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All about your St. Bernard

Good-natured and obedient, with a singular aim to help everyone.

The St. Bernard is strong and protective and adores his family. Learn more about this gentle giant with a heart of gold, from his grooming and exercise needs, to the things you can do to keep him happy and healthy.

St Bernard Runs To Join A Beach

Breed information & advice

The St. Bernard is part of the working breed group and makes a wonderful family pet, thanks to his loyal and caring nature. He takes up a lot of room at home, making him best suited to larger homes with outdoor space where he can stretch out.

  • Before getting a St. Bernard you may want to work out how much room he will take up in your house – as he is not capable of curling up to save on space .
  • He is not fussy about being neat and tidy either and he will drool and slobber, and need brushing around three times a week.
  • Typically he will weigh between 54kg and 82kg, when fully grown.
  • A healthy St. Bernard will usually live for 8 to 10 years.

Typical size of a St. Bernard

Large: 66cm-76cm

The St. Bernard might be big but he does not need lots of exercise, and roughly an hour a day will be enough to keep him in peak mental and physical condition. While your dog is still growing and his bones are still forming, be careful not to give him too much exercise at one time – increase your puppy’s time outside gradually, starting with short walks around your garden or back yard.

Pay attention to the weather when out walking – this is a breed that’s prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke thanks to his heavy coat.

Your St. Bernard will need high-quality food given to him over two portions each day. How much will vary depending on his size and age, as well as his exercise regime. Read the label on the food packet for help with portion sizes.

Up to one hour of exercise per day

Friendly and well-behaved, St. Bernards are a pleasure to walk, and enjoy playtime as they need to be mentally challenged too.

Saint Bernard Dog Leaps Over A Small Wall
Brown And White St Bernard Dog Looking Directly Ahead

Common health problems & illnesses

St. Bernards need all of the usual vaccinations, flea and tick control, and dental checks to go on to lead a healthy life, but it’s worth being aware of some of the more specific ailments which can affect this breed, so you can look out for any symptoms.

1. Skin infection

Pyoderma is a common bacterial skin infection that St. Bernards are susceptible to. Signs your dog may have it include itchiness, flaky skin, small lesions and loss of hair, as well as the skin having an unpleasant smell. Usually there is an underlying cause like fleas or food intolerance that your vet will want to investigate when considering the right treatment for your dog, such as antibiotics. In severe cases he will be monitored to make sure the bacteria doesn’t spread into the blood.

2. Eye problems

Entropion is an inward rolling of the eyelid – usually affecting the lower ones – that appears more frequently in St. Bernard puppies. There is not always a known cause, but there can be an underlying disease behind this condition. Watch out for your dog squinting, or rubbing his eyes more than normal. His eyes could also look red and inflamed. Surgery may be required, but your vet will talk through all your options.

Entropion accounted for 8% of Tesco Pet Insurance claims for this breed in 2015.

3. Sprains and tears

Cruciate ligament injury, which is a sprain, tear or full rupture of the ligament that hinges the leg bones around the knee joint is a common cause of lameness in breeds such as the St. Bernard, and can be painful. Long term degeneration and genetic disposition to the condition are the usual causes, but there are also other factors such as obesity or heaviness, hormonal imbalance and inflammatory joint conditions. Treatment options may vary depending on the injury, so speak to your vet who will advise on the appropriate course of action.

Cruciate ligament injuries made up 5% of Tesco Pet Insurance claims for this breed in 2015.

4. Arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, caused when the cartilage becomes deformed or uneven, leaving two bones to rub against each other. New bone can then form in the damaged area, reducing mobility – and this is known as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Both arthritis and DJD are more common in older dogs, although they can develop in your St. Bernard puppy if he has poor bone development. Signs that your dog may have either of these mobility problems include reluctance to walk or play, limping and difficulty rising from a resting position. He may have to have surgery, or treatment could simply involve weight management and physical therapy.

