Anatolian Shepherd

AnatolianSheperd1of1Your Anatolian Shepherd

Caring for Your Faithful Companion

Anatolian Shepherds: What a Unique Breed!

Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Karabash Dogs and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:

  • Large, strong, and athletic
  • Bold, steady, and fearless
  • Formidable guard dog; highly territorial
  • Loyal and easygoing with the people she knows

However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:

  • Overprotective of family and territory if not socialized properly
  • Coat sheds heavily and needs to be brushed regularly
  • Takes up a lot of room due to her massive size
  • Does not easily make friends with strangers

Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She’s got several thousand generations of ancestors that fought bears to protect the flock, and she’s determined to protect her family!

After guarding flocks of sheep against large predators like bears and jackals on the Central Turkish hillsides for the last 6,000 years, the Anatolian Shepherd has developed into a very large and muscular dog with a commanding presence. Turks often call them the Karabash (Turkish for “black head”) Dog, to distinguish them from another famous Turkish livestock guardian, the Akbash, (“white head”) Dog. Temperature extremes are not a problem for this hardy working dog, but she does need a large outdoor enclosure to romp and play. Common problems include bloat and arthritis. Early detection is the key to a long and happy life, so be sure to schedule routine checkups.

Your Anatolian Shepherd’s Health

We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Anatolian. By knowing about health concerns specific to Anatolian Shepherds, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.

Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Anatolian Shepherds to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.

This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Anatolian Shepherds. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Karabash Dog looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily will prevent periodontal disease.

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily will prevent periodontal disease.


General Health Information for your Anatolian Shepherd

Dental Disease

Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Anatolian Shepherd is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Anatolian Shepherd’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.


Anatolian Shepherds are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.


Obesity can be a significant health problem in Anatolian Shepherds. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!

Roundworm egg as seen under the microscope.

Roundworm egg as seen under the microscope.



All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Karabash Dog’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.

Spay or Neuter

One of the best things you can do for your Anatolian is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus


Genetic Predispositions for Anatolian Shepherds


Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, also known as GDV or Bloat, usually occurs in dogs with deep, narrow chests. This means your Anatolian is more at risk than other breeds. When a dog bloats, the stomach twists on itself and fills with gas. The twisting cuts off blood supply to the stomach, and sometimes the spleen. Left untreated, the disease is quickly fatal, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes. Your dog may retch or heave (but little or nothing comes out), act restless, have an enlarged abdomen, or lie in a prayer position (front feet down, rear end up). Preventive surgery in which the stomach is tacked down or sutured in place so that it is unlikely to twist is an option. If you see symptoms, take your pet to an emergency hospital immediately!

Normal hip x-rays

Normal hip x-rays


X-rays taken of a dog with hip dysplasia.

X-rays taken of a dog with hip dysplasia.


Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Anatolian’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!


In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Anatolians often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.

Ear Infections

Allergies, swimming, overgrowth of hair in the ear canals, or an accumulation of earwax can all predispose your dog to ear infections, which are painful and annoying. Anatolians are very often afflicted by allergies, which cause itching and inflammation in the ears and elsewhere. The earlier we diagnose this disease, the less discomfort and pain he will suffer. Be sure to call us if you notice him scratching or shaking his head, a foul odor from the ears, or if his ears seem painful to the touch. By monitoring for ear infections and treating them early, we also reduce the likelihood of eardrum damage that can lead to deafness. Most ear infections tend to recur until we work together to control the underlying cause.

A microscopic image of a Demodex mite.

A microscopic image of a Demodex mite.



Demodex is a microscopic mite that lives in the hair follicles of dogs. All dogs have them. Normally a dog’s immune system keeps the mites in check, but some breeds, like your Anatolian, develop an overabundance of these mites. In mild cases, pet owners may notice a few dry, irritated, hairless lesions. These often occur on the face or feet and may or may not be itchy. Secondary skin infections may occur. Prompt veterinary care is important to keep the disease from getting out of hand. Many pets seem to outgrow the problem, while others require lifelong management.

Thyroid Problems

Anatolians are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.

Bone weakened by osteosarcoma (bone cancer) has caused a fracture.

Bone weakened by osteosarcoma (bone cancer) has caused a fracture.


Bone Cancer

Osteosarcoma is the most common bone tumor in dogs. It typically afflicts middle-aged large and giant breeds like your Anatolian. Early symptoms include lameness and leg pain. Early detection is critical! Call right away if you notice that your dog is limping. This is a painful and aggressive tumor, and the sooner it is removed, the better his prognosis.

Eyelid Abnormality

Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea (surface of the eyeball). This is an extremely irritating and painful condition that can ultimately lead to blindness. It can happen in any dog breed; however, your Anatolian is especially at risk for this heritable disorder. Surgical correction is usually successful if performed early.

Tongue Tied

Sometimes a strip of tissue under the tongue grows wrong during fetal development and a puppy will be born with his tongue stuck to the bottom of his mouth. The medical term for this condition is Ankyloglossia, and it shows up in Anatolian puppies from time to time. A simple surgical procedure can correct this minor birth defect, but since it is heritable, breeding an affected dog is not recommended. We’ll look under your puppy’s tongue at his first visit to see if this is something we need to worry about or not.

Taking Care of Your Anatolian Shepherd at Home

Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Anatolians. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.

Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise

Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Karabash Dog live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.

  • Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
  • Made for harsh weather, this coat SHEDS! A grooming rake will be a good investment. Rake and/or brush her coat at least weekly.
  • Anatolian Shepherds generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
  • Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
  • She’s a large smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active, or she’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
  • Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
  • Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
  • Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.

What to Watch For

Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Anatolian Shepherd needs help.

Office calls

Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Change in appetite or water consumption
  • Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
  • Itchy skin (scratching, chewing or licking), hair loss
  • Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
  • Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes


Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
  • Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
  • Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
  • Dry heaving or a large, tight, painful abdomen
  • General reluctance to run or play
  • Dry, scaly, sometimes itchy hairless patches on face or paws
  • Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain

Partners in Health Care

DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit

Your Anatolian counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.


  • Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
  • Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/
  • Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/
  • Voss J, Owen R. Summary Report of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Health Survey: Data collected by ASDCA in partnership with OFA from December 1, 2009 to September 5, 2011. Published May 31, 2012. Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. A

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Females: from 27 inches
Males: from 29 inches


Females: 80 to 120 pounds
Males: 110 to 150 pounds


Has a possessive attitude toward family, property, and livestock. Most definitely a guard dog.
Quick to learn, it exhibits great versatility and has been known to perform well as a search and rescue dog.
Needs mental stimulation to prevent boredom.
This is a lot of very dominant dog to cope with.
Not for the first time dog owner.


This guard dog was developed by shepherds to protect their flocks of sheep from wolves. An ancient breed, depicted in ancient Babylonian sculptures, it has come down through the centuries relatively unchanged. Strict selection for working qualities, type, and strength has ensured that the breed is immensely tough and has great stamina. Large numbers of Anatolian Shepherds are still used to guard the flocks in Turkey today. In 1970, a club was set up in the United States to promote the interests of the breed. This coincided with an upsurge in the coyote population in the American West and a movement to use guardian dogs for predator control instead of poison and other methods that had not been effective. The dogs have proven to be cost effective and a more humane way to control predators than indiscriminate poisoning.

Body Type

Typical of the large, sheep-guardian breeds.
The long tail is carried low with the end curled over. It is not altered.
The drop ears are not altered.


The coat is short and dense with a thick undercoat.
The allowed colors are cream to fawn, or striped brindle with black mask and ears.
Minimal grooming required, except during annual shedding.

Health and Wellness

Can be subject to hip dysplasia.

What You Should Know

This dog does better in an outdoor situation and is not recommended as a house pet.
Obedience training is highly recommended.