese mountain dogs?
  3. Do all Bernese mountain dogs have white tips on their tails?
  4. How healthy are Bernese mountain dogs?

What should Bernese mountain dogs be tested for?

Bernese Mountain Dogs should undergo various tests to ensure their overall health and to minimize the risk of hereditary diseases that are prevalent within the breed. Some important tests recommended for Berners include:

  1. Hip Dysplasia Evaluation: This test assesses the hip joint’s condition, which is crucial for Berners due to their larger size. The evaluation helps identify any abnormalities or signs of hip dysplasia, a common orthopedic condition in dogs.
  2. Elbow Dysplasia Evaluation: Similar to hip dysplasia, this test evaluates the elbow joint’s health and can detect any abnormalities or signs of elbow dysplasia, another common orthopedic issue in Bernese Mountain Dogs.
  3. Eye Examination: A thorough eye examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist helps identify potential eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, or other inherited eye diseases that may affect Berners.
  4. Cardiac Evaluation: A cardiac evaluation, including auscultation and possibly an echocardiogram, can help detect any structural or functional abnormalities in the heart that may impact a Berner’s cardiovascular health.
  5. Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) Testing: vWD is an inherited bleeding disorder found in some Bernese Mountain Dogs. Genetic testing can determine if a dog carries the gene responsible for this disease.
  6. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) Testing: DM is a progressive neurological disease that affects the spinal cord and can lead to paralysis in dogs. Genetic testing helps determine if a Berner carries the gene associated with DM.

It is important to note that these are general recommendations, and specific testing requirements may vary depending on regional breed clubs, kennel clubs, or individual breeders’ guidelines. Consulting with reputable breeders and veterinarians who specialize in Bernese Mountain Dogs will provide further insights into appropriate testing protocols for this particular breed.

What is degenerative myelopathy in Bernese mountain dogs?

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a progressive neurological disease that affects Bernese Mountain Dogs and several other dog breeds. It is characterized by the degeneration of nerve fibers in the spinal cord, leading to hind limb weakness and eventual paralysis. DM is considered a hereditary condition, primarily caused by a mutation in the SOD1 gene.

Symptoms of DM typically appear in middle-aged to older dogs, usually around 8-10 years of age. The initial signs may include mild difficulty in walking or a noticeable dragging of the hind limbs. As the disease progresses, affected dogs may experience muscle wasting, loss of coordination, and an inability to control their bladder and bowel movements.

It is important to note that DM does not cause pain or distress to the affected dog; however, it significantly impacts their mobility and quality of life. The progression of the disease can vary from dog to dog, with some experiencing a slow decline over several months or years, while others deteriorate more rapidly.

While there is no known cure for DM at present, supportive care can help manage the symptoms and provide affected dogs with a comfortable life. This may include physical therapy exercises to maintain muscle strength and mobility, assistive devices such as harnesses or carts to aid in walking, and modifications to their environment to ensure safety.

To prevent DM from being passed on to future generations, responsible breeders perform genetic testing on their breeding stock for the SOD1 mutation associated with this condition. By selectively breeding dogs without carrying the mutation or having only one copy (carriers), breeders can reduce the occurrence of DM in Bernese Mountain Dogs.

If you suspect that your Bernese Mountain Dog may be showing signs of degenerative myelopathy or if you have concerns about this condition, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian who can provide an accurate diagnosis and guide you on appropriate management strategies.

Remember that early detection and proper care are essential for ensuring the best possible quality of life for dogs affected by degenerative myelopathy.

Do all Bernese mountain dogs have white tips on their tails?

Yes, it is a characteristic of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed to have a white tip on their tail. This white tip is often referred to as the “Swiss cross” and is considered a desirable trait in the breed’s standard. However, it’s important to note that not all Bernese Mountain Dogs will have a white tip on their tail, as variations can occur within the breed. Some Berners may have a solid-colored tail without any white markings, while others may have varying degrees of white on their tails. The presence or absence of a white tip does not affect the overall health or temperament of the dog and is purely an aesthetic characteristic.

How healthy are Bernese mountain dogs?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally considered to be a healthy breed. However, like all dog breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. It’s important for potential owners and current owners to be aware of these potential health concerns.

One of the most significant health challenges for Berners is their susceptibility to various hereditary conditions. Some of the common genetic health problems that can affect Bernese Mountain Dogs include:

  1. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: This is a condition where the hip or elbow joints do not develop properly, causing discomfort and mobility issues.
  2. Cancer: Unfortunately, Berners have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer compared to other breeds. The most common forms include mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and histiocytic sarcoma.
  3. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disorder that causes progressive vision loss and can eventually lead to blindness.
  4. Von Willebrand’s Disease: This is a blood clotting disorder that affects some Bernese Mountain Dogs. It can cause excessive bleeding or prolonged bleeding after injury or surgery.
  5. Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV): Also known as bloat, GDV is a life-threatening condition where the stomach twists upon itself, causing bloating and potentially cutting off blood supply to vital organs.

It’s worth noting that not all Bernese Mountain Dogs will develop these conditions, but being aware of them allows owners to take proactive steps in managing their dog’s health. Regular veterinary check-ups, genetic testing before breeding, proper nutrition, exercise, and maintaining an ideal weight are all crucial aspects in promoting the overall well-being of Berners.

When considering adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to your family, it’s essential to work with reputable breeders who prioritize responsible breeding practices, including genetic testing and screening for potential health issues within their breeding lines.

By being proactive in their care and ensuring they receive proper veterinary attention, Bernese Mountain Dogs can lead happy and healthy lives as beloved family companions.

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