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Study Busts the Myth That Purebred Dogs Have More Health Problems


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Do purebred dogs suffer more health problems and diseases than mixed-breed dogs? Findings published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science suggest the answer is no. In a study involving 27,541 companion dogs, data showed that mixed-breed dogs are just as likely to experience common health conditions as their purebred counterparts. A smaller gene pool doesn’t make a purebred dog more likely to have common dog diseases when compared to a mixed-breed dog.

This study, led by the Dog Aging Project, helps debunk the misconception that purebred dogs are at a physiological disadvantage when compared to mixed-breed dogs. A dog’s health profile (and longevity) is unique to their genetic makeup, diet, and other related factors — and not breeding alone.

Rottweiler-Beagle-and-mixed-breed-walkin
©Grigorita Ko - stock.adobe.com

Research From the Dog Aging Project

The Dog Aging Project is a collaborative partnership involving researchers at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) and everyday dog owners. The organization with the primary goal to “unlock the secrets of aging and accelerate medical breakthroughs for dogs and humans.” To date, there are more than 45,000 dogs enrolled in the Dog Aging Project’s database.

The study, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, drew on the health profiles of the 27,000-plus dogs in the selected sample group. Much of the information was submitted from the involved dogs’ owners over a specified period.

The results? According to the Texas A&M School of VMBS: “Some of the most common reasons owners take their dogs to the vet have little or nothing to do with breed.”

A Breakdown of the Study’s Findings

A total of 27,541 dogs participated in this Dog Aging Project study. Researchers identified 25 breeds that made up 60% of the purebred dog population within the sample size studied. These breeds included some of the most popular dogs in the United States, including Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds.

Within the 25 breeds selected, researchers reviewed thousands of health concerns submitted by owners, identifying 53 specific diagnoses. Then, they narrowed their findings further, identifying 10 common health conditions that affected the purebred dogs.

When compared to the 10 most common ailments reported by owners of mixed-breed dogs, data showed that, across the board, the routine health concerns both groups experienced were similar.

When it came to longevity and health profiles, mixed-breed dogs didn’t have a medical advantage over their purebred counterparts. Diet, lifestyle, and individual genetic makeup played a more direct role in the health conditions dogs experienced.

Three Labrador Retrievers sitting outdoors, each a different coat color.
©Field Dog Imagery

Common Health Concerns Cited in the Study

Frontiers in Veterinary Science reported that within the 10 most frequently reported health conditions across the 25 breeds, the five most common included:

  • Dental calculus (also known as dental hardening). This condition affected 24 of the 25 breeds
  • Dog bites. This afflicted 23 of the 25 purebred breeds researched
  • Extracted teeth. This was reported in 21 of the 25 purebred breeds studied
  • Giardia (an internal parasite). This was reported in 15 of the 25 purebred breeds studied

The study also revealed some slight differences between how often these purebred and mixed-breed dogs experience common conditions.

For example, cataracts and heart murmurs were more reported by purebred dog owners; torn/broken toenail and chocolate toxicity were more reported by mixed-breed dog owners. Additionally, extracted teeth and dog bites were more commonly reported in purebred dogs; ear infections were more common in mixed-breed dogs.

The good news is that with comprehensive veterinary care, dogs with these conditions can fully recover or live comfortably. A dog’s ability to combat an ailment isn’t solely dependent on breed, but more on the quality of care it receives.

Doberman Pinscher laying down in the grass.
©brusnikaphoto - stock.adobe.com

Some Health Conditions Are Associated With Specific Breeds

The Dog Aging Project’s study focuses on the overall health of purebred dogs versus their mixed-breed counterparts. Still, there are some health conditions that are associated with specific dog breeds. For example, Boxers, Great Danes, and Doberman Pinschers are more likely to experience dilated cardiomyopathy than other breeds. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a high prevalence of skin problems, and cardiac and ocular diseases.

While these conditions are important to consider when selecting a dog breed, they’re one factor in a whole list of considerations when choosing a dog. There’s no accounting for surprise health concerns, and more and more dog owners are getting pet insurance to help in case of emergencies so they can be prepared when their dog needs medical care. Since 2018, the number of insured pets in the United States has increased by about 26.6% each year.

What the Dog Aging Project’s Study Means for Owners

The findings discussed in Frontiers in Veterinary Science do more than debunk another commonly held misconception about purebred dogs. They also have major implications for people looking for a breed that meets their lifestyle.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a dog. Living space, physical activity, and social level are all things that can help steer someone towards a particular breed. It’s important to do your research when looking into a breed to get a full picture of what to expect.

Dog owners play an even larger role in their dogs’ lifespan than previously expected. This study found that for many common dog diseases, preventative veterinary care and consulting your vet when emergencies happen have more of an impact on a dog’s health than its breed. No dog is immune to injury and disease, but with consistent veterinary care, they have a better chance at a long, happy life.

The post Study Busts the Myth That Purebred Dogs Have More Health Problems appeared first on American Kennel Club.

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