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The Big Swiss Mountain Dog: Character, Care and Diseases of DSPP

Big Swiss Mountain Dog | source: wikipedia

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog belongs to the group of Swiss Mountain Dogs and is its largest and oldest representative.

The name of the breed is perhaps not very sophisticated, but practical and direct, as it clearly refers to the original performance of these dogs and their country of origin.

It is believed that the ancestors of the DSPP came to the Swiss Alps along with the Roman legions around. 2000 years ago, and the local population used these mastiffs to crossbreeds with native breeds.

These dogs were initially used as shepherd's assistants to graze cattle and sheep, but the news of their extraordinary strength and endurance spread quickly, and they began to be used as draft dogs as well.

Their expert services were used by, among others.in. butchers and dairymen, as well as the military during World War II.

The DSPP was even called the horse for the poor, because its maintenance was much cheaper, and to haul a cart or a sleigh was as good as a horse.

When mechanization developed significantly at the beginning of the 19th century and new equipment and cars appeared on farms, the Swiss ceased to be so necessary and their popularity began to decrease drastically.

Fortunately, the lovers of these dogs did not let them go into oblivion.

Albert Heim, a judge from Zurich, who also contributed to the popularization of Bernese Mountain Dogs, is considered to be a person with a great contribution to the creation and recognition of large Swiss Shepherd dogs as a separate breed.

Thanks to his in-depth analysis of the differences between the Bernese Mountain Dog, Appenzeller, Entlebucher and the large Swiss Shepherd Dog, it was possible to distinguish these individual breeds.

1908 is considered the modern date of the establishment of the DSPP (despite its ancient history). Eventually, the AKC recognized the breed as separate in 1995.

Today, these dogs work less often than they used to be, or rather rest at home. However, they still prove themselves as sentinels, shepherds and helpers of mountain rescuers.

According to the FCI classification, the large Swiss Shepherd Dog belongs to group 2.

  • Big Swiss Mountain Dog character
  • Breed description
  • Care
  • Diseases of Large Swiss Shepherd Dogs
    • Dilation and torsion of the stomach
    • Elbow dysplasia
    • Von Willebrand disease
    • Tumors
    • Enostosis
    • Hip dysplasia
    • Epilepsy
    • Double row of eyelashes (distichiasis)
    • Swissy Lick / lick fit
  • For whom the Large Swiss Mountain Dog will be the perfect breed?

Big Swiss Mountain Dog character

The Large Swiss Mountain Dog is primarily a self-confident, alert and balanced dog.

He is perfect as a family companion, because he likes children with whom he willingly plays and shows great patience with them.

She values ​​both the space for her own activities and working with people.

His innate intelligence, endurance and diligence make him the perfect guardian, avalanche dog, and dog therapy dog.

It also means that they do not like idleness and should not be treated as decoration, but as a companion who actively participates in family life and is close to us.

Providing your dog with work and activities will show us the full range of his skills and allow him to develop the best character traits.

These dogs are emotional, they can push themselves on our laps regardless of their mass, and after returning home they will greet us so effusively, as if they have not seen us for years.

Swiss are famous for being good sentinels as they do not bark without a reason and are not aggressive.

If an unwanted guest enters our premises, they can quickly scare off the intruder with their posture and bass, loud bark, and if necessary, they will protect our safety with their own breasts.

They require a moderate amount of exercise, not excessively intense, but preferably regular.

If we have children, it will be a great fun for both parties to pull the sledge with our kids by the dog, of course with common sense as to the weight that the Swiss will have to bear.

As these dogs are very strong and may be prone to dominance later in life, they should be trained from puppyhood.

This will allow us to control the animal, especially during walks.

Let's just imagine what would happen if a dog, disobedient and deaf to our calls, saw a dog on the street, for example. cat and rushed after him in a sudden chase just as we keep him on a leash.

A few scratches or dirty and torn clothes are the mildest possible scenario.

