Many people don’t realize that genetic diversity is one of the most potent anti-disease properties that humans and animals can have. When you have a population that is not genetically diverse, you run the risk of recessive and sometimes malignant genes being expressed. Recessive genes can be harmless, but they can also carry disease. In regards to our favorite dog breeds, many breeders both in the past and in the present have bred dogs with the intent to keep them pure. The results? These dog breeds exhibit certain medical problems specific to their line.

If you have a purebred dog that you believe may be affected by their family tree, continue reading the article below to find out what medical issues impact some of our favorite dog breeds!

A Quick Lesson in Genetics

When you breed a brother and a sister, or cousins that have a flawed gene, you are more likely to express “bad” genes because they end up paired up with each other. Try to think back to biology class with the lesson about the peas. According to Mendel, the founder of modern genetics, when you breed peas with one good dominant trait and one irregular recessive trait, the first generation produces offspring that will express the good dominant feature. When you breed the offspring together, you will get three offspring that express the dominant trait and one that expresses the recessive trait only.

When it comes to dog breeding, the inbreeding goes on for generations to create a “pure” line of dog breeds. This type of breeding causes the recessive genes to be expressed at a higher rate than 25 percent of the population, especially when the animals with the recessive genes are what breeders are looking for. Let’s take bulldogs, for example. They were bred for the shape of their heads. Because they started off with a small founder population compared to other dog breeds and were bred for this odd trait, they have low genetic diversity and are prone to poor health. Below is an illustration of Mendel’s genetics that will better help you understand the health consequences of certain dog breeds.

Genetics of peas can better help you understand how some dog breeds are affected.
Heidi Tait Image

Where does this leave our beloved purebreds? It leaves them with the congenital diseases that we see today, such as breathing problems, bone degradation, cancer, epilepsy, and more. The only thing that you can do for your dog is to make sure that he or she is in good health. Please bring them to regular veterinarian check-ups to make sure that their genetics are not going to sneak up on them.

Dog Breeds and Common Genetic Medical Problems

If you are planning to adopt a new pooch, it is best to go into the situation with knowledge about what you are getting yourself into. If you will not be able to afford the care that your dog might need over the years, maybe it would be best to find a dog that has fewer health problems than the dog breeds listed below.

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Miniature Poodles

Poodles, in general, are among some of the dog breeds that have health problems from birth, but the miniature poodle displays the most symptoms and has the shortest life span. Miniature poodles are most susceptible to cataracts and retinal atrophy. In other words, as your poodle ages, he or she is likely to go blind. They can have eyelashes that grow in such a way that they cause pain. There is also a chance that they can develop problems with kneecaps, bone degeneration, and epilepsy.

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Labrador Retrievers

Labs are a family favorite. They are very playful and great with children. You would think that these dogs usually have a clean bill of health, but they are affected by genetic diseases, just like many other purebred lines. Labs were bred to have something called skeletal dysplasia. This keeps their bones from growing fully. Because of this, they can get arthritis and muscular dystrophy. They can also have things like gastric torsion happen to them, where their stomachs flip upside down, this is very dangerous. Labs can also have diabetes, exercise-induced collapse, retinal atrophy, and pyotraumatic dermatitis. Be sure to bring the family’s best friend to the vet for checkups often!

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Golden Retrievers

This is another favorite dog of families. Golden Retrievers are playful and great with children, just like Labs. These dogs, however, are reasonably well known for having hip problems or hip dysplasia, you should be expecting this if you have a goldie. They are also very susceptible to getting cancer. They are also prone to cataracts, retinal atrophy, epilepsy, and dermatitis. These dogs, along with so many other dog breeds plagued with problems, are just so darn cute; the vet bills are worth it. 

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These are one of the dog breeds that are most associated with breathing problems, a consequence that is the direct effect of their breeding. They were bred for their misshapen skull, which can cause the nostrils to collapse, or may result in them not having enough room to breathe, especially when they are in conditions that cause allergies or if they have a cold. This will be something significant that you have to keep an eye on when you own dogs that have oddly shaped heads like bulldogs and pugs. They are also at risk for dislocating shoulders, hip dysplasia, irregular tear production, and an ingrown tail. If you are not ready to fork a substantial amount of money over to your veterinarian for treatments, you may want to consider looking at different dog breeds.

Image by sabsykorova from Pixabay 

Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels are bright and energetic little dogs and have some of the cutest ears out of all of the dog breeds, but they don’t come without their own issues. These dogs are at high risk for cardiomyopathy, heart attacks, and congestive heart failure. They can also develop cataracts, dermatitis, cherry eye, kidney stones, and phosphofructokinase deficiency (same idea as diabetes).

Now that you have a better understanding of why some dog breeds can be sicker than others, you can make an informed decision about the type of dog that you want to bring into your family. Usually, if you go for a dog that is a mix, they will be at less risk of congenital and genetic diseases. This is because there is a healthy dominant gene that can be expressed over the ailing recessive one. Good luck in your search! I hope you find the dog that fits you and your family the best!