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By Jamie Stowell
13th April 2022

common health problems of popular dog breeds

Reviewed by Dr. Ailsa Rutherford
Wednesday 13th April 2022

Certain dog breeds have become popular for plenty of reasons. Usually, it’s appearance and personality that draw people to a specific breed. But what happens with popularity is overbreeding and selective breeding that reduces genetic variation, increasing adverse genetic health conditions and disease risks.

As a veterinarian of nearly 20 years, I have seen many genetic health conditions affect our favourite breeds. But which breeds are prone to what conditions? Keep reading to find out!

The #1 Good Boy: The Golden Retriever

One of the all-around best breeds is the Golden Retriever. This loyal, intelligent, and very friendly dog is an excellent addition to any family, but they come with their own list of common conditions that can affect their health.

Golden Retrievers are prone to issues like:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia, leading to early onset of arthritis in their joints
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Skin allergiescausing itchy, sensitive skin and ear infections
  • Heart conditions such as subvalvular aortic stenosis arising from a developmental genetic issue
  • Eye issues such as glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy

While Goldens are generally healthy overall, these conditions can certainly plague them. Responsible breeders will have the parents screened for hip and elbow dysplasia and congenital problems with their eyes and overall cardiac health. Unfortunately, arthritis, allergies and cancer can happen even with a pair of healthy parents.

The Fan Favorite: Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers have been the #1 ranked breed for over 30 years. Indeed an impressive number! These dogs are robust, lively and loyal, making a wonderful pet for anybody. Unfortunately, their long reign of popularity has created a list of congenital health problems that no owner wants to see.

Labradors can be affected by health issues such as:

  • Skin allergies; itchy, sensitive skin and ear infections
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Heart conditions
  • Eye issues; progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia, leading to osteoarthritis

This list of health conditions looks similar to the issues seen in Golden Retrievers. Many large breed dogs like these two tend to be predisposed to similar health problems. Hip and elbow dysplasia, poor cardiac health, and eye issues can be bred out of a family line if the breeder is responsible and using breeding lines that are screened and tested for these common issues.

Labs are prone to obesity and conditions like hypothyroidism, so monitor your pup for excessive weight gain. Again, like in the Golden Retriever, Labradors can still develop osteoarthritis, cancer and allergies, no matter how healthy their parents are. 

A Handsome Breed: The German Shepherd Dog

Holding the second-place spot for the most popular breed, according to AKC, is the German Shepherd Dog. They are handsome, strong and protective, making excellent guard dogs and companions. GSDs are quite intelligent and have an intense desire to work and make their owners happy. While these dogs can be quite healthy, they are certainly not exempt from having their own list of unwanted health conditions.

German Shepherds can suffer from health problems like:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia leading to osteoarthritis
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Bloat or gastric dilation volvulus (GDV)
  • Panosteitis
  • Perianal fistulas
  • Skin allergies; itchy, sensitive skin and ear infections
  • Eye issues such as corneal dermoids

This beautiful breed has a slew of conditions that can affect them, so you must do your research and find a reputable breeder who believes in responsibly breeding out bad traits and introducing healthy, new ones. You can avoid many problems with good breeding, ruling out hip and elbow dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy (a condition that affects the spine). Panosteitis is a problem encountered in young GSDs where their bones become inflamed during the growth phase. Bloat, allergies and arthritis cannot always be avoided, even with good breeding.

Chinese Royalty: The Pug

Here comes the Pug! The mischievous and funny breed once created for and adored by Chinese emperors dating back to 400 B.C. They are entertaining and full of personality, so much so that there is an old Latin phrase for these flat-faced dogs, “a lot in a little,” which sums them up. The Pug’s long history means this breed will have a lengthy list of health problems. And their anatomy certainly doesn’t help.

Pugs can often be affected by health conditions such as:

  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (difficulty breathing due to anatomy)
  • Eye issues; ulcers and infections
  • Encephalitis
  • Luxating patellae (kneecaps)
  • Skin allergies; itchy, sensitive skin and ear infections
  • Joint pain and arthritis

This breed's extreme popularity for many decades means that there was an abundance of over-breeding which led to the many anatomical issues with extremely short noses, pinched nostrils and elongated soft palates. These undesirable physical traits can cause respiratory problems such as laryngeal paralysis and Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, often requiring surgery at an early age to correct.

Problems with eyes in Pugs are very common, as their large eyes are prone to corneal ulcers, dry eye and infections. Encephalitis is a genetic condition in Pugs that will lead to neurological issues like epilepsy and coma. Allergies, joint pain and arthritis are also quite common in this breed but are typically not something you can predict or prevent.

The Smartest Breed: Border Collie

The Border Collie is a workaholic breed that is sharp as a tack and highly athletic. They have a keen eye for jobs that include herding animals and performing agility or stunts for a crowd. While they are a fantastic breed, they are also one that requires hours of exercise and mental stimulation. Otherwise, anxiety and unwanted compulsive behaviours can set in. The Border Collie is less popular than the previous dogs, but they are not exempt from the trend of breed-specific health problems.

Border Collies are susceptible to health conditions such as:

  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety and compulsive behaviours
  • Eye issues; lens luxations, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and Collie eye anomaly (CEA)
  • Hip dysplasia and arthritis
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Skin allergies; itchy, sensitive skin

While selective breeding of Border Collie is not as prevalent as with Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Shepherds and Pugs, this breed still has a decent list of common health conditions. Many of these are congenital, such as eye issues, joint problems and epilepsy. Patent ductus arteriosus is a congenital heart defect that is known to affect Border Collies. A veterinarian can perform some tests to help diagnose and maintain these health problems.

Want to know more about the Border Collie breed, read The Border Collie: A Closer Look at This Intelligent Breed,

The Tireless Australian Kelpie

The (Australian) Kelpie is an athletic, intelligent breed known for its impressive stamina and herding skills. Taking quickly to most chores, agility tasks and jobs, this breed will work tirelessly for their favourite people, enjoying it the entire time. The Kelpie is similar to an Australian Cattle Dog but a little easier and less demanding for first-time dog owners. They are less overbred than the previous breeds but still have their list of common health issues.

The Australian Kelpie is prone to health issues like:

  • Hip dysplasia and luxating patellas (loose kneecaps)
  • Cerebellar abiotrophy
  • Eye issues; progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Anxiety and compulsive behaviours

For the most part, the Kelpie has fewer health concerns than many other popular breeds. They are still susceptible to the same orthopedic issues that dozens of others are prone to, like hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. Congenital issues with progressive retinal atrophy and cerebellar abiotrophy are common conditions in herding breeds (and many others) such as Collies.

Anxiety and behaviours with compulsiveness are common in breeds that are as high energy and as intelligent as the Kelpie. They require hours of physical activity and mental stimulation to really see them at their finest.

Conclusion: Popular Dog Breeds and Their Health Problems

No matter the chronic conditions or common health problems that are associated with these breeds, they are still wonderful dogs that can make excellent companions for families and single people alike. Just remember to do your research and find a reputable and responsible breeder to minimise the occurrence of some of these common and congenital health issues. 

 

Photo by Berkay Gumustekin on Unsplash

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