10 Popular Dog Breeds Prone to Serious Health Issues

As dog breeds have evolved, genetic health issues are affecting an increasing number of canines. In fact, according to a study on inherited disease in dogs, some breeds are so saturated with health problems that they need an injection of new DNA to generate healthy dogs again.

Adopting dogs from shelters instead of breeders is great for a number of reasons, including a decreased risk of inherited health issues. Although a dog’s health largely depends on individual circumstances, here are 10 popular dog breeds prone to serious medical conditions that could use a change in breeding practices.

10 Popular Dog Breeds Prone to Serious Health Issues

1. Basset hound

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Platelet dysfunction, seborrhea

Basset hounds originated in Belgium and France (“basset” means “low” in French) as hunting companions, according to the American Kennel Club. Their superb nose is only second to the bloodhound in its tracking ability. But their droopy features can cause them several health issues.

According to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database, the most critical conditions associated with the breed are platelet dysfunction (blood clotting problems) and seborrhea (chronic skin issues). Other disorders directly related to the breed standard are ectropion and entropion (abnormal, irritating rolling of the eyelids), exposure keratopathy syndrome (increased tear evaporation and corneal exposure) and intervertebral disk disease.

2. Bernese mountain dog

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Meningitis, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, histiocytosis

The good-natured Bernese mountain dog began its story as a farm dog around Bern, Switzerland. It was a multipurpose canine — driving cattle, hauling loads, guarding farms and serving as an affectionate companion, according to the AKC. Sadly, these sweet dogs only live about seven to 10 years and can face several medical disorders.

According to the disorders database, Berners are susceptible to a particular type of meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord) that is believed to have an inherited component. They’re also prone to histiocytosis, an accumulation of cells (histiocytes) that can be malignant.  Plus, subaortic stenosis (a heart defect) and entropion (abnormal, irritating eyelid rolling) are frequent in the breed.

3. Boxer

a boxer sitting in grassCredit: SStajic/Getty Images

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, corneal dystrophy, degenerative myelopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, subaortic stenosis

Boxers are an ancient dog breed, dating back to 2500 B.C., according to the AKC. As the breed evolved, the dogs worked as hunters, herders, protectors, service animals and more. Even though the breed appears strong on the surface, it might have some health problems lurking.

Boxers are prone to arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (also known as Boxer cardiomyopathy), a heart condition that causes erratic heartbeats. Some also might develop dilated cardiomyopathy or subaortic stenosis — more diseases concerning the heart. Plus, they’re predisposed to degenerative myelopathy (a progressive spinal cord disease) and eye problems.

4. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Mitral valve dysplasia, chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia

The sweet face of a Cavalier King Charles spaniel immediately conveys its affectionate, gentle demeanor. Toy spaniels were favorites of European nobility, though the Cavaliers we know today have more domed skulls and flatter faces than they did in King Charles’ time, according to the AKC. And that’s a source of some of their inherited health issues.

An estimated 95 percent of Cavaliers inherit chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia. “The back part of the skull is too small for the parts of the brain that are contained therein (the cerebellum and brainstem),” the Canine Inherited Disorders Database says. “These push against the foramen magnum (the opening from the skull to the spinal canal), causing obstruction of varying degrees, and thus abnormal movement and pressure of cerebrospinal fluid.” Pain is the most common symptom, though many dogs remain asymptomatic. Cavaliers also are prone to heart and eye issues, as well as brachycephalic syndrome (airway obstruction due to their short heads).

5. Dachshund

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Acanthosis nigricans, intervertebral disk disease

The friendly, alert little dachshunds are famous for their low, elongated silhouettes. Being so low to the ground made them excellent companions for hunting badgers in subterranean dens, according to the AKC. But continuing breeding to accentuate their trademark body type has led to their greatest health risks.

