Great Danes, like most giant dogs, have a fairly slow melabolism. This results in less energy and less food consumption per pound of dog than in small breeds. Great Danes have some health problems that are common to large breeds, including gastric dilatation - volvulus, (a painful distending and twisting of the stomach).

This is a critical condition that can affect Great Danes and other deep-chested breeds, and which may cause death if not quickly addressed. Drinking large amounts of fluid in a short period of time can provoke GDV in Great Danes, as well as other larger breeds of dogs.

It is a commonly recommended practice for Great Danes to have their stomachs tacked (Gastropexy) to the right abdominal wall if the dog or its relatives have a history of GDV, though some veterinary surgeons will not do the operation if the actual sickness has not occurred. Elevated food dishes are often believed to help prevent GDV by regulating the amount of air that is inhaled while eating, although one study suggests that they may increase the risk.

Refraining from exercise or activity immediately before and after meals may also reduce risk, although this has not been validated with research. Signs that GDV may have occurred include, but are not limited to, visible distension (enlargement of the abdomen) and repeated retching that resembles repetitive non-productive attempts to vomit.

GDV is a condition that is distinct from another condition referred to as bloat; though, bloat may precede the development of GDV. GDV is a surgical emergency; immediate veterinary evaluation should be sought if a dog demonstrates signs of this condition.

Breed clubs health surveys in the UK and US put the average life span of Great Danes at 6.5 to 7 years.

Ditated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and many congenital heart diseases are also commonly found in the Great Dane, leading to its nickname, of the Heartbreak breed, in conjunction with its shorter lifespan. Great Danes also suffer from several genetic disorders that are specific to the breed. For example, if a Great Dane lacks color (is white) near its eyes or ears then that organ does not develop and usually the dog will be either blind, deaf, or both.

General Description

The Great Dane is one of the giant breed of dogs. They are tall and well muscled without being heavy. Their appearance is often described as aristocratic or majestic. Part of the standard reads as follows: "The Great Dane combines in its distinguished appearance dignity, strength and elegance with great size and a powerful, well-formed, smoothly muscled body. He ... must be well balanced ... and is always a unit - the Apollo of dogs. He must be spirited and courageous - never timid. He is friendly and dependable."

How big is a Great Dane really? When is a Dane full grown?

Great Dane should not be less than 30 inches at the shoulder and is preferable that he be 32 inches or more. The female should not be less than 28 inches and is preferable to be 30 inches or more. From what I have seen in the show ring a very correct male of 34 inches can win but most people like larger dogs (a height of 36 inches is an advertising point in the breed magazines). How long it takes a Great Dane to become full grown depends on the breeding with some pedigree lines maturing at about 1 year of age for females and some (many) not maturing until 3 years for males. Full height is often achieved by 18-24 months and weight/musculature by 3 years. The "puppyhood" of a Great Dane usually lasts at least 18 months. They usually settle down from frantic puppy activity levels about 9 months to 1 year and are mentally mature (out of adolescense) between 18 - 28 months.

The size of a Great Dane is a two edged sword. Being so big certainly allows you to romp with them to your hearts content and people think twice (or more) before entering the house uninvited. However it does take more effort to travel with a Great Dane and to feed and care for them. Great Danes are easily trainable so obedience and control should never be an issue as long as you are willing to do your part . It is up to each person to assess the benefit vs. work equation for this breed (as for any breed.) Except for the travelling point Danes are wonderfully easy to care for. (Some males which have very full flews (lips) may be prone to slobber. This is individual dependent and not necessarily characteristic of the breed.)

How much does a Dane eat? What kind of diet is required?

This really depends on the type of food you choose to feed (how concentrated it is). Follow the directions on the bag for the weight and condition of your dog. However it is generally recommended that puppy food NOT be fed to this breed. Usually a good quality dog food that is 22-25% protein and 15-18% fat is good. This will decrease as they age and the diet may also need to change if needed to keep them in appropriate condition. It is important however to feed a Great Dane multiple times a day throughout their life. Danes are susecptible to bloat and torsion so the less stress on the gastrointenstinal tract the better. Puppies are usually fed 4 times a day gradually decreasing to twice a day between 4 to 6 months.

How much excercise does a Dane need?

A Great Dane needs only a moderate amount of exercise. This amount is less than breeds such as German Sheperd Dogs, Dobermans, Dalmations, and the other active sporting and herding breeds. Usually a walk on a long lead (then they get more exercise than you do by running from here to there smelling everything) or 10 - 15 minutes of chasing a ball, frisbee, or stick per day are sufficient. Of course the more the better. However, it is recommended that you do not jog with a Great Dane until they are at least 18 months old (they grow so much so fast that continued strain of this kind could lead to development problems).

What are the grooming requirements?

Very minimal grooming is needed. Danes are short haired dogs so there is no required daily brushing, trimming, stripping etc. A bath, nail trim, and teeth cleaning when necessary are all that are needed although a brush will be appreciated especially when doing what little shedding they do.

How much room does a Dane need? Where should I keep a Dane?

It is recommended that Great Danes be kept indoors. This is both because of their short hair coat and their disposition. Danes can handle a kennel situation if it is run right and they receive enough attention but really thrive indoors with the family. A Dane should never be left continually outside (you will have a sick, neurotic dog). Danes are definately part of the family. This does not mean that Danes need constant attention. They can be left in a fenced yard for a sunny afternoon, will curl up at your feet at night, or can be crated at night just as long as they are with you. Many Danes will sleep in another room, especially if there are more than one of them, but of course prefer to be with a member of the family.

Are Danes good with children? Are Danes good watchdogs?

Danes are very good with children. I would caution that you watch Danes and children when they are together just because a Dane is so big that even just licking a child may knock them over (of course some kids think this is great). Danes are also good watchdogs (even if they can't tell the difference between a doorbell on TV . Of course people think twice before entering a house where the dog is looking back at them. The Danes I have known also seem to be able to easily distinguish between those you readily accept into the house and those you don't. And if you have done your job and trained them to leave people alone they are more than happy to lay down somewhere in the room and leave your guests alone.

What is the average lifespan of a Dane?

The average lifespan of most giant breeds is about 8 years. I know of Danes living to 10-12 years but 8 is average.

What are the common health problems with Danes?

There are two main health problems which afflict the Great Dane breed: hip dysplasia and bloat/torsion. Wobblers, thyroid problems, and eyes (CERF approval) also appear in the breed in some bloodlines.