Mastiffs are amongst a group of breeds classed as ‘Category Three’ by The Kennel Club. These are breeds of dog that have been highlighted as having visible conditions or confrontational issues that can cause pain, discomfort or health issues due to exaggerations. This means that these breeds of dog have been bred over many years to look a certain way but that these changes to the way they look have started to cause them health problems.
Mastiffs are a member of the ‘Working’ breed group. Working breed dogs were bred to become guard and search and rescue dogs. Breeds in this group are specialists in their work.
Mastiffs are gentle giants – calm, good-natured dogs that tend to get on well with everyone. As with all breeds, early socialization is important to ensure they grow up into confident, sociable dogs. They need grooming just once a week, but their facial wrinkles will need daily cleaning.
Breed-related health problems:
Although some of these health problems are manageable, it’s been identified that it’s in the best interests of the dog to try and selectively breed to decrease the characteristics which cause the health problems.
Some of the characteristics and associated health problems you’ll want to know more about in relation to Mastiffs include:
- Eyelid problems – such as entropion and ectropion – occur in Mastiffs due to excessive skin over the face and eyes. This skin causes the eyelids to droop either downwards, or in towards the eye, where the skin rubs and irritates the eye, causing problems.
- Cherry eye – eversion of the nictitating membrane or ‘third eyelid’ generally occurs in younger dogs and can be surgically corrected.
- Gastric torsion or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) – occurs in large, deep chested breeds such as Mastiffs. The stomach fills with gas (bloat) and can twist around on itself. This most commonly occurs after they have eaten. If your dog shows any signs of bloating, vomiting unproductively (trying to be sick but nothing being produced) or if you are worried they could be bloated you should speak to your vet straight away – this condition requires urgent veterinary attention.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy – is a degeneration of the muscles of the heart meaning the heart wall becomes thinner and less effective at pumping blood around the body. The onset can be sudden so if your Mastiff shows any signs of respiratory distress or exercise intolerance you should contact your vet.
- Wobbler Syndrome – cervical spondylomyopathy is a deformity or instability of the bones in the neck which results in the compression of the spinal cord and weakness of the hind legs
- Back Problems – Mastiffs can suffer from back problems such as which can cause back pain and paralysis.
- Degenerative disc disease – is generally caused by an auto immune thyroiditis causing low circulating levels of thyroid hormone. Mastiffs can be more prone to this condition but it can generally be managed with medication.
- Eye disease – there is a health screen for progressive retinal atrophy – a gradual loss of vision – for Mastiffs that you should speak to your vet about
- Epilepsy – Mastiffs can be more prone to seizures due to epilepsy and it can be harder to control epilepsy with medication in Mastiffs. Speak to your vet if your Mastiff has a seizure of any kind.
- Cancer – Mastiffs can be more prone to some forms of cancer including bone tumours (Osteosarcoma).
- Joint disorders – such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia - occur when joints don’t develop correctly and cause degenerative Joint disease. Bone and joint problems can be managed but there are schemes to screen your dog and see how likely it is that they will suffer from these joint problems.
- Atopy – hypersensitivity to certain allergens, causing itching and skin trauma.
- Panosteitis – a painful, inflammatory bone disease.
For some conditions, there are screening programmes available through the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club. The Canine Health Schemes allow breeders to screen for a range of inherited diseases, so it’s a good idea to check the parents of any puppy you’re looking to re home have been screened under these schemes. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above evident in the family line.You can find out more about the Canine Health Schemes on the BVA's website.
As adult dogs, Mastiffs need around an hour of exercise daily, but shouldn’t be over-exercised as puppies when their bones and joints are still developing. Training will require patience but can be achieved using reward-based techniques. Take a look at our Dog Toy Cotton Rope Knot Ball, perfect for keeping your dog fit and receive plenty of exercises.
Like most giant breeds diet should be formulated for a large to giant breed with moderate to high exercise requirements. You should consult your veterinarian or professional nutritionist for advice on what to feed your English Mastiff and the correct portion sizes. Their dietary needs will change as they grow from puppyhood to adulthood and senior age. Stay on top of these nutritional requirements, suggested food diet consists of fruit, vegetables, raw chickens whole raw eggs as the shell's are high in natural calcium (never feed cooked!) and a high-end kibble, also a joint aid supplement is recommended, not forgetting 10% bones.