Popular breeds and health issues

If you are considering getting a dog, it is important to spend some time choosing the breed or type that is right for you. There are several factors to consider before making a decision such as your current lifestyle and the adjustments you are willing to make for a dog. Special considerations should be made if you have children or other pets and it is important that you look into a breed from a training and obedience viewpoint too. After all you will be living and working with this dog for many years, and depending on your lifestyle and home setup, you may be much better suited to one dog breed over another. There are more than 200 breeds recognised in the UK alone, plus all those adorable crossbreeds and mixed breeds in infinite variety.

The development of dog breeds for specific purposes has led to more variations than most other species – just look at the gigantic Great Dane beside the tiny Chihuahua. The major advantage of choosing a pedigree (pure bred) is predictability. You can be fairly certain that you will get predetermined size, coat length and texture, character, energy level and susceptibility to illness. Unfortunately, purebred dogs can suffer from a host of health problems. Some problems occur due to inbreeding, while others are caused by the inability to breed out undesired dominant health traits.

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers are great family pets, as they are friendly, eager to please, and easy to train. The Lab has been the most popular dog breed several years running and many people choose them simply because they are stable and well-known. However, Labs are prone to several health conditions, including cataracts (the clouding of the eye lens), hip dysplasia (the improper fit of the hip joints), patellar luxation (a displaced kneecap), Osteochondritis Dissecans (a cartilage disease) and arthritis (a degenerative joint disease).

2. German Shepherd

German Shepherds offer a sense of security for a family due to their reputations as police dogs and protectors. They are also very intelligent and loyal. This breed is prone to cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart), dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), elbow and hip dysplasia (the improper fit of the elbow and the hip joints) and haemangiosarcoma (a fatal form of cancer).

3. Yorkshire terrier

Yorkies are fearless and bold and love adventure, which is ironic considering their tiny bodies. Patellar luxation is the main health concern for this breed, but they can also suffer from achondroplasia (a genetic disorder causing dwarfism), Legg-Perthes (a degenerative disease of the hip joint), and portacaval shunts (a serious liver condition).

4. Golden retriever

Like the Lab, the Golden Retriever is a family-friendly pet who loves to please. Some of this breed’s most common health concerns are elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma (a disease that causes immune system cancer), and progressive retinal atrophy (deterioration of the retina).

5. Beagle

The beagle is known to be one of the happiest of all dog breeds. This dog will love his family unconditionally and is regarded as being a great pet for children. Beagles are prone to Cherry Eye (a congenital eye defect), glaucoma (excessive fluid in the eye), epilepsy (recurring seizures), and hip dysplasia.

6. Bulldog

The muscular American Bulldog possesses great strength, tenacity, determination, and confidence. They require plenty of exercise and can be aggressive towards other dogs unless properly socialised when young. These powerful animals can be strong-willed but respond well to training by a confident handler. Health-wise, they are prone to eye problems such as entropion and ectropion (eyelid abnormalities), hip and elbow dysplasia and osteosarcoma (a bone cancer).

7. Boxer

Boxers are extremely energetic dogs. They can be boisterous and bouncy and as long as they have a positive outlet for their exuberance, such as plenty of exercise, owner interaction and training, they make extremely loyal and affectionate pets. Boxers can suffer from a number of different heart problems including aortic stenosis (a narrowing of the major blood vessels) and dilated cardiomyopathy (a flabby, enlarged heart), eye problems such as cherry eye and progressive retinal atrophy (progressive blindness) and skin issues ranging from benign warts to malignant tumours.

8. Dachshund

The dachshund was originally bred to hunt badgers and the original type was considerably larger than the dachshund breed we see today. Although no longer bred for hunting, they still retain the characteristics of independence, courage, hardiness, and combativeness. This short-legged, relatively long-backed breed is prone to intervertebral disk disease (a chronic, painful back problem), seizures, obesity and often suffer from teeth and gum problems.

9. Poodle

There are three types of poodle; standard, miniature and toy. Extremely intelligent and loyal, these dogs are known for their happy and pleasant dispositions. They shed very little and so can make suitable pets for those people with animal allergies. These sturdy dogs generally enjoy a long and healthy life-span but the breed is not without its specific problems. Poodles of all sizes are prone to progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, mitral valve disease (a disease of the heart valves), hip dysplasia and auto-immune haemolytic anaemia (a condition where the body destroys it’s own red blood cells).

10. Shih Tsu

The Shih Tsu is an alert, lively little dog. Happy and hardy, it makes friends easily and responds well to consistent and patient training. They are prone to patellar luxation and intervertebral disk disease due to their long back and short legs. Shih tsus are also prone to otitis externa (an ear infection) eye problems such as cherry eye and early tooth loss. They are susceptible to developing respiratory problems due to stenotic nares (narrowed nostrils) which are a common feature of the breed. These dogs gain weight easily and are prone to obesity if over-fed.


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