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Top 10 Dog Breeds With the Most Health Issues

bulldogvet2Before I begin, let me just say that I love all dogs and want them all; but there are undeniably certain breeds that have much more health problems than others. Does this mean that you shouldn’t own them? Definitely not, but a prospective dog owner should be aware of what they are getting themselves into before they adopt or rescue their new canine companion. Nothing is worse than when a new owner blindly adopts a new dog only to realize they cannot deal with its high maintenance, resulting in said dog ending up back at the shelter. To avoid this horribly heartbreaking scenario, people need to arm themselves with the knowledge necessary to not only choose which dog is right for them, but to prepare for its future health needs! Here are the top 10 dogs that have the most health issues according to PetBreeds.com:


Poodle being examined for Patellar Luxation.

10. Miniature Poodle – Although all poodle variations, including the standard poodle and toy poodle have similar health issues – they generally have a long life expectancy. Although they live a long life, that life is filled with health issues that need to be dealt with by routine visits to the vet, preventative treatments, medications, and possible surgeries. Most of the health problems that arise with poodles are eye-related, such as Glaucoma (optic nerve damage that can result in blindness), Cataracts (clouding of the eye resulting in loss of vision), and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (vision loss caused by Retina degeneration).There are quite a bit of eyelash-related problems that are present in Poodles, such as Distichiasis/Entropion/Trichiasis; which each result in abnormal eyelash growth that causes pain and discomfort to the eye itself. Other health issues to look out for are Patellar Luxation (kneecap dislocation), Epilepsy (neurological disorder resulting in seizures), and Legg-Calvés-Perthes, a degeneration of vital bones (from the leg and hip) that can cause immobilization in dogs. So if you decide to get a Poodle, make sure to have them receive tests to ensure their eye, hip, and knee health is in tip top shape!


Newfoundland going through hydrotherapy to treat its hip and elbow Dysplasia!

9. Newfoundland – Known for their gigantic size and cuteness, Newfoundlands have similar health issues that other large dog breeds have; heart problems and Dysplasia of the hip and elbow. Many large and extra-large dog breeds unfortunately have heart issues due to their body being so big, because their comparatively small heart becomes weak from pumping so much blood all around the dog’s large circulatory system. As the dog grows older, Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis becomes a very real health risk, resulting in a decrease in blood flow to the heart, eventually leading to sudden death by Cardiac Arrest (heart attack). Regular heart checkups can keep track of this, looking for any signs of Pulmonic Stenosis (decrease of blood flow in the Pulmonary Artery) and Subaortic Stenosis (decreased blood flow in Aorta). Also due to large dogs’ size, hip and elbow Dysplasia is very common – a disorder in which the socket of the elbow/hip doesn’t match with the joint – causing massive pain in the form of Arthritis and Lameness. This again usually happens later in life, and can potentially be debilitating and cause immobility. Other afflictions to look out for are Osteochrondritis Dissecans (bone death due to loss of blood flow), Entropion/Ectropion (which affect the eyelid/eyelash and cause pain in the eye), Epilepsy, Cataracts, and Von Willebrand’s Disease, a blood-clotting disorder. As long as you have your Newfoundland’s heart and bone health monitored, you should be able to catch any of these illnesses before they get too out of control!


Apparently Hydrotherapy is very helpful for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, this Rottie is doing it too!

8. Rottweiler – Another large, stocky dog breed, Rottweilers are also prone to the same hip and elbow Dysplasia that Newfoundlands commonly experience. A key difference is the presence of a disorder known as Osteochondrosis – which is extremely common among Rotties. It is a bone disorder that arises when a Rottweiler puppy is 4-8 months old, when growth is happening too quickly and the cartilage isn’t properly maturing into hard bone tissue; resulting in weak and brittle bones. According to Orivet.com: “When the abnormal cartilage develops a fissure and a cartilage flap forms in a joint this is called Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), and joint pain and lameness is the result.” Basically this means that the cartilage becomes torn, and a defect in the form of a “cartilage flap” becomes a problem that will result in pain/lameness; unless corrected with surgery before Arthritis can occur. Besides Arthritis, Panosteitis can be a product of Osteochondrosis, as well as Von Willebrand’s Disease and Osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Also keep an eye out for Subaortic Stenosis, Entropion/Ectropion, and eye issues in the form of Cataracts, Epilepsy, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Make sure to keep a close eye on your Rottweiler’s heart and bone health, and you should be able to cater to any issues that arise.


This senior Chocolate Lab is having a little checkup to make sure his bone and muscle health is normal.

7. Labrador Retriever – One of America’s most beloved dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever has a host of health issues that generally result in a relatively short lifespan (about 11 years or so) when compared to other dogs. They are extremely prone to cancer, as well as a myriad of bone disorders including Osteochondritis Dissecans, Dysplasia of the hip/elbow/shoulder, and Skeletal Dwarfism that prevents bones from growing to their full potential. The Skeletal Dwarfism commonly present in Labs is mild, and called Skeletal Dysplasia 2, which can luckily be treated and monitored to prevent more health issues such as Arthritis being caused by this disorder. Unfortunately Labs have muscle issues as well, with Muscular Dystrophy (progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass) being present in Lab DNA. In addition to all of these issues just named, they can be susceptible to Exercise Induced Collapse, Gastric Torsion (when the stomach is turned upside-down), Retinal Dysplasia (jeez, so many Dysplasias!), Diabetes, Entropion/Distichiasis (eyelash abnormalities), Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cataracts, and Pyotraumatic Dermatitis (a fancy name for “hot spots”). If you commit to having a Labrador Retriever, please keep a close eye on any possible signs of cancer, bone problems, muscle degeneration, and also blood sugar imbalance and eye problems. Some of these issues are more common than others, but that doesn’t mean that you should overlook them!


A Basset Hound nonprofit assesses the health of their new rescues!

6. Basset Hound – It’s not a surprise that this dog breed made the list, considering that Basset Hounds are known for their irregularly-shaped bodies and little, stubby legs. Adorable cuteness comes at a price, and unfortunately that price is a slew of health issues ranging from the already mentioned Entropion/Ectropion eyelid and lash deformities, to Gastric Torsion that usually accompanies Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (aka Bloat). Bloat is actually very common in Bassets, and the trapped food, water, and air inside the stomach can cause obstruction of veins that induce low blood pressure, shock, and damage to many internal organs; leading to a swift death if not dealt with immediately. Glaucoma, Osteochondritis Dissecans, and Patellar Luxation are also possibilities, but not as common as Von Willebrand’s Disease and Canine Thrombopathia (almost exclusively present in Basset Hounds), which are both blood disorders that cause abnormalities in clotting and can lead to internal bleeding. Otitis Externa (outer ear canal infection), Glaucoma, Foreleg Lameness (because of their short legs), Patellar Luxation, and Foot Cysts/Infection are other issues that may need to be dealt with. It is suggested that if you are a Basset Hound owner, you have regular blood tests, bone tests, and eye tests to ensure that everything is normal.


This senior Saint Bernard is receiving Orthopedic therapy for its spine issues.

5. Saint Bernard – Under the same category as Rottweilers as far as size and stockiness is concerned, there is no surprise that they also have a relatively shorter lifespan – the average life expectancy being around 9 years. To put it in perspective, this is about half as long as Chihuahuas or Pomeranians live, and it is due to a heavy predisposition to Osteosarcoma (bone cancer), as well as fatal heart conditions such as Cardiomyopathy; which is an abnormality of the heart’s muscle. This abnormality causes blood flow to be decreased to the rest of the body, and can quickly lead to heart failure if left undetected. As for non-fatal health issues, they also can suffer from Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, Osteochrondritis Dissecans, Entropion/Ectropion/Distichiasis (again, eyelid/eyelash problems), Gastric Torsion, Diabetes, Epilepsy, and Pyotraumatic Dermatitis. It is advised to keep a close eye on your Saint Bernard so you can notice any irregularities in their walking abilities, which could be an indication of Hip/Elbow Dysplasia or Osteochondritis Dissecans (bone disorder) or pain caused by Osteosarcoma/bone cancer. Any changes in activity or breathing could be a sign of heart problems such as the Cardiomyopathy mentioned, which can cause fatigue in the early stages. In addition, get regular checkups and monitor their eyes, heart, blood, and bones!


Golden Retriever being examined for Lameness, poor thing!

4. Golden Retriever – On the same level of “family dog” as the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retrievers also have similar health problems that a prospective owner should be ready to deal with. In addition to being predisposed to cancers such as Osteosarcoma, Goldens are also almost guaranteed to have Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, so be ready to tackle that when it happens. Cataracts are also almost a certainty, as are allergies and heart problems; ranging from Cardiomyopathy to Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis. There is no shortage of eye issues, which include Cataracts, Distichiasis/Entropion/Ectropion/Trichiasis (basically all types of incorrect eyelash/eyelid growth), Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Epilepsy (which is moