Purebred Dogs Frequently Have Hereditary Conditions


How much is that purebred dog in the window? Chances are he or she is considerably more than the price tag you see, because purebred dogs frequently have hereditary conditions that can put a significant emotional and financial strain on pet owners/pet parents.

Purebred dogs are available from shelters and rescues, too

Approximately 170 purebred breeds are listed with the American Kennel Club, with dozens more on a waiting list to become eligible for inclusion in the AKC list, and a Foundation Stock Service Breeds list that includes rare breeds. Most of these dogs have genetic hereditary health conditions that can cause mild to severe, even fatal symptoms.

Individuals who are in the market for a purebred dog can turn to a variety of sources, including reputable breeders, reputable pet stores, purebred rescue organizations, and even shelters. Few people may be aware that, according to the Humane Society of the United States, on average 25 to 30 percent of animals in shelters across the United States are purebreds. You can likely get your best economic bargain—and save an animal in need—from a rescue organization or a shelter.

Regardless of where you get your purebred puppy or full-grown dog, you should consider the possible complications associated with genetically transmitted conditions, of which there are about 500, according to Natasha Ashton, cofounder of Petplan, a pet insurance company. (See “Guide to Hereditary and Congenital Diseases in Dogs” for more than 350 of these disorders.)


Some dogs, such as the Arctic Husky, Finnish Spitz, and Norwegian Dunkerhound, have only one or two conditions associated with the breed. Others, including the American Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle, and Standard Poodle, have three dozen or more congenital or hereditary conditions that could affect the dog you choose to add to your family.

Like humans, dogs can suffer from get acne, blindness, various cancers, cardiomyopathy, dermatitis, diabetes, epilepsy, goiter, hemophilia, melanoma, spina bifida, and vasculitis. Here are a few of the main hereditary health problems pet parents may face and the breeds associated with them.

  • Allergies: Like their pet parents, dogs are susceptible to allergies. Some breeds that experience this ailment include the American Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Chinese Shar-Pei, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzer, Pug, Scottish Terrier, and Standard Poodle.
  • Cataracts: Similar to their human companions, a great many dog breeds are susceptible to cataracts, in which changes in the structure of the eye’s lens results in cloudiness and in many cases, blindness. Among some of the dogs affected are the Afghan Hound, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bichon Frise, Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, Irish Water Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, Papillon, Old English Sheepdog, and Standard Dachshund.
  • Entropion: Dogs with this condition have an abnormal rolling in of their eyelid. Size is not an issue when it comes to this problem, as you can see from this partial list of those affected: Akita, Basset Hound, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bichon Frise, Bloodhound, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, German Wirehaired Pointer, Irish Wolfhound, Lhasa Apso, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, and Siberian Husky.
  • Hip dysplasia: Larger breeds of dogs, such as Bernese Mountain Dog, Bullmastiff, Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Komondor, Labrador Retriever, and Newfoundland, are likely to have this degenerative malformation or subluxation of the hip joints.
  • Thrombocytopenia: A condition in which the number of platelets in the blood are abnormally low, which causes pinpoint hemorrhages in the skin and mucosa. This condition can be seen in the Italian Greyhound, Miniature Schnauzer, Pekingnese, Rottweiler, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier and Swiss Mountain Dog, among others.

Just because you choose a purebred dog does not mean you will get one that is plagued with medical problems. However, it is wise to be alert to potential health problems and to be prepared for possible expensive care, perhaps even setting aside some money each month for costs above and beyond food and general maintenance.

You may choose to purchase pet insurance, but be sure to shop around. Not all pet insurance companies will insure pets that have hereditary conditions. Pet insurance is similar to human health insurance in that it has a list of what it will and will not cover, a range of deductibles, and copays. Pet Insurance Review is one website that helps pet owners shop for pet insurance.

Bringing a dog into your home and your heart can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. If you are considering a purebred dog, do your homework first and investigate possible hereditary conditions that may affect the dog you choose. Also, check out purebred rescue organizations and shelters. They can be an excellent source of purebred dogs who need a loving home.

American Kennel Club
Dodds WJ. Guide to Hereditary and Congenital Diseases in Dogs.