The mightiest and most majestic of breeds, the Mastiff's massive size is equaled only by his immense heart. Courageous and loyal, he is a best friend forever.
The Mastiff and its relatives served as gladiators, warriors and draft animals since ancient Roman times. They became known throughout Europe for their heroic nature, especially after a 1415 battle in which one protected her wounded master for hours. Mastiff owners have included Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Kublai Khan, and King Henry VII.
Despite their ability to be noble name-droppers, Mastiffs are equally happy in the humblest of homes. They're puppies at heart and harbor lapdog fantasies. The world's heaviest dog on record is held by a 343 pound Mastiff.
Mastiff's need a lot of room to lounge, but like to take life leisurely, so they don't need that much room to run. They do like getting out to exercise daily, even if it's for a slow stroll. They enjoy their toys, but make sure the toys are tough!
The Mastiff's great size brings some special concerns, including joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size---just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also vital for protecting joint health throughout life.
As an adult, you must be careful to keep your Mastiff at a lean weight. Too much weight stresses the joints, and can worsen arthritic changes. You may need to feed a low-calorie food. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.
One of the Mastiff's biggest problems is bloat or gastric torsion, a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that need immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Torsion is a major killer of Mastiffs. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.
Mastiffs seem predisposed to itchy skin that may have small pustules or scabs. These are often caused by bacterial infections or a thyroid condition, and should be treated by a veterinarian. An antibacterial shampoo may help combat the infection, and an avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoo can help alleviate the itchiness.
Drool can make your Mastiff have a stronger doggy odor than you'd prefer. A deodorizing shampoo, applied especially in the neck area, can help fix this.
Some Mastiffs are prone to ear problems. Apply an ear cleanser any time the ears start to accumulate dark secretions. Some ear wax is healthy; a lot is not. If you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal. If your Mstiff's ears are painful, don't put any cleansers or medications in the ear until first seeing your veterinarian, as the ear drum could be ruptured.
Mastiffs have a tendency to form calluses and even bursas on their elbows. Encourage your dog to rest on soft surfaces (even carpeting can be abrasive, but is still better than hard tile). Using a cooling blanket or simply placing a fan so it blows over a soft cushion can help steer him to the better surface. Moisturizers applied to the calloused area can also help, as can wrapping the elbows with padding.
Brush the teeth daily.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.
Mastiffs tend to be affected by age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, at an early age. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.