Common Health Problems of the Neapolitan Mastiff

The Neapolitan is a relatively healthy breed. They are subject to the normal health-related illnesses that most dogs are subject to, but regular vet visits and keeping them up-to-date on vaccinations help avoid many of these issues. Having your pet spayed or neutered will also help avoid some of the issues that befall all breeds who are left intact.

Genetically, however, there are a few things that anyone who is considering bringing a Neapolitan Mastiff should be aware of regarding a genetic predisposition to certain health issues in this breed. You can’t prevent these conditions, but you can adapt certain practices to lessen the chance of them occurring. Having a genetic predisposition to a certain disorder does not mean your pet will develop the condition. It only means you need to be aware that this could occur and make sure your vet keeps an eye out for early signs.

The conditions that your dog may be most at risk for are areas that include:

  • Bones and joints
  • Heart issues
  • Skin issues
  • Eye conditions
  • Bloat

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

All large dog breeds are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia. In this condition, the ball and socket joints in the affected areas develop improperly. This causes the bones to rub against each other instead of moving smoothly. The condition is excruciating and can drastically reduce the quality of your dog’s life. Genetics plays a large part in this condition. Other things that can contribute to this are the puppy growing too quickly, an exercise that involves jumping or too much joint stress, or too much weight.

To help avoid adding stress to your dog’s joints, exercise should be limited to one or two moderate walks a day, with no climbing or jumping. Try to keep your puppy from jumping excessively. Feed your dog a diet that helps it maintain an ideal weight. If your vet approves, adding a glucosamine supplement to your Neapolitan Mastiff’s diet can help prevent the onset of arthritis and other joint pain.

Eye Conditions

Cherry Eye

A Dog with Cherry Eye
Dog with Cherry Eye

Simply put, cherry eye is a condition where the tear duct in your dog’s eye swells and protrudes from under the third eye membrane that is meant to protect its eyes. This mass causes the affected eye to appear bright red. Unfortunately, this genetic-based disorder is not something you can actually prevent. The vet, however, can treat the disorder with eye drops in most cases. Surgery can be done in chronic cases.


This is a condition that is often a result of aging. Over time, the eye lens becomes cloudy, causing the eye to appear whitish and making it impossible for your pet to see through the film. This is corrected with surgery.


This is a condition where a part of the eyelid curls inward, causing the eyelashes to brush against the eye’s surface. This can irritate the eye’s surface at best and scratches or tears in the cornea at the worst. This is most often present in puppies and will often resolve itself by the time they reach one year of age. If it doesn’t resolve itself or the condition is causing too much irritation., the vet can remove a small portion of the eyelid to alleviate the scratching.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This silent disease causes your dog to gradually go blind over a period of months or years. It normally appears later in life. At this point, there is no known treatment. Your vet can help you learn ways to make it easier for your pet to navigate without their sight. This disorder does not cause pain, and most dogs can adjust rather quickly to the loss of sight.

Heart Conditions

Dilated Cardio Myopathy (DCM)

In this disease, the walls of the heart become thin and make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood. This is most often discovered when a vet hears an abnormality in your dog’s heartbeat. Treatment often includes a change in diet and regulation of weight and exercise. Your vet may suggest surgery to help strengthen the valves and create a situation where there is less pressure on the affected parts of the heart.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

If your vet detects a heart murmur in your dog, this is the most likely cause. Blood is intended to flow into the heart and then, once oxygenated, flow into the lungs. This normal pathway is slightly different in newborn pups, but the pathway used at birth is soon closed, and normal circulation continues. In some cases, this temporary pathway stays open. The good news is that this heart abnormality is easily corrected. One procedure involves open-chest surgery, but a newer procedure that involves running a catheter through your pet’s back legs and sealing the pathway has proven to be both safe and effective.

Gastrodilation Volvulus (GDV)

This disease is commonly referred to as bloat and is extremely dangerous. Found most often in large breed dogs like the Neapolitan Mastiff, it is often aggravated by the dog eating and drinking too quickly. As the dog swallows air with its food or drink, the abdomen fills too quickly and expands, making it difficult for the air to be expelled. This can result in:

  • Inadequate blood flow between the heart and abdomen
  • Prevention of blood flow to the stomach lining
  • Rupture of the stomach wall
  • Pressure on the diaphragm that blocks breathing

The stomach can then rotate, making the elimination of contents impossible. Surgery is the most common treatment, and this needs to be done as soon as possible.

To help reduce the chances of bloat in your dog, avoid using elevated dishes, keep exercise to a minimum for at least an hour after eating, and feed your dog more frequent but smaller meals. A good way to slow down your dog’s eating is to provide them with a dish that makes it impossible for them to eat quickly.

Skin Disorders

The saggy skin rolls on the Neapolitan Mastiff are one of its most endearing features, but these are often the cause of discomfort for them. Parasites can hide under the folds. Moisture is trapped and can cause bacterial or fungal growth, causing the underlying skin to become irritated and eventually raw. If your dog has any kind of allergy, the skin beneath these folds can become dry and irritated. It is important that you take the time to clean the hidden parts of your dog’s skin daily to make sure the areas remain irritant-free. A simple wipe with a damp rag will go a long way to removing anything that could cause damage. Make sure you keep up on flea and tick treatment to eliminate these parasites. Finally, recognize the symptoms of allergies in your dog and talk with your vet about the best treatment type for its needs.

Final Thoughts

Your Neapolitan Mastiff can live a full, healthy life with a few adjustments in feeding and care. Knowing what to look for is the biggest action you can take to keep them healthy. Maintaining regular vet visits is another thing. These dogs are normally fairly healthy and don’t require as much concern as some other breeds. Just remember to maintain a healthy diet, limit the types of exercise they get, keep their lovable skin folds clean, and see your vet regularly to catch any issues early.