Purebred dogs are prized for their handsome characteristics as well as their breed-specific personality traits. But purebreds are also associated with having more health problems than dogs with mixed backgrounds.
As Eleanor Raffan, a veterinary surgeon and geneticist at the University of Cambridge in England, told LiveScience: “Whenever we see something that is more common in one breed of dog than another, genetics are implicated as a possible factor.”
Essentially, to keep the lineage pure, breeders have to select dogs from the same gene pool, which leads to inbreeding. The chances of genetic defects or predispositions to certain diseases rises significantly when this happens. That said, respectable breeders will know exactly which medical conditions to screen their mating dogs for and provide you with this information regarding your pet’s breed.
If you have a purebred or are planning on welcoming one to your family soon, it’s best to know what conditions your dog may be susceptible to. This way, you can take steps to prevent it and learn how to manage the condition if needed.
Here we will cover the 20 most common dog breeds and illnesses they may be predisposed to.
Prone to: Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes loss of consciousness and seizures, which can happen rarely or frequently, depending on the severity of the condition.
An epileptic dog typically suffers their first seizure between the the age of 6 months and 3 years, although it can happen anytime. Once the seizures start, the condition is unlikely to go away and will require continuous treatment.
Prevention: Generally speaking, there is little you can do to prevent epilepsy; if your beagle suffers from it, your vet will likely prescribe anti-seizure medication, which can then help prevent seizures.
Prone to: Eye issues
You can’t miss those big eyes on Boston Terriers and pugs, but it’s this adorable trait that causes trouble. If your dog gets in a fight or accident, there’s a greater chance for their eye to pop out of its socket than with other breeds. They’re also more at risk for other eye problems such as dry eyes and cataracts.
When a dog has “cherry eye”, a tear-producing gland from the dog’s third eyelid will protrude to the corner of his eye and appear as a round, red mass like a cherry.
Prevention: Prevent accidents, provide at-home eye massage treatments; in severe cases, surgery may be necessary
Prone to: Cancer
Cancer is the leading cause of death (44%) in boxers. They have higher risks of developing brain tumors, lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), and mast cell tumors. In fact, Boxers suffer from both brain and mast cell tumors more than any other purebred.
Prevention: Routinely check your dog for lumps as these cancers are treatable if caught early on.
Prone to: Breathing trouble
Generations of breeding for that cute smashed-in face has created a troublesome respiratory issue for this lovable breed. Physically, their nostrils are too small, their soft palate is too long, and their tracheas are far too narrow for their wide frames.
This is why bulldogs snore loudly and make loud, grunting noises during playtime. But if they become overheated, or exercise too much, their labored breathing could lead to a life-threatening emergency where they can’t get enough oxygen to circulate throughout their body.
Prevention: Go easy on exercise and don’t spend too much time outside in hot weather
Prone to: Mitral Valve Disease
More common in smaller breeds and elderly dogs, when a dog has this disease, a critical valve in the heart fails to close tight enough, letting blood in backwards as the heart pumps. This valve can also wear out over time. This strain on the heart will result in your dog becoming lethargic and they may develop a heart murmur.
Prevention: Regular evaluations and prevention treatment if prescribed by your vet
Prone to: Collapsing trachea
It’s not unusual for toy breeds to experience a collapsing trachea, which is when the trachea flattens because the cartilage that’s supposed to hold the trachea open is too weak to support it. Your dog may exhibit a strange honking noise if this happens as a result of the air passing through his trachea differently. Dogs suffering from obesity may be more prone to this issue.
Prevention: maintain your dog at a healthy weight, avoid allergens and pollen, prevent your dog from being over-excited.
Prone to: Ear infections
Any dog with long, floppy ears like the cocker spaniel will have more ear infections than a dog with pointed ears that get lots of air circulation. When your dog is calm, try to flip his ears over to allow the moisture inside to dry out. Never get the inside wet during bath time. Trim hairs that get too long and trap debris causing infections.
Prevention: Use a natural and effective ear cleaning solution such as EcoEars to clear and prevent all types of ear infections
Prone to: Back problems
Though these tenacious dogs love to run, jump, and eat everything in sight, all of this will put extra strain on their already long and vulnerable spinal cord. Dachshunds that climb stairs and jump on and off couches or beds see spinal injuries and slipped discs happen more often than other breeds. Dachshunds with damaged backs may become partially paralyzed.
Prevention: Don’t let extra weight or unsafe activities stress your dog’s back
Prone to: Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
One of the scariest conditions for pet owners, DCM happens when a dog’s heart becomes too enlarged and stretched out to pump blood throughout his body correctly. Because it’s hard to tell this from the outside, most owners are unaware that their dog may have DCM until their dog collapses.
Prevention: There’s no cure for DCM, but annual screenings and medications can ensure a normal heart rhythm and improve heart health
Prone to: Hip dysplasia
Like many large breed dogs, German Shepherds are more likely to get hip dysplasia, when the joints in your dog’s hips are misaligned because the ball and socket won’t nest together as they should.