Like basset hounds, dachshunds are prone to intervertebral disk disease, thanks to their short legs and long backs. “Disk herniation in these dogs occurs at a relatively young age (3 to 6 years), commonly occurs at several sites in the back, and causes intense pain,” according to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database. Dachshunds are almost the only dogs to inherit the primary form of acanthosis nigricans, a skin disorder that causes hyperpigmentation, thickened skin, hair loss, itchiness and infections.

6. English bulldog

closeup of the face of an English bulldogCredit: badmanproduction/Getty Images

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Brachycephalic syndrome, hip dysplasia, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), pulmonic stenosis, ventricular septal defect

Bulldogs are extremely recognizable for their blocky, wrinkled heads, pushed-in noses and underbites. And these features that have been exaggerated over decades of breeding now cause them several serious health issues.

Like other short-faced dogs, all varieties of bulldogs are prone to brachycephalic syndrome. They also might experience breathing problems from hypoplastic trachea, or an abnormal growth of cartilage that narrows the airway, according to the disorders database. Plus, they tend to inherit heart conditions, and many end up with fold dermatitis (skin inflammation) due to their wrinkles. And they often require medical intervention when giving birth because their bodies cannot safely carry out labor, according to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.

7. German shepherd

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Degenerative myelopathy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, hemophilia, hip dysplasia, renal cystadenocarcinoma and nodular dermatofibrosis, pannus/chronic superficial keratitis, panosteitis, perianal fistula

The loyal, courageous German shepherd has been a reliable working dog for generations. They descended from German herding dogs and long were used on farms before they became popular as police and service dogs, according to the AKC. Although they’re typically strong, agile dogs, their health must be closely monitored.

A disorder that affects many German shepherds is degenerative myelopathy, a progressive spinal cord disease that ultimately causes paralysis. Plus, hip dysplasia — which also affects mobility — is common in the breed.

8. Golden retriever

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, retinal dysplasia, subaortic stenosis

Golden retrievers are popular for a reason. They’re friendly, smart and extremely devoted. Goldens were developed in the 1800s in the Scottish Highlands to be valuable gundogs, according to the AKC. Since then, they’ve found roles in all corners of the dog world. But unfortunately, many end up facing some critical health complications.

Goldens are vulnerable to elbow and hip dysplasia, as well as eye problems that can cause irritation and loss of vision, according to the disorders database. Plus, cancer notoriously affects the breed, though it hasn’t yet been determined to what extent genetics plays a role in that, according to VetStreet.

9. Great Dane

Great Dane restingCredit: sprewett/Getty Images

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Dilated cardiomyopathy, cervical vertebral instability, gastric dilatation-volvulus, hip dysplasia

Great Danes certainly make a statement. Weighing up to 175 pounds and standing as tall as 32 inches at the shoulder, they do take some commitment to keep them happy, healthy and well-fed — though most are friendly, patient and gentle giants, according to the AKC.

Their impressive stature also can be the source of certain inherited disorders. Like other dogs with deep and narrow chests, Danes are prone to gastric dilatation-volvulus, also referred to as bloat. This is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air and twists on itself, interfering with blood flow, according to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database. Danes also might develop cervical vertebral instability (spinal cord compression in the cervical region due to abnormal structure), as well as heart and eye problems.

10. Yorkshire terrier

  • Most significant genetic disorders: Patellar luxation, portosystemic shunt, tracheal collapse, retinal dysplasia

Yorkshire terriers might be known as adorable little lapdogs, but they got their start in the working class. Original Yorkies worked as rodent exterminators in textile mills and coal mines, according to the AKC. Once the breed received official recognition, its size decreased as Yorkies took up their lapdog role.

Yorkies commonly face eye issues, including entropion and retinal dysplasia, which can cause a loss of vision. They’re also prone to patellar luxation, a condition in which the kneecap slides out of place. Plus, some might inherit portosystemic shunt, which causes abnormal blood flow through the liver. And some develop tracheal collapse, a narrowing of the trachea that results in breathing issues and a harsh cough.

Main image credit: oleggoncharov/Getty Images

94 comments

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danii p5 months ago

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Glennis Whitney5 months ago

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Michael Friedmann
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