A purebred dogs carry a long legacy and history. You have probably heard that purebred dogs suffer from more health issues than mixed breed dogs.  But is it true? Well, the answer is not as straightforward as people might have you think. Certain genetic disorders are more common in purebreds than in mutts, but others are not.  Breeders can take some care to weed out pet genetic disorders through genetic testing.  And when dogs are born with a genetic disorder, veterinarians can help with preventative care and treatment.  So even if your pet has a genetic disorder, he or she still has the potential for a happy life.


What Is The Most Common Genetic Disorder?

The most common of pet genetic disorders is hip dysplasia.  The hip is a ball and socket joint. A healthy hip consists of a ball at the top of the femur that fits snuggly into the socket of the hip bones.  Dogs with canine hip dysplasia suffer from pain and arthritis as the cartilage here degenerates. This pain will cause difficulty rising up and laying down, going up and down stairs, jumping onto furniture or into a vehicle, and even reluctance to go on a walk.  Certain breeds are more likely to suffer from hip dysplasia: German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Bulldogs, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Neapolitan Mastiffs, and Retrievers. Does this mean that all dogs of these breeds are doomed? No! While some purebred dogs of these breeds will suffer from hip dysplasia, some will not.  On the flip side, a mixed breed dog may also suffer from hip dysplasia, depending on his specific genetic background. Either way, treatment options are available for dogs with hip dysplasia. Maintaining a healthy weight is the first step, as it lowers the stress on the hip joint. Medical options to reduce pain include pain medication, physical therapy, cold laser treatment, glucosamine chondroitin treatments, and even stem cell therapy.  In some cases, a surgical procedure, such as total hip replacement, may be warranted.


Other Common Pet Genetic Disorders

Certain breeds are prone to other genetic disorders, including:

  1. Urinary Bladder Stones: stones in the urinary tract can cause difficulty urinating, increased frequency of urination, urinary accidents, and blood in the urine.  Breeds affected include Dalmatians, Newfoundlands, Bichon Frise, and Miniature Schnauzers. Stones can be prevented through diet and removed if necessary.
  2. Epilepsy: seizures can cause a dog to stiffen, fall, or lose bladder and bowel control.  Affected breeds include German Shepherds, Beagles, Belgian Tervurens, Keeshonds, Dachshunds, and Retrievers.  Medication can manage the frequency and severity of seizures.
  3. Heart Disease: There are a variety of inherited heart conditions, many of which can be managed with diet and medication.  Breeds affected include Cavalier King Charles, Dachshunds, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Bulldogs, and Boxers.
  4. Brachycephalic Syndrome: literally, “short-headed,” but think of it as smushed face dogs like the French and English Bulldogs, Boston Terrier, Pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and Cavalier King Charles.  Their anatomy predisposes them to respiratory difficulty, dental, skin, and eye problems, and increased risk of heat stroke.


So if you are wondering what is the most common genetic disorder, and whether or not your pet will be affected, there is no easy answer.  While a mixed breed dog may be at lower risk for certain genetic disorders, that does not mean there is no risk at all.  If your pet does suffer from a genetic disorder, talk to your veterinarian at AMC about the best strategies to manage your pet’s symptoms and give him the best life possible.