There is much controversy about the health of the GSD in the UK. On one side the German SV clubs claim that they are pursuing the health of the dog and that the tests for health that they apply go far further than the Kennel Club require. There is no doubt that this claim is, in the main, justified.

However, because there is no central registry for most of those tests in the UK and they are not compulsory this effort, though laudable, offers nothing in the way of a guarantee of health. Indeed, Jan Demeyere in Statistik Hüftgelenksdysplasie bei Deutsche Schäferhunde (Magnitude of Canine Hip Dysplasia for the German Shepherd Dog), using all the data available on the dogs registered in the Zuchtbuch, analyzed 554,596 dogs. This is the largest survey ever carried out on German Shepherds and accounts for over 25% of all dogs ever registered. Of these only 184,315 were ever Xrayed for HD (approx 33%).

He drew the conclusion that only 28% of the GSDs registered in Germany, using the German classification, have 'normal' or 'nearly-normal' hips. Even with a hip-scoring programme in place between 1986 and 2003 there was only an 18% improvement in the number of dogs falling into the normal/nearly normal categories. In real terms this represents a mere 5% of the dog population. In fact the figure is worse than this as there was a considerable influx of imported dogs which skewed the results upwards.

It is likely that the UK results of German SV style dogs would be similar as they adhere to the conformation of the dogs registered by the SV.

On the other hand the 'English' breeders have, on the whole, been very lax with health checks until comparatively recently. This situation has improved in the recent past and a new club "The National GSD Club" has a requirement in its membership rules that all Kennel Club Assured Breeder requirements will apply to its members. It is now comparatively rare to find any breeder of either type who does not, at minimum, hip score all dogs and tests male dogs for Von Willebrand's Disease.

There are a number of recognized common health issues with German Shepherds. These include:

1. Orthopaedic Problems

a. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

b. Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)

c. Panosteitis

2. Heart Disease

a. Aortic Stenosis

b. Atrioventricular Valve Dysplasia

c. Pulmonic Stenosis

d. Dilated Cardiomyopathy

e. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

f. Inherited Sudden Cardiac Death

3. Bloat or Gastric Torsion

4. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

5. Von Willebrand's Disease

6. Haemophilia

7. Hemangiosarcoma

8. Epilepsy

9. Eye Problems

For some, but not all, of these problems there are available health checks and 'standards' that should be met to facilitate the production of healthy offspring.

Where the Kennel Club has in place the mechanism for recording health checks it will be proposed that any dog registered as an Alsatian will not have its progeny registered unless it meets the current requirements for the breed. This has been done for other breeds and, given the desire for the Kennel Club to promote health in pedigree dogs generally, should be welcomed.

Where checks are available but are not yet recorded by the Kennel Club it is suggested that a secondary register be kept to run parallel to that of the Kennel Club to hold such health information.

In 2008 Calboli et al wrote that:

Dog breeds are required to conform to a breed standard, the pursuit of which often involves intensive inbreeding: the inbreeding effective population size of most breeds .. is orders of magnitude smaller than the census size. This has adverse consequences in terms of loss of genetic variability and high prevalence of recessive genetic disorders. These features make purebred dogs attractive for the study of genetic disorders, but raise concerns about canine welfare.

Dog registration rules have only been rigidly enforced for about 50 years, prior to that occasional outcrossing was still possible. Anecdotal evidence suggests that loss of genetic variation and high levels of inbreeding have adverse consequences for canine health and fertility. We have found that the loss of genetic diversity is very high, with many breeds losing over 90% of singleton variants in just six generations.

(Population structure and inbreeding from pedigree analysis of purebred dogs, Federico C. F. Calboli, Jeff Sampson , Neale Fretwell and David J. Balding)

One of the main concerns with the Alsatian will be that the available breeding stock currently comes from a fairly small family tree. This is already being addressed by breeders who are increasing the potential bloodlines by importing breeding stock, largely from the USA or Canada. It is notable that many of the show successes over the past few years of the Alsatian type of dog have been the sons/daughters or grandsons/granddaughters of one particular dog: Am Ch. Alkarah's All American with Strco. which was an American import.