The fortunes of dogs and humans have been mutually entangled for millennia. Numerous distinct breeds of Canis lupus familiaris exist today, owing to dogs’ remarkable adaptability and genetic fluidity. Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments, and this diversity has been achieved through selective breeding.
Unfortunately, this practice occasionally yields undesirable results, including a higher incidence of certain hereditary defects, deformities, or infirmities within a given breed. Here are 12 common dog breeds and their potential health issues.
America’s favorite dog breed is prized for its high intelligence and affectionate nature. In many ways, Labs are perfect family dogs: loyal, gentle, and playful. Health issues with this energetic breed are relatively few, provided the animal gets plenty of daily exercise. Under-exercised pets are prone to weight gain and an increased risk of joint disease due to obesity. Labs are also often genetically prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Other inherited diseases can include eye disorders such as progressive retinal atrophy, which can cause blindness.
Another contender for America’s favorite dog breed, German Shepherds are exceptionally intelligent and easily trained. They excel at guard duty, but require plenty of stimulation and exercise to maintain optimal health. German Shepherds are prone to hereditary hip dysplasia, a deformation of the hip socket that may lead to arthritis or lameness. Degenerative myelopathy is also a common condition among German Shepherds. This is an untreatable disease that results in progressive paralysis.
With their droopy ears and sad-sack eyes, these adorable dogs are plagued by problems related to their most endearing qualities. Their droopy skin may interfere with vision. Their large, floppy ears are prone to infections and require regular inspection and cleaning. And they have a penchant for constant, enthusiastic sniffing (made all the easier by their short legs). Basset hounds can suffer from intervertebral disc disease, which is a disease of the spine. This condition can make movement difficult and painful if left untreated.
These highly energetic, intelligent terriers are well known for their relatively good overall health and notable longevity. While some larger breeds may live an average of 10 to 12 years, Jack Russells (and closely related Parson Russell Terriers) may live 14 to 16 years, provided they receive adequate, regular exercise. Inherited diseases include lens luxation, which may result in loss of vision.
Experts describe these elegant dogs as “robust,” but the Lhasa requires regular eye care to maintain optimal health. Constant tearing can be expected in this breed. The runny fluid must be gently cleaned from the eyes on a routine basis with isotonic (mild saltwater) solution. The Lhasa’s long flowing coat requires extensive brushing and combing to avoid snags and tangles. This breed is also prone to a form of hereditary kidney disease.
Although their popularity is presently waning, Irish Setters are still ranked among the top 10 breeds for playfulness and affection. These lovable redheads are considered hardy, but some hereditary diseases do occur. Irish setters can experience a variety of conditions including hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, bloat, epilepsy, and bone cancer.
Known for possessing outsized personalities in an undersized package, “Yorkies” have flounced into American’s hearts. They are the third most popular breed in America. With silky blue/tan coats and entitled terrier attitudes, they relish their roles as miniature divas. Yorkies are prone to digestive problems. Their diet should be carefully monitored. As with other toy breeds, tracheal collapse is possible. Clinical signs include a cough and can be exacerbated by a collar. A hereditary defect, portosystemic shunt, may decrease liver function and cause toxins to accumulate in the blood. This can lead to behavioral and neurological problems.
Patient, gentle, and hardy, Dalmatians are famous for their association with firemen, and as the fictional heroes in a series of popular Disney movies. The most common hereditary defect in this breed is deafness, although reputable breeders are working to eradicate this problem. Dalmatians also have a tendency to develop kidney or bladder stones, a condition called urolithiasis. This common problem may require special diet or surgery to correct.
These favorites are known for their flowing coats, but owning a supermodel’s tresses comes at a price. Cocker Spaniels require frequent bathing and brushing to keep their long hair free of tangles. Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to eye disorders, including cataracts and glaucoma, as well as heart disease, epilepsy, and liver disease. Their ears must also be cleaned regularly to prevent ear infections.
Familiar for their flat, pushed-in face, pugs are generally a healthy breed that lives a long life. While the flat-fronted face is part of their charm, it can lead to breathing problems, which may develop into snoring at night or difficulty breathing in hot weather and humidity. The pug prefers living its days as a house companion, steering clear of extremely hot or cold temperatures. However, moderate exercise is still essential, as this breed is known to become overweight.
Made famous by Taco Bell commercials, this tiny breed weighs in around 6 pounds or less. A gentle breed that will pair well with an equally gentle owner, Chihuahuas can live a relatively long life for dogs — around 12 to 15 years. The Chihuahua is not exempt from health concerns, however. The most common is patellar luxation, which can lead to arthritis. Other medical concerns include cardiac and eye disease.
Highly athletic, the Boxer is rumored to have acquired its name from the way it uses its front paws for nearly every activity, seeming to bat at objects as if sparring. This compact and muscular breed is susceptible to a number of conditions, though. Boxers are prone to heart-related and thyroid problems, as well as skin allergies. Other medical concerns include cancer, bloat, and elbow dysplasia.
When considering bringing home a new puppy or adult dog, be sure to work with a reputable breeder who is honest and open about the health lines of their dogs. Don’t purchase a puppy without documentation that the parents were cleared of health issues. If adopting from a shelter, be sure to take your new dog to the vet soon after adoption.
Whether bred for their protectiveness and vigilance or their suitability to the pampered life, there is a breed of dog suitable for virtually every environment and type of owner. Learn more about choosing the right dog breed for your lifestyle, and get tips to keep your dog happy and healthy.