5. Epilepsy

A chemical imbalance or over-activity in the brain can cause confused signals to be fired out around the body, resulting in epilepsy and while it can occur in any dog, St. Bernards are one of the breeds more likely to develop the condition. There are a number of known causes, including a reaction to medication, and underlying disorders such as liver or kidney problems, but more often than not there is no known cause. Common symptoms for you to look out for in your dog are fits and convulsions. While it’s more a case of making him comfortable, rather than curing epilepsy, the aim will be to control how often he’s having seizures and their severity.

Dog name popularity

If you’re struggling to think of a name for your St. Bernard, take a look at the most popular ones at Tesco Pet Insurance for inspiration.

Dog name popularity
Bella
Dolly
Holly
Maisie
Winston

Average treatment costs

Wondering whether pet insurance for your St. Bernard is worth it? We’ve put together the top five conditions claimed for by Tesco Pet Insurance customers in 2015, and the average cost of treatment.

ConditionAverage treatment cost
Epilepsy, fitting or seizures£220.77
Arthritis and degenerative joint disease£351.58
Entropion£429.96
Pyoderma£545.14
Cruciate rupture£411.07

Tesco Pet Insurance claims data from paid treatments including excesses from 01/01/15 to 31/12/15.

Considering St. Bernard insurance?

We know your dog is an important member of the family, so give them the protection they deserve with Tesco Pet Insurance.

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc.

Grooming advice

Your dog will have one of two types of coat – either short-haired or long-haired. A good brush two or three times a week using a rubber brush or hound glove will keep his fur looking glossy and, during shedding season, will remove any loose hairs. Try to pay particular attention to the hair behind his ears and on his thighs, as they’re more likely to get matted.

You’ll find that, like most other dogs, you won’t need to bathe your St. Bernard that often, but if you do, look to use a special shampoo to avoid drying out his hair. If they don’t wear down naturally his nails will need to be trimmed once or twice a month. It’s also good practice to remember to check inside his ears weekly, and if they look dirty wipe them using a special cleanser.

Brush his teeth once or twice a week to remove tartar build-up and bacteria. It’s always best to get your puppy into a good grooming routine from an early age, to make sure it’s a pleasurable experience for both of you.

Fun & interesting facts

  • This breed isn’t all brawn – he’s smart too and, despite his size, he knows to be gentle around children.
  • Don’t believe everything you see on the television – he isn’t the rambunctious, trouble-maker portrayed in films like Beethoven.
  • St. Bernards were bred for saving lives by the monks of Great St. Bernard’s Hospice in Switzerland between 1660 and 1670.
  • One named Benedictine holds the world record for the heaviest dog and is said to have weighed in at 161kg.
  • Back in 1902, a St. Bernard was credited with saving Manchester United FC after the then captain refused to sell his beloved pet to an admirer, who instead bought the debt-ridden club.

Important information

KEY INFORMATION

The content on this page aims to offer an informative introduction to pet breeds, but does not constitute expert veterinary advice. If your dog or cat falls ill or has an injury, contact your vet immediately. Tesco Bank Pet Insurance has a partnership with vetfone™ which means that as a customer, you can benefit from their advice as part of your policy.

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. The vetfone™ service is provided by Vetsdirect Ltd.

All facts and figures were correct at date of publication and were compiled using a range of sources.

WHAT IS VETFONE?

Vetfone™ is a 24/7 helpline that provides expert advice from nurses qualified with the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons). If your pet has a medical emergency, or you need reassurance on grooming, feeding or general advice, vetfone™ is there to help.

As a Tesco Pet Insurance customer, you can access expert veterinary advice provided by RCVS registered vet nurses as a standard benefit with your policy, and the service is provided at no additional cost. A quick call could answer any questions you have about your pet, give you peace of mind and could even save you an expensive trip to the vet.

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. The vetfone™ service is provided by Vetsdirect Ltd.

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