Whether you choose a purebred dog or a mix, there are always potential health concerns. Many people contend that purebreds are more likely to have serious health problems due to their higher risk for certain genetic conditions.
Others argue that mixed breed dogs often come from unknown backgrounds where they may be exposed to an array of viruses, parasites, etc.
There are a few ways you can acquire a new furry friend: select a breeder or rescue group that specializes in rehoming your favorite breed, head to your local shelter and fall in love with an adoptable “Heinz 57” pup, or stumble upon a stray and raise it as your own.
(If you have your heart set on a certain breed, it’s important to remember that many of those breeds can be found at your local rescue or animal shelter. Check out the 15 breeds most commonly found in shelters.)
The belief that purebred dogs are more prone to genetic disorders stems from the idea that selecting for specific traits narrows the gene pool. Random mating in mixed breed dogs is thought to increase “hybrid vigor” leading to greater health and resistance to disease.
To test this theory, a team of researchers analyzed the medical records of 90,000 purebred, mixed breed, and designer dogs (like Puggles and Goldendoodles) that had been patients at UC Davis’ veterinary medical teaching hospital between 1995 and 2010.
27,254 of the dogs had at least one of 24 genetic disorders while the other 62,750 served as control dogs. The disorders included different cancers, heart diseases, thyroid conditions, orthopedic problems, and miscellaneous disorders such as allergies, epilepsy, liver shunts, eye conditions and bloat.
The team discovered that the prevalence of 10 of the 24 genetic disorders were significantly greater in purebred dogs:
- Aortic stenosis
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Elbow dysplasia
- Atopy or allergic dermatitis
- Total epilepsy
- Portosystemic shunt
Only one disorder – ruptured cranial cruciate ligament – occurred more frequently in mixed breed dogs, but the risk was significantly higher at 30%.
The other 13 disorders occurred at about the same rate in mixed and purebred dogs. These conditions included all forms of cancer examined – hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and osteosarcoma; four cardiac disorders; Cushing’s Disease and Addison’s Disease; lens luxations of the eye; and two very common orthopedic issues – hip dysplasia and patellar luxation.
Based on the data, the researchers concluded that while purebred dogs are more susceptible to certain genetic diseases, half of the conditions tested were just as likely to appear in dogs of mixed parentage. Based on this information, it is inaccurate to say that mutts are inherently “healthier” than purebreds.
Another harmful rumor is the idea that shelter dogs – which tend to be primarily mixed breeds – are less healthy due to their increased exposure to illnesses. Dr. Evan Antin told People Pets that the most common veterinary concerns found in shelter dogs tend to be “minor, treatable and inexpensive to deal with.”
These problems include skin conditions, external and internal parasites, and kennel cough. While there can certainly be serious complications from parasites like ticks and heartworms, all of these problems are highly treatable.
Whether you have your heart set on rescuing a shelter pet or bringing home a purebred puppy, you shouldn’t let stereotypes stop you! Thoroughly research the breed, seek out a reputable breeder, rescue group or shelter, and have a veterinarian examine your new dog right away.
Health is never a guarantee, but with the proper knowledge, preparation and care, you can greatly improve your chances of bringing home a healthy dog!