Dogs suffering from hip dysplasia will often have pain and problems walking, and are at an increased risk for developing aching arthritis.
Prevention: Ask your vet for a hip dysplasia screen or speak to a breeder. Parents without hip dysplasia rarely produce offspring with the condition. Keep your dog from excessive jumping.
Prone to: Allergies
When your dog has allergies, you won’t notice sneezing and sniffling — you’ll see scratching, licking, and chewing on their skin. If your dog itchy enough he could scratch long and hard enough to create a red, oozing hot spot sore, which will be painful and open for infection.
Prevention: get rid of potential allergens in your dog’s environment. Spray your dog’s hot spots with EcoSpot to prevent bleeding and reduce itchiness.
Prone to: Bloat
Large breeds like the Great Dane and standard poodle are more susceptible to bloating. Their stomach fills up with gas, fluid, or food and puts extra pressure on their other organs.
Your dog will feel uncomfortable and may have trouble breathing. To find relief, the stomach may actually twist or rotate, trapping blood and gas from escaping, which may send your dog into shock.
Prevention: Call a vet immediately if your dog is restless after eating, or panting, pacing, or trying to vomit unproductively.
Prone to: Obesity
It’s hard to imagine an active breed like labs becoming overweight, but they are surprisingly predisposed to obesity. This means that if you’re not careful about diet and exercise, your dog’s weight may creep up to unhealthy levels without you even realizing it.
According to one study, 1 in 4 labs has a gene variant that actually turns off the trigger for when they’re full. As a result, these labs are constantly hungry and motivated by food even though they’re not malnourished. The extra food leads to weight gain.
Prevention: Lots of daily exercise; raw fruits and veggies such as carrots and apples for snacks
Prone to: Little White Shaker Syndrome
Even though dogs of all colors can get this condition, little white maltese are the poster breed. Caused by inflammation in the dog’s brain and usually associated with mild central nervous system disease, dogs with LWSS tremble and shake uncontrollably, sometimes so bad that they cannot walk, even though they are not in physical pain.
Prevention: Because LWSS is associated with genetics and the nervous system, there is no specific prevention method, but your vet will likely prescribe corticosteroids to reduce its effects
Prone to: Hair loss
Ironically, these fluffy pups are predisposed to a disease called Alopecia X, a hormonal condition that causes your dog’s hair to fall out. You’ll notice fewer hairs on both sides of their body starting at the base of their tail and thigh areas.
Prevention: Spaying or neutering will help hair grow back due to the correction of hormonal imbalances. Melatonin may also be effective.
Prone to: Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a disease that makes up a group of eye conditions that build up fluid in the eye. This will cause tremendous pressure and pain behind the eye and will inevitably lead to blindness.
Prevention: Prevent surgery and possible removal of the affected eye down the line by routinely checking your poodle’s eyes.
Prone to: “Collie eye”
The “collie eye anomaly” is a group of related congenital, inherited eye issues that impact the retina and optic nerve. While mild cases may not even affect your dog’s vision, moderate to severe ones may cause blindness.
Prevention: None; Ask your breeder if your dog has been screened for Collie eye.
Prone to: Luxating Patella
Toy breeds are no strangers to luxating patella, better known as wobbling kneecaps. In this condition, the kneecaps temporarily pop out of place. You may see your dog limping, skipping steps, or hobbling if this happens.
Prevention: You can’t prevent your dog from having this condition, but you can help them with minerals and supplements that can help their bones be healthier
Prone to: Autoimmune disorders
Siberian huskies are often prone to autoimmune disorders that manifest themselves in skin or eye issues. Symptoms usually present themselves after the dog is 4 years old. Your dog might have hair loss and crusts on their nose and ear flap. If not diagnosed and treated in time, the autoimmune disorders may also lead to vision impairment and loss.
Prevention: Because autoimmune disorders in huskies are usually genetic, there is no real prevention, but your vet will prescribe a course of treatment if diagnosed, including options like corticosteroids that calm down the immune system.
Prone to: Portosystemic shunt (PSS)
PSS is a birth defect that affects the portal vein and blood vessels of small breeds like the Yorkie. Normally, the portal vein cleans the blood of toxins by taking them from the intestines to the liver. When a dog has PSS, the portal vein never stops at the liver and holds onto the toxins instead. You’ll notice your dog’s growth will be stunted, plus he’ll seem confused and may have seizures from this incorrect elimination route.
Prevention: There is no prevention, as it’s a birth defect and surgery will be required
Knowing the potential health risks your dog might face, you can also promote disease prevention. You’ll be able to ask the right questions about your dog’s medical and family history before you take him home.
Don’t let these predispositions dissuade you from adopting a particular dog. However, you should be aware where you are purchasing your puppy. Responsible breeders are aware of these conditions and work actively to avoid replicating them in future litters. And if your dog does have one of these conditions, do your research to provide the best possible prevention and treatment for your dog.