The Great Dane has a well mannered disposition and can make a good family dog, but one must be prepared for the care required for such a large animal in the household. They are often playful and good with children. It is important to begin training and socialization at an early age as they can become difficult to handle when they are mature adults. Their average height ranges from 28-30 inches and weight varies for males at 120-200 pounds and females 100-130 pounds! They need a moderate amount of exercise, but due to their large size it is preferable to have a large yard for them to exercise. They can do well in a smaller living space if they are exercised appropriately. Their average life expectancy is 6-8 years but rarely they can live to be closer to 10 years of age.
Great Danes are prone to various health problems. They are the number one breed at risk for gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). With this disease, the stomach becomes dilated with gas and twists around itself which can cut off its blood supply and the blood supply of other organs in the abdomen. Due to the Great Dane’s deep chest and body structure, they are very prone to this occurring. It is a good idea to have Great Danes receive a prophylactic gastropexy at the time of spay or neuter. With this procedure, the stomach is attached to the body wall, making it less prone to twisting in the future.
Great Danes are also at high risk for various orthopedic problems. They have a high incidence of hip dysplasia, of which signs can begin at an early age. Radiographs can be performed to look at hip conformation. Great Danes also have an increased frequency of hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), and panosteitis, which are painful orthopedic conditions often in puppies associated with fast growth of large breed dogs. Wobbler’s disease is another orthopedic disease seen in Great Danes where instability of the cervical vertebrae causes pressure on the spinal cord, leading to neurologic dysfunction.
As with many other large breed dogs, Great Danes have a higher incidence of a cardiac disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. This disease is suspected to be inherited. Screening echocardiograms or ultrasounds of the heart can be performed by a cardiologist to look for this disease, although this does not rule out development of the disease in the future.
Great Danes can be excellent, well mannered pets but one should be prepared for the common health problems to which they are prone before acquiring the breed. These “gentle giants” may be the perfect addition to your family!