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

Updated on June 29, 2010

Getting a dog should not be a spur of the moment decision. True, very few people can say no to a cuddly and adorable puppy especially if it has decided to play up to its audience. However, a responsible potential dog owner should fully research the breed. Remember, when you get a dog you will invest not only for the food, for the medical care and for the things that will make the dog comfortable. You and the family will form an emotional attachment with the dog. It would be heartbreaking if the dog that the family has grown to love will have to be put to sleep because of a serious and painful hereditary disease. Dogs commonly inherit the abnormalities of their parents but some breeds are more predisposed to inherited diseases than others.

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Breeds prone to inherited diseases

American Cocker Spaniel, Boston Terrier, Beagle, Boxer, Bulldog, Toy and Mini Poodle are the breeds known to suffer from about 20 different inherited diseases. Ten dog breeds that include the Chihuahua, Dachshund, the Collie breeds, German Shepherd Labrador Retriever, Pekingese, Shetland Sheepdog and St. Bernard are subject to about ten separate inherited disorders.

What is an inherited disease?

All dog owners would want their pets to be disease-free. Unfortunately, dog health problems can never be totally avoided. Premium food, best care, regular visits to the vet may lessen the occurrence of diseases acquired through environmental conditions but a disease inherited by a dog from its parents would somehow be difficult to avoid. The abnormality in the genetic makeup of the parent breed plays an important role for the development of the inherited disorder.

How are diseases inherited?

A dog is made up of billions of cells with nucleus that contains the information necessary to regulate the form as well as the function of a body tissue. This information in the form of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule contains the genes of the mother and the father of the animal. An abnormality in the genetic makeup of the father, the mother or both parents will be inherited by the offspring. This means that the congenital/hereditary disorders will depend to a greater or lesser extent on the genetic factors of the breed. Purebreds are believed to have a higher rate of inherited diseases mainly because breeders wanting to develop a breed with a desired trait or with an aesthetic appeal have developed dogs with inherited diseases as well.

Can inherited diseases be reduced?

Breeders have taken measures to lessen if not to totally eliminate inherited diseases. A breeding specimen has to pass DNA testing to detect a genetic gene that can be a potential inherited disease carrier. Dogs have to undergo hip tests, x-ray and eye examinations. Dogs that passed the screening will be given an OFA certification (for hip tests) and CERF certification (for eye disorders).


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