Newfoundland dogs, known for their gentle demeanor and strong swimming
ability, have webbed toes which helps their swimming. They were
originally bred and used as working dogs in Newfoundland, an island in
They are big they seriously shed and they drool like a running tap, which essentially sticks that shed hair to every available surface like glue. This is a breed so fundamentally unsuitable for my personal lifestyle that I swiftly change the topic every time the boyfriend brings up that he wants one. Speaking of changing topics, lets look at them from a medical standpoint. You may want to make yourself a cup of tea, this will be a long post.
Hips are a major issue with this breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals ranks their hips, as a breed, as worse than the notorious German Shepherd. Worse again, symptoms of hip dysplasia are often aggravated by the increased size or weight of the animal, and this breeds is one of the largest ones. This causes pain and suffering. 25% of them are estimated to have dysplastic hips, with only 8% estimated to have ‘good’ hips.
Elbows are another weakness for this giant breed. Again around 20-25% of these dogs are estimated to be afflicted with elbow dysplasia. Some unfortunate individuals with have both elbow and hip dysplasia, leaving them without a good leg to stand on. Problems often develop by18 months of age, and will cause pain for the dog for the rest of its life.
Tears of the cranial cruciate ligament are also fairly common, due to sheer size and probably other orthopedic dodginess. If not treated surgically this will cause severe lameness and arthritis in the joint.
By the way, if you were wondering about the costs of these surgeries to patch up a Newfoundland skeleton, you’ll probably spend $2.5-3k on the dysplastic elbows, $2.5-3.5k per cruciate tear, and between $1.4k and $7k each side for the dysplasitc hips, depending whether they are diagnosed young, or so late that only a total hip replacement will help. Just so you know.
The consequences of leaving these conditions untreated is arthritis far sooner in the dog’s life than is fair. Some dogs will be unable to walk without daily medication from 4 years of age. Many will be put to sleep simply because their mobility has become so impaired that they can no longer to doggy things.
Do you need a break? Because we’re not even halfway through yet.
Personally, I have a thing against bad eyes. I can’t stand eyes that look painful, it gives me the heebie-jeebies. These poor dogs, as you probably have guessed, are prone to multiple eye conditions.
While they do get cataracts, 3rd eyelid gland prolapse and ectropion, the biggest one that concerns me is entropion. This means that the eyelids rolls inwards towards the eye. This means that instead of lovely, soft, moist conjunctiva touching the eyeball, you have prickly eyelashes or haired skin. These prickly hairs rub against the eyeball, constantly, and will cause pain, inflammation, corneal ulcers and secondary effects of healing them.
That’s just constant irritation and pain. It requires surgery to fix, again.
They also get subaortic stenosis (SAS) far too frequently.This heart condition is congenital, it’s present at birth but is often not apparent until 4+ months of age, just long enough to get that puppy well loved in a new home. While it can be managed with medication or heart surgery, only 25% of affected dogs live for more than 4 years. It can cause fainting and sudden death.
That’s not a great disease to have running through the breed. If they don’t succumb to that heart disease young, they may also get dilated cardiomyopathy when they’re older. You know, because one heart disease wasn’t enough.
Also located under that shaggy mess of drool covered fur is another genetic disorder that can cause them to excrete cystine into their urine, resulting in urinary crystals or great big bladder stones that may require more surgery.
And of course these big, deep cheted dogs are a classic breed that gets Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV aka Bloat) which can happen without warning, leaving you with a choice of either major, expensive surgery or euthanasia.
Working towards the outside of this giant breed, their thick fur might look cute, it it takes maintenance. Prepare for everything you own to be liberally coated in dog hair.
They are also profuse droolers. Their flappy jowls produce some of the most drooly dogs I’ve been, often soaking their own chest fur.
Which brings me back to Hot Spots, (aka moist dermatitis). Persistently wet skin, especially on a thick coated breed that loves water like the newfoundland, A hot spot can be huge and they spread rapidly, sometimes affecting the whole neck. Because these dogs often have some degree of skin folding there, that makes the problem even worse. The same issue happens at the other end if they have diarrhea. And being in Australia, in Summer, when more people than usual take their dogs swimming, there is also a high risk of flystrike in that constantly wet fur with infected skin. Don’t think about that too much.
These dogs are far from being an ‘easy keeper’ and in my experience the estimates lifespan of 10-12 years that one often sees on the internet s a bit optimistic. I do know people who are addicted to this breed and just can’t live without one, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into and I would strongly recommend looking into pet insurance for this breed.
The hours spent writing this blog are supported by Dr Ferox’s Patreon. From as little as $1 a month you too can show your support and choose future topics for the blog.