Are some breeds much more subject to inherited diseases than others?

April 13, 2012

Fantastic! You have finally decided to get a puppy. Dogs make a great difference to the quality of people’s lives especially to the life of the children. Kids and dogs have this unexplainable instant bond. Both would hit it off at first look. It is hoped that you have obtained the puppy from a reputable dealer and that you have fully researched the breed. The health of the dog would naturally be important. It would be heartbreaking especially to the child when the already well-loved pet of the family would start showing an inherited disorder. Imagine the anguish of the family if the dog has to be euthanized. Some dog breeds are more subject to inherited diseases more than others. These breeds are said to have a predisposition to some diseases as compared to other breeds. These genetic disorders are noted to be more prevalent in purebreds. Seven breeds of dogs namely the Toy Poodle, Mini Poodle, Bulldog, Boxer, Beagle, Boston Terrier and the American Cocker Spaniel are known to suffer from about 20 or more diseases of genetic origin. Ten breeds- the St. Bernard, Shetland Sheepdog, Pekingese, Labrador Retriever, Great Dane, Fox Terrier, GSD, Dachshund, Chihuahua and Collies are predisposed to separate inherited diseases.

A genetic abnormality can be due to a spontaneous mutation. The disorder can be caused by a toxin ingested or consumed by a pregnant dog. Inherited diseases on the other hand are commonly due to an abnormality in the genetic makeup. The inherited disease is from a defective gene of one or both parents. For instance Ectropion, a condition where the lower eyelid sags to expose the interior of the eyeball is commonly seen in Basset Hounds, Boxer, Bulldogs, American Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu and Labrador Retriever. Alaskan Malamutes and Beagles are predisposed to Chondrodysplasia. Dogs with this inherited disease are commonly put to sleep to spare them from the intense pain. Hip dysplasia is a common musculoskeletal disorder. This inherited orthopedic disease is more prevalent in large and giant breeds. Congenital deafness that occurs after a few weeks of age when the inner structure of the ears degenerates is prevalent in dogs with more whites in their coats. Congenital deafness is commonly seen in Dalmatian, Doberman Pinchers, Pointers, Rottweiler and Border Collies.

The importance of good nutrition and proper medical care that includes vaccinations and physical exams can never be stressed enough. An ailing pet would certainly need immediate medical attention but an owner can only do so much to ensure that the pet would be free from ailment especially if the pet is predisposed to inherited diseases. The dog may succumb to nutritional, parasitic and infectious diseases from the environment. These diseases are becoming less of a concern due to vaccination programs, advanced knowledge on nutrition as well as new diagnostic methods and treatments. Fortunately, genetic studies have reduced inherited disorders to a large extent. The frequency of occurrence of inherited diseases was reduced through good breeding practices. Studies conducted on how the disease was inherited, on how to diagnose the disorders as early as possible and studies on how to recognize the carriers of the disease has lessened the occurrence of genetic disorders. Once the specific pattern was established, dogs that have a high risk of developing a condition are not used in breeding programs. Serious breeders are spending a lot of financial resources, time and effort to outbreed the genetic diseases. However, inherited diseases cannot be totally eliminated. Puppy mills and breeders out to get the most profit from their breeding programs would breed dogs left and right without screening the parents… unconcerned with developing dogs of poor genetic health.

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