Breed description

Large Swiss Mountain Dog is characterized by significant growth and a massive figure.


The height at the withers of a male dog is approx. 65-72 cm and bitches 60-68 cm.


The weight of an adult individual ranges from 35 to 40 kg.


  • The head is strong, but not heavy, broad and flat.
  • The forehead furrow is clearly marked and the stop is weak.
  • The muzzle is strong with a straight bridge of the nose finished with a black truffle.
  • Adherent lips, protecting a set of strong teeth set in a scissor bite.
  • Almond-shaped eyes range in color from hazelnut to chestnut brown.
  • Ears: Set high, triangular, of medium size, close to the cheeks.
  • Muscular neck without dewlap.
  • Straight back, broad and deep chest with a distinct forechest.
  • The belly is slightly tucked up, the loins are muscular and the croup is rounded.
  • Tail reaching to the ankle, carried bent upwards.
  • Limbs straight and parallel, feet tight with arched toes and strong claws.
  • Two-layer coat - medium-length thick outer coat and a dark undercoat.

The color of the dog

Black color with white symmetrical markings and brown-red tan.

The markings are located on the head, muzzle, feet and tip of the tail, and extend from the dewlap to the chest, forming the so-called. tie.

White collar and a single stain on the nape allowed.

There should be a black band between the arrow and the burn above the eyes.


The Swissie has a short and undemanding coat when it comes to grooming.

Due to the fact that it is dense, it requires frequent brushing so that the moulting hair does not fly all over the house.

Brushing the dog also improves the blood supply to the skin, reduces the formation of tangles, removes sand and dirt, allows you to spread natural sebum through the hair to make it shiny and strengthens our bond with the dog, allowing you to spend a nice time together.

We perform this activity twice a week, and even every day during the period of increased shedding.

The most recommended are bristle brushes and the so-called. slicker brush.

Depending on how much time the dog spends outside and how dirty it is, we arrange a bath for it.

We periodically check the condition of the teeth, the cleanliness of the ears and the length of the claws and, if necessary, intervene with the appropriate care treatment.

Diseases of Large Swiss Shepherd Dogs

Dilation and torsion of the stomach

Large breed dogs with a deep and narrow chest are predisposed to the expansion and twisting of the stomach, which when fed once a day greedily consume large amounts of food.

This disease is also favored by the consumption of easily fermentable food and physical exertion performed shortly after eating.

The first symptoms are most often vomiting, restlessness, apathy and shortness of breath.

When the stomach additionally twists, the content can neither be returned nor move to further stretches, hence the dog tries to vomit, but to no avail.

Drooling, enlargement of the outline of the abdominal integuments, bradycardia, pressure drop, ischemia and shock are added, and consequently these disorders the dog dies, if assistance is not provided promptly.

In addition to clinical symptoms, diagnostic imaging methods are used to diagnose.

Torsion treatment is a surgical procedure with a careful prognosis up to 72 hours after surgery due to possible complications.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia can occur on one or both sides.

It is an inherited disease involving the abnormal shaping of the articular surfaces of the joint.

The following subunits are included in the elbow dysplasia:

  1. Unfixed accessory ulnar (UAP).
  2. Fragmentation of the medial peak process (FCP).
  3. Osteochondrosis of the medial epicondyle of the humerus (OCD).
  4. Articular Mismatch (EI).

The defect is visible in puppies several months old as lameness of varying severity and reluctance to bend and straighten the limbs in the elbows.

These joints can also be swollen and painful to touch.

Imaging diagnostics in the form of X-rays is used to diagnose the disease.

X-ray image also allows to determine the degree of severity of degenerative changes.

The treatment of choice is surgery, and conservative treatment is introduced only in cases where anesthesia is contraindicated, as it often does not bring the expected results.

Von Willebrand disease

Von Willebrand disease is a congenital bleeding disorder.

