Meet the top 5 American dog breeds…and 19 of their diseases

When it comes to good health, are mutts better than purebreds?

This editorial courtesy of Dr. Patty Khuly,

At the risk of sounding like one of those pure breed hating veterinarians who would like nothing better than to eliminate all purebreds on the basis of their genetic diseases (I’ve been accused of this many a time), I bring you this topic: five top dog breeds and nineteen of their most popular diseases.

It’s a touchy subject, to be sure. Though it might seem like a no-brainer to attempt to showcase the most persistent dog diseases in our most popular dogs (after all, chances are you’ll be meeting one of them sometime soon), people can get all touchy about their pets’ genetics.

I guess this makes some sense. If you’re a breeder who’s working hard to eliminate lymphoma in your line of Golden Retrievers, being reminded that your breed still has a long way to go kind of sucks. I get it. And if you’re a Golden breeder who worries about any negative press for your breed, regardless of your attempts to remedy the situation via your breeding practices … well, then you’ll be (noisily) unhappy, too.

But here’s my take: Breeders need to be reminded that their breeds need work. Owners and prospective buyers/adopters need to know what they’re in for so they can make the best healthcare/financial decisions for their pets. Makes sense, right?

Pet health insurance companies think so. They’ve been (responsibly) highlighting the diseases individual breeds are more susceptible to. Not only is this helpful when deciding on a breed, it also helps explain why pet care (and pet insurance, by extension) might be more expensive for some purebreds.

To that end, Embrace Pet Insurance developed a breed library and a genetic disease library to accompany it (full disclosure: I authored over a hundred of these genetic disease articles). The two groups of articles are meant to cross-reference one another so as to help owners of purebreds understand which diseases to look out for and how best to avoid them or manage them.

Trupanion, another pet health insurance company, has addressed the same issue in a recent press release intended to highlight the biggest, baddest problems afflicting our top-five breeds of dogs.

Curious? I was. And I don’t think they’ll mind if I steal their thunder:

1. Labrador retriever

2. German shepherd

3. Yorkshire terrier

  • Patellar luxation
  • Achondroplasia (a genetic disorder causing dwarfism)
  • Legg-Perthes (a degenerative disease of the hip joint)
  • Portacaval shunts (a serious liver condition)

4. Beagle

  • Cherry Eye (a congenital eye defect)
  • Glaucoma
  • Epilepsy
  • Hip dysplasia

5. Golden retriever

Now, I’m not exactly sure how the people at Trupanion arrived at their stats, but these “breed warnings” seem fairly accurate. It’s a great eye-opener for those who may not have guessed at their dog’s genetic proclivities.

However, if I really wanted to know what I’m in for, breed-wise, I’d probably skip right on over to Embrace’s less sexy but more scientific rendering of the subject. I know I’m kind of biased … but what can I say? I prefer a more complete approach to the subject of genetic diseases in pets. Does that make me a pure breed hater? I don’t think so.

This article originally appeared here at