In this article we are going to discuss Dog breed standards and breed-related illness. Dogs are the popular choice when it comes to selecting a house pet. In addition to a wide majority of mongrels and mixed breeds, there are about 400 pedigree dogs as well. Such pedigree dogs have been selectively bred over the years. Usually, as different breeds were selectively bred to bring a new breed altogether with a specific objective in mind – that is, guard dogs, sniffer dogs, herding dogs – many a time the appearance took precedence over the quality of breed. Over the years, this emphasis on appearance at the cost of maintaining quality, led to breeds with a predisposition towards certain diseases. There are a lots of common health problems in dogs that needed to be taken care in starting. In order to make sure dog get cure or even do not get infected with any of these health issues dog owners need to have some short of basic information about some of the most breed specific health problems in dogs.
Current and Future Breeding Trends – Let’s Explore Basic Information
Breeding trends being followed currently are indeed a cause for concern. With a mad rush to create exotic dogs, or so-called “designer dogs”, breeders as well as owners are resorting to unnatural breeding techniques. Cloning and artificial insemination feature prominently in current breeding trends.
Breeders, in a bid to create new dogs with certain breed-specific traits end up inadvertently promoting physical characteristics that are nothing short of an abnormality. Such breed-specific traits include the supposition that a Pug must have immense, globular eyes; the Chinese Shar Pei should have a frowning expression and loose skin; a Pekinese must have quite a short head and nose; a Dachshund should have a long back with short legs; a Bulldog should have a large skull.
While such breed-specific guidelines are followed, the breeder should also keep in mind to take the necessary precautions so as to avoid a specification morphing into an abnormality. For example, while a Dachshund’s body should be long and the legs short, the body ought not to be too close to the ground thereby hampering the free movement of the dog. Similarly, while a Bulldog’s head should be quite large in proportion to the rest of his body, the head ought not to be too large so as to appear deformed.
Another reason for certain breed-specific traits turning into abnormalities is owing to several instances of in-breeding, also referred to as “line breeding”. Inbreeding – that is, selective breeding between cousins or half-siblings, nephew and aunt – can greatly affect the quality of the gene. The genetic diversity of the breed gets adversely affected in cases of inbreeding. There is a wonderful article that explain General Eye Problems in Dogs and how to get rid of them.
The Prevalence of Breed-Related Disease and Abnormality
Nowadays where everyone is looking for healthy dog breeds, there have been many instances of breed specific health problems in dogs or breed-related disease and abnormality, in the absence of a comprehensive statistics, no conclusions can be drawn. A lack of health yardsticks for the various breeds implies that prospective pet owners usually have no idea regarding the health predispositions of the pet that they are bringing home. Ignorance of such health trends of their dog’s breed makes them ill-equipped to handle diseases when they crop up eventually. If, hypothetically speaking, there were indeed some statistical data available listing the various breeds and their predisposition towards specific diseases, the work of the pet parent would be that much simpler. Armed with such data, the prospective pet parent would be fully aware, at the time of selection, as to what he was getting himself into.
It is usually seen that pure-bred pedigreed dogs generally live on an average of 8 to 13 years. On the other hand, mongrels live much longer, usually an average of 16 years. Also, the health care costs of a pedigreed dog are generally more as compared to the health care costs for maintaining a mongrel.
Dog Breeds Affected by Hereditary Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
While diseases can affect any dog, there are certain breeds that show a predisposition towards certain diseases. This often make it more difficult to find a healthy dog breeds out of many options. Large-sized dogs are generally seen to be afflicted with hip and elbow dysplasia. Disease of the hip and elbow can be debilitating for a dog. The term ‘dysplasia’ is used to refer to a deformity of bone structure or abnormality related to growth. Dysplasia, when affects the hip, can cause bone loss, pain, inflammation, as well as looseness of the joint. Eventually leading to arthritis, dysplasia can be immensely painful for the afflicted dog. Usually, hip and elbow dysplasia goes unnoticed till it is quite apparent, primarily because a dog tends to take such joint pains in his stride and rarely act as if he is in pain.
Among the various healthy dog breeds, researchers have revealed that dogs with the lowest risk for developing dysplasia include, among others – Border Collie, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Boxer, Rottweiler, Golden Retriever.
Dogs breeds at moderate risk include, among others – Pug, Bulldog, Beagle.
High-risk dogs breeds include, among others – English Mastiffs, Great Danes, Basset Hounds.
While certain dogs are at a comparatively higher risk for developing hip and elbow dysplasia, instances within the breed might vary greatly. That is, while a particular Great Dane might be severely affected by dysplasia, another might have a mild instance instead.
Breeds Affected by Inherited Eye Diseases
On an estimate, between 25 % to 35 % of all dog breeds are known to be affected by at least one inherited condition of the eye or eyelid. These inherited conditions of the eye include diseases or abnormalities of the retina, eyeball, eye lens or cornea; leading to partial loss of vision or, in certain cases, complete blindness. Cataracts and glaucoma are also considered to be inherited breed-specific diseases. Also, retinal detachment as well as retinal degeneration tend to affect certain breeds more than the others. In addition to such diseases of the eye, eyelid problems can also lead to inflammation and immense pain.
On the basis of research, it has been found that Dog breeds with a predisposition towards cataract include, among others – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, German Shepherd, Boston Terrier, Bichon Frise.
Primary glaucoma, on the other hand, has been seen to usually affect, among others – Siberian Husky, Great Dane, Basset Hound.
Degeneration of the retina, as per research, usually affects, among others – Border Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Irish Setter, Cocker Spaniel.