The shortage of the so-called. von Willebrand factor causes symptoms related to a disorder of blood coagulation, such as spontaneous bleeding from the mucous membranes and the gastrointestinal tract, bleeding after subcutaneous injections, difficult obstruction of blood during wounds or surgery, hemorrhages during heat and other.

The diagnosis of von Willebrand disease is complex and multistage.

It includes an interview, clinical examination, blood test with m.in. the number of platelets, prothrombin time (PT), thrombin time (TT) and hematocrit, or measurement of the concentration of von Willebrand factor antigen (vWF: Ag) by ELISA method.

Treatment is aimed at preventing situations causing excessive bleeding and supporting the coagulation system, as well as compensating for blood loss with significant blood loss.

Benign dogs function practically normally with limited surgical procedures and injury-provoking situations.

The prognosis is poor in severe form.


An increased incidence of cancerous diseases has been observed in a large Swiss Mountain Dog, such as:

Lymphomas - tumors of various degrees of malignancy that originate from lymphoid tissue.

Depending on the organs in which the lesions are located, we distinguish several forms:

  • mediastinal,
  • multifocal,
  • alimentary,
  • skin
  • less common, e.g. ocular, renal or nervous.

Depending on the form of the disease, its symptoms may vary, e.g.:

  • enlargement of the lymph nodes,
  • diarrhea,
  • vomiting,
  • respiratory problems,
  • swelling of the limbs,
  • bumps on the surface of the skin, etc.

Clinical examination, blood test, lymph node biopsy, X-ray, ultrasound and bone marrow biopsy are helpful in the diagnosis.

Palliative methods (most often glucocorticosteroids) or chemotherapy are used in the treatment.

The prognosis depends on the grade of malignancy.

Hemangiosarcoma (hemangiosarcoma) - a malignant neoplasm originating in the endothelial cells of the vessels.

The changes can appear in all organs, but are most often located in:

  • spleen,
  • the liver,
  • heart
  • the skin.

Clinical symptoms depend on the organ involved in the neoplastic process, the size of the tumor and the stage of its advancement.

We can observe:

  • weakness,
  • lack of appetite,
  • pallor of the mucous membranes,
  • enlarging the outline of the abdominal cavity,
  • emaciation,
  • breathing disorders,
  • skin nodules and others.

As a result of rupture of a tumor in the liver or spleen, sudden death may occur due to bleeding into the abdominal cavity.

Treatment consists of a surgical procedure to remove the lesion with a margin of healthy tissue or the entire organ.

There is also the option of chemotherapy.

The prognosis is usually unfavorable.


Enostosis is otherwise known as juvenile osteitis.

It mainly affects young dogs of large breeds.

The following disorders are listed among the causes of the disease:

  • metabolic,
  • autoimmune,
  • genetic,
  • endocrine.

The essence of enostosis is the imbalance in the action of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, which causes the formation of new bones inside the marrow cavity of long bones, and their delayed resorption causes circulatory disturbances due to too small trophic holes, which causes swelling and pain observed when palpating the limbs.

The alternating lameness of the pectoral limbs is also characteristic.

X-ray is helpful in diagnostics.

Treatment consists of the use of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs and adjusting the composition of the food if it is inappropriate.

Hip dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia (HD) is an inherited disease.

Its essence is the incorrect shape and connection of the structures included in the hip joint.

It can only affect one joint or both.

In addition to hereditary features, environmental factors are also necessary for the occurrence of HD, such as e.g. improper feeding of puppies, or too much exercise in the growth phase.

The first symptoms are most often observed at the age of 6-12 months, and these are:

  • reluctance to move,
  • difficulty getting up,
  • stiff gait,
  • lameness,
  • rabbit jumping.

When repeated (e.g. as a result of strenuous exercise) injuries to the articular cartilage are not too strong, the disease may be asymptomatic for years and manifest itself as the so-called. adult canine dysplasia.

In a clinical study, pain is observed when manipulating the limbs in the hip joints.

For the evaluation of dysplasia with the marking of the degree, an X-ray under sedation is necessary.

Early detection of the disease gives more treatment options, primarily surgical, therefore it is recommended to use prophylactic X-rays between 4 and 6 months of a dog's life.

Treatment of dysplasia can be surgical or pharmacological, depending on the age of the animal, the severity of the lesions and the weight.

The most common treatments for dog dysplasia include:

  • anastomosis of the pubic symphysis,
  • triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO),
  • DARtroplasty,
  • femoral head resection,
  • operations on the comb muscle and its tendons.

In dogs that cannot undergo surgery for any reason, drug treatment remains.

Anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs are used in various forms and with a shorter or longer duration of action.

Therapy with stem cells or IRAP also gives good results.


Epilepsy, or epilepsy, is a set of symptoms that accompanies abnormal discharges within the nervous system.

We distinguish between idiopathic epilepsy, which has no established cause, and functional epilepsy, which accompanies systemic diseases (extracerebral) or diseases of the nervous system (intracerebral).

The flagship symptoms are seizures and loss of consciousness.

Such an attack may be preceded by the so-called. aura.

The animal then senses the incoming seizure and begins to behave in a specific way.

Some dogs will look for contact with the owner, and others will hide in the corners.

If it is impossible to eliminate the cause of the disease, the goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency of attacks to an acceptable standard.

Anticonvulsants are given on a temporary basis to shorten the attack, or if the seizures occur more than once a month, they are given as a chronic regimen.

Double row of eyelashes (distichiasis)

The double row of eyelashes is a hereditary birth defect that consists in the presence of an additional row or simply individual eyelashes that grow on the upper or lower edge of the eyelids.

Incorrectly positioned hair rubs the surface of the cornea, irritating it, which often leads to damage and ulcers.

In addition, such a dog often blinks its eyes and the production of tears is increased.

Treatment consists of cryoepilation or electroepilation, which enables the permanent removal of unwanted eyelashes.

Swissy Lick / lick fit

Lick fit, or literally "licking paws " is an unexplained phenomenon to which Swiss have a tendency, especially young ones.

It consists in paroxysmal, compulsive licking of paws, floor, carpet and other surfaces or objects that are within their reach during such an attack.

Additionally, the dogs munch, swallow constantly, and gulp air.

Some explain it with stomach problems - overproduction of hydrochloric acid, acid reflux - claiming that symptoms are relieved by substances containing simethicone (e.g. Espumisan) or calcium carbonate (e.g. Rennie), which would confirm this theory.

In this case, some owners give the dog a slice of bread or simply eat the grass.

More frequent feeding seems to be helpful, so that the dog's stomach is never empty.

For whom the Large Swiss Mountain Dog will be the perfect breed?

It cannot be denied that the large Swiss Mountain Dog is simply a large dog and it also needs a lot of space.

The best accommodation for him will therefore be a house with a spacious yard, which is necessarily fenced so that the pet will not be able to cross it when he sees a potential prey escaping.

These dogs are very social and, above all, they value close and frequent contact with humans, so they will feel best in a large family with children and other pets.

In order to live in harmony with the neighbors, it is necessary to curb the dog's urges to bark from the beginning, otherwise it will be difficult for an adult dog to unlearn this nuisance.

The Swiss are resistant to low temperatures, but to high temperatures on the contrary, so in the summer they should be provided with a shady shelter.

Like every dog, especially a big and strong dog, they need to be patiently and consistently trained and socialized so that life with them is as little troublesome as possible.

The right amount of exercise and activities will make the dog not bored, but happy and fulfilled.

Since it is not a popular breed in Poland, the cost of a puppy can be high.

Also, the costs of maintenance and veterinary care are significant, which you should be aware of before buying.

DSPP is not recommended for novices or the elderly or too gentle, as they may simply not be able to cope with an independent and willing to show their own dog.

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