While I live in St. Paul – in a town home, no less – and Zada is a "city dog," I have her out for 1½ to 2 hours of exercise per day. I have her off-leash quite a bit so she can run; I'm constantly playing fetch with her (she never tires of chasing sticks or balls); we go for daily long walks around the neighborhood and I walk fast (she trots the entire time); and I also work her physically/mentally by down-staying her and hiding her stick or throwing it into the woods and releasing her to "find it" (she absolutely LOVES this game).
Long story short: she's in great shape. You can see her muscle definition through her fur, which for a longer-haired dog is pretty impressive. I keep her lean and she's never been over-weight.
She's Lame...AgainIn spite of all that, she came up lame a few days ago – this time on a hind leg (she's had chronic problems on her left front for years). Since the only weakness she's ever shown on a hind leg has been attributed to her luxating patella, I assumed this was the same thing. I took her to the vet clinic and the veterinarian said she didn't think this limp was due to any problems with Zada's knees and suggested I get x-rays. Of course I said to go ahead, even though it was late evening and I didn't want her to be groggy for the rest of the night (turns out they didn't even have to sedate her...my good girl :)
I wasn't prepared for the news that came back: my European-line German shepherd has hip dysplasia. Not only that, she also has arthritic changes on two of her vertebrae: lumber 7 (L7) and her sacrum. The vet said the spinal arthritis was more concerning than the hip dysplasia, since it will not only get worse over time (same as the hip dysplasia), but could end up impinging on nerves and could cause permanent damage.
If You Don't Want a GSD with Hip Dysplasia or Arthritis, Don't Buy From Kozies Shepherds
I was devastated. Zada's only five years old and already I was thinking of the years to come of playing fetch, horseback riding through the woods with her at my side, hiking for hours and how that would affect my poor girl's hips and spine.
For someone who purports to breed German shepherds of European working lines that have good genetics and are "structurally sound," Mark Kozitza sure struck out with this breeding. I've heard from a few other people who own Kozies shepherds and between the four of us our dogs have quite the list of afflictions.
Known Health Problems of Kozies Shepherds
- hip dysplasia
- spinal arthritis (transitional vertebra)
- EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency)
- aggression towards children
- luxating patellas
- dog-dog aggression
- limping on a front leg after exercise
- bad teeth
I've noticed that Zada's dam (also the dam of two of the other dogs I'm mentioning above) has been completely taken off the breeder's website. One of the other dog owners (who has a female half-sister to Zada) told me that Zada's sire was supposed to be the father of his female but at the last minute Kozitza changed the breeding. When I asked if he knew why, this dog owner told me "because the dog went sterile."
This is obviously hearsay but it seems like too much of a coincidence for me – plus I have the vet bills to prove the bad breeding practices of Kozies. If anyone wants to see Zada's x-rays, I'd be happy to share.
All of Zada's temperament issues aside – which can result from genetics AND environment, I know that – these problems (especially hip dysplasia) are solely a product of poor breeding. There's nothing I could've done to prevent this other than NOT get my German shepherd from Kozies shepherds. Period.