There are also many diseases that are associated with a particular Dog breed, and are intensified by selective breeding. Such diseases include:
- Ectropion – eyelid rolling out
- Entropion – eyelid turned inwards, as that of a Pug
- Trichiasis – skin folds around the eye can cause facial hair to irritate the eyes
- Distichiasis – a condition in which an eyelash can grow from an unusual place on the eyelid
- Trichiasis – eyelashes growing inwards
- Ectopic cilia – single or multiple hair growing within the eyelid
- Dry eye – tear glands malfunction, leading to dryness
- Corneal dystrophy – cornea becomes opaque
- Microphthalmia – genetically very small eyes
Usually the dog breeds in which eyelid defects (trichiasis, distichiasis, ectopic cilia) are more commonly seen include, among others – Basset Hound, Shar Pei, Collie, Chow Chow, Pug, English Bulldog.
Dog Breeds Affected by Heart and Respiratory Disease
Heart and respiratory diseases can seriously affect dogs; even young dogs are at risk. Research has revealed the predisposition of certain breeds for developing heart and respiratory ailments.
The most common breed-specific respiratory disease is Brachycephalic Upper Airway Syndrome, a disease that affects dogs with flat faces and very short noses. This syndrome includes a number of deformities, such as – narrow nostrils, laryngeal deformities and a soft palate. All these can lead to breathing problems.
Breeds that are most at risk for developing Brachycephalic Upper Airway Syndrome are, among others – Pekinese, English Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Pug. Dogs with flat faces and small eyes are also prone to heart disease as well. As their constricted nostrils entail more effort for breathing on the part of the dog, thereby causing greater stress on the heart, heart disease is indeed quite inevitable.
Breed-Related Skin Problem in Dog
This is one of the most common health problems in dogs. Breed-specific skin diseases lead to inflammation, itching, ulcers and open sores; which in turn cause bacterial infections.
Seborrhea, a disease caused by the overproduction of the sebaceous gland, is usually witnessed in Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, Shar Pei and West Highland White Terrier. In a Doberman or an Irish Setter, seborrhea starts as initial mild scaling which tends to progress into dry generalized seborrhea. Seborrhea in a Shar Pei or Basset Hound, on the other hand, causes smelly and greasy skin with indiscriminate itchy patches on the skin.
Dermatomyositis, a dermal condition that causes ulcers in the anus and axilla or the so-called armpit of the dog. At times, ulcers can also be found in the mouth, eyelids and anus as well. Shetland Shepards and Collies are most at risk for developing dermatomyositis.
Intertrigo, or dermatitis of the skin fold, is most common health problems in dogs that have drooping or lose skin. This disease is caused by the incessant friction between the folds of the skin, leading to pus formation, ulcers, infection and emanation of a foul odor. Dogs more at risk for developing intertrigo are Cocker Spaniels, Pug, St Bernard, Shar Pei; among others. While some dogs develop intertrigo in the facial folds, other might develop it in the folds of the body instead.
There are also certain allergic skin conditions that are breed-specific as well. This breed specific health problems in dogs can be cured easily if taken care at early stage.
Inherited Skeletal Problems of Small and Long-backed Breeds
Problems related to the back and neck generally afflict breeds that have shorter legs as compared to the rest of their bodies. Causing pain, such conditions hamper the everyday activities of the dog. Dogs that are suffering from diseases of the skeletal system will have to be prevented from jumping as well as climbing up and down the stairs, to prevent any further damage to the bones.
A common health problems in dogs associated with the skeletal system is that of luxating patella or the dislocation of the knee or ‘patella’. An inherited abnormality, the dislocated kneecap is commonly seen, among others – in Terriers, Pekinese, Poodles, Pomeranians, Basset Hounds, Shih Tzus, Boxers. A luxating patella makes the dog walk with a limp, leading to osteoarthritis eventually.
Another common health problems in dogs is the intervertebral disease seen in chondrodystrophoid breeds. This specific condition is linked to dwarfism and is seen in dogs with legs disproportionately shorter as compared to the rest of the body. Chondrodystrophoid healthy dog breeds include, among others – French Bulldog, Pekinese, Miniature Poodle, Shih Tzu, Welsh Corgi, Lhasa Apso.
Bone Tumors Health Problems in Dogs Breeds
This can also be considered as a breed specific health problems in dogs. While dogs of all sizes and breeds are at risk, it is generally seen that larger-sized or giant breeds are more prone to developing bone tumors. In dogs, bone tumors are linked with rapid growth of bones in the initial years. All the excess weight that has to be borne leads to a great amount of stress on the bones. The link between size and bone tumors is further reinforced by the fact that bone tumors are quite rare in dogs that weigh below 15 kilograms.
Bone tumors are commonly seen in the larger dog breeds such as St Bernard, Rottweiler, Irish Wolfhound and Great Dane.
A deaf dog is indeed at a disadvantage. Difficult to train and manage, deaf dogs are also more prone to be run over by cars. While Dalmatians are generally believed to be the breed that is most likely to be born deaf, congenital deafness can also be seen in dogs such as, among others – Jack Russell Terriers, Beagles, English Bull Terriers, Old English Sheepdogs, Shetland Sheepdogs.
Deafness, even in one ear, ought not to be overlooked when selecting a dog for breeding purposes. Even if one parent is deaf in one ear, chances are high that the offspring might be born with congenital deafness in both ears.
There are certain measures that can be adopted for minimizing the predisposition of certain breeds to specific diseases. At the time of selecting dogs for breeding, breeders should pay attention to the common health problems in dogs as well. Screening of the dogs should be encouraged. Veterinarians should educate people about the various breeds and the diseases that they are prone to be afflicted with. All things said and done, for prospective pet parents, adopting a mixed breed from the shelter is probably better in the long run. With a marked lesser predisposition towards congenital diseases as compared to pure-bred pedigree dogs, shelter dogs usually prove to be a much better alternative in the long run. In addition, dogs from a pound or shelter come with a heart overflowing with gratitude.