The Health Issues Associated With Different Breeds
As different types of dogs have gained popularity, breeders have begun breeding dogs with accentuated lovable characteristics, sometimes at the cost of the well being of the dog. Small dogs have gotten smaller, big dogs bigger, and dogs with adorable wrinkly skin, wrinklier. With these accentuated features come a slew of health problems. Breeders often breed dogs with similar genetic makeup meaning that normally recessive genes that may cause diseases continue to pass on. Because of this, dogs who have been intentionally bred to look or act a certain way will often have a greater host of health problems than a mutt whose genetics were more likely determined by the natural selection of dominant traits.
As always, these rules do not apply to absolutely every dog of a certain breed. Many problems can be traced back to poor breeding practices in dog breeders if they did not consider problematic genes (often fueled by the money that comes from people who will pay for a specific type of trendy puppy rather than adopting one in need). When choosing a dog, it is always important to talk to breeder to determine what conditions the dog came from and any history of health problems its parents might have had.
Bull Dogs and brachycephalic breeds have been bred to have flatter faces and more skin folds. Because of this they have a high risk of breathing problems such as stenotic nares (too-small nostrils impede proper breathing), hypoplastic trachea (air pipe is too thin which impedes breathing as well as proper exercise), overlong soft palates (restricts vision and breathing), and everted laryngeal saccules (a condition resulting from over exertion from effort to breathe). These breathing difficulties make them highly susceptible to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. Bull dogs also often have skin conditions due to the moisture and bacteria that can get in their skin folds, and because of their inability to exercise like normal dogs due to their difficulty to breathe, bull dogs are often overweight (this leads to even more health problems).
Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, and Toy Dogs have all been bred to be cute and tiny. Not only do they often suffer from joint issues, especially in their knees and hips, but also they often have teeth overcrowding (meaning dental disease), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), homeostasis imbalance, and trachea collapse or collapsing cartilage in the neck.
Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, and other large dogs often have joint problems as well (hip dysplasia), but more tragically are predisposed to cancer (Golden Retrievers are actually sometimes referred to as Cancer Retrievers in the veterinary world—the Morris Animal Foundation found that 60% of all golden retrievers will die of cancer before they are eight years old). Larger dogs are also at risk for bloat, which can also affect cardiovascular function.
Beagles, Dachshunds, and other hounds are susceptible to epilepsy, cherry eye and cataracts, back and spine problems, hypothryroidism, obesity, blood disorders, diabetes, and hip dysplasia.
Purebred dogs not only have the exaggerated health issues associated with their breed, but they commonly have eye diseases resulting in blindness, heart diseases, skin diseases, and epilepsy. Research from Purdue University shows that large purebred dogs are 3 times more likely to develop bloat as their mixed breed counterparts. In 2009, an Ipsos-Reid survey found that:
- 57% of dogs with allergies were purebreds
- 65% of dogs with canine arthritis were purebreds
- 75% of dogs with epilepsy were purebreds
Keep in mind that while some diseases may be preexisting conditions or inherited, the care you give your dog is the most important factor in a dog’s health. If you are concerned about your dog’s predisposition to breed-specific conditions, talk to your veterinarian to come up with a management plan related to your dog’s specific preventative needs, make regular appointments to check up on your dog’s health, and make sure he or she is getting the proper nutrition, exercise, and grooming.
For more examples of health problems in specific breeds, click here.