There are several health issues connected with the Rottweiler, and some are listed below:

Aortic Stenosis

This is due to a partial obstruction to the flow of blood as it leaves the left side of the heart (the left ventricle) through the main blood vessel (the aorta) that carries blood to the rest of the body. Due to the obstruction the heart must work harder to pump adequate blood. Clinical signs depend on the degree of the narrowing. Some puppies have what are called “innocent” murmers which disappear. Others need further investigation.  There are tests for this condition – an Auscultation (stethoscope) ECG, and more extensive investigations such as Doppler echocardiography and chest x-rays. These should be carried out by qualified Cardiologists (e.g. SAC veterinary surgeons) who can issue a certificate.  In its mildest form there are no problems for the dog, but it may still be passed on to its offspring.

Recommendation is that no affected animals are used for breeding.

Some breeders are now Heart Testing their breeding animals through the BVA Scheme. This is a quick and painless test done by a qualified cardiologist vet. Electrodes are attached to the dog’s skin and a paper read-out is produced (just the same as a human’s heart test).  A certificate is given to the owner stating whether the heart was Normal or Abnormal and only those animals who receive a Normal reading should be bred from.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the most common inherited orthopaedic disease in large and giant breed dogs, and occurs in many medium-sized breeds as well. The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint; the “ball” (the top part of the thigh bone or femur) fits into a “socket” (acetabulum) formed by the pelvis. If there is a loose fit between these bones, and the ligaments which help to hold them together are loose, the ball may slide part way out of the socket (subluxate). The mode of inheritance is polygenic (caused by many different genes). Scientists do not yet know which genes are involved, or how many genes. Factors that can make the disease worse includes excess weight, a fast growth rate, and high-calorie or supplemented diets.

X-rays are taken when the dog is over one year old, then the x-rays are sent to the BVA for scoring.  The hip-scoring system warrants explanation as it is quite confusing for the uninitiated. The score is determined by allocating points to each imperfection on the ball and socket of each hip joint. The minimum (best) score for each hip is 0, while the maximum (worst) is 53, making a total of 106 when multiplied by two for both hips.  Basically: the higher the score, the more likelihood of Hip Dysplasia developing.

The hip scores should be well within the average (mean) score for the breed, which, currently, is 13 for the Rottweiler.  The BVA advise that breeders wishing to try to control HD should breed only from animals with hip scores below the breed mean score.  So, if the parents of your puppy have scores below 13, then that would be an indication that your puppy should have sound hips. If the parents had a score of 0:0 then that would be perfect scores! You should look for scores as even as possible e.g. you don’t want an uneven number such as 1:12, as this could indicate a problem in one hip. If possible, try to ascertain the scores of the ancestors of the puppy’s parents. Some breeders note these on the animal’s pedigree.

The recommendation is to breed from the lowest hip scores, the Rottweiler Club Code of Ethics for members states that the highest score which can be bred from is 16, with no more than 8 on either hip.i.e. 8/8. The lower the score the better.    The disease is progressive.

   Click to enlarge photo



Elbow Dysplasia

The term elbow dysplasia refers to several conditions that affect the elbow joint; osteochondrosis of the medial humeral condyle, fragmented medial coronoid process, ununited anconeal process and incongruent elbow. More than one of these conditions may be present, and this disease often affects both front legs.  This is a polygenic condition, although it is not currently known how many or which genes are responsible. Environmental factors such as over-feeding, which causes fast weight gain and growth can also affect the development of this condition in dogs that are genetically predisposed to it.

The scoring system is totally different from the hip scoring system, and can be quite baffling. The grades for each elbow are not added together as they are for the two hips in the hip dysplasia scheme.  Two x-rays are taken of each elbow and the grading system is simple:

Grade                   Description

0                            Normal

1                            Mild ED

2                            Moderate ED or a primary lesion

3                            Severe ED

The overall grade given for both elbows is the grade that was given to the elbow with the highest score. The lower the grade the less the degree of elbow dysplasia evident on the x-ray.  It is recommended by the BVA [British Veterinary Association] that those who score 2 and over are not used for breeding. Another source advises that dogs who produce the condition should not be used for breeding again.



Entropion is a rolling inwards of the eyelids causing the eyelashes to rub on the surface of the eye.  This is particularly distressing and painful to the dog and results in damage to the cornea, causing ulcers.  There are degrees of Entropion ranging from a slight inrolling to a more serious case requiring surgical correction.


Ectropion is a rolling outwards of the eyelids which usually resolves as the dog grows and matures.  It may predispose to conjunctivitis but is usually cosmetic and rarely requires corrective surgery.


Cruciate Ligament Rupture

These are the ligaments which cross-over behind the kneecap, holding the top and bottom parts of the hind legs together (i.e. femur and tibia\fibula).  These ligaments can sometimes rupture or stretch; sometimes they snap completely rendering the dog severely lame.  They can be fixed with surgery.  Although considered to be partly hereditary through straight angulation in the hindquarters, contributory factors towards this common condition include: size [height], obesity, muscular and ligament laxity, uncontrolled exercise, turning suddenly and sharply, getting legs caught in rabbit holes or jumping fences, etc.

OCD (Osteochondritis Dessicans)

OCD is a general term given to problems which occur most commonly in the joint areas, i.e. elbows, shoulders and hocks.   Problems usually start in young dogs at around 4-6 months of age.  The growth of the bone ends can be faulty because they do not grow at the same time or are mis-shapen and are therefore not always covered by synovial fluid.  As bones grow they can sometimes split, and small pieces of bone dislodge into the joint space, causing ulceration and pain.  This can be intermittent and uncomfortable and would be rather like having a stone in your shoe.  Sometimes the joints simply do not fit together properly.  These problems can be detected by x-ray and to some degree can be corrected by surgery, but this is not always successful.


This ugly, insidious disease has, unfortunately, been reported in far too many Rottweilers.  It occurs in many areas of the dog but the most common examples are lymphoma (cancer of the lymph glands); bone, liver and spleen; and many other malignant lumps.  It has not been established whether there is an hereditary link or whether feedstuffs, vaccinations or lifestyle can be a contributory factor.

Wet Eczema

Wet Eczema is very common in Rottweilers and any dog that has a thick undercoat.  It can start with a simple flea bite or a nip from another dog, then progresses into a weeping, purulent mass if not dealt with quickly.  It spreads!  Very quickly.  The best remedy is to cut the hair off close to the skin and wash skin regularly with Hibiscrub – at least three or four times a day until a crust is formed and the wound dries out.

Cold Water Tail

Cold-water tail is a condition known throughout the working dog world, but many breeds suffer from it, including Rottweilers. Not a great deal is known about the condition, but it is thought the base of the tail temporarily becomes ‘dead’ by cold water or sitting in the snow.  The dog holds out the base of the tail for 4 or 5 inches then the rest hangs limply. This condition is usually only short-lived from approx. 2 to 5 days.  Some vets suggest a warm compress on the base of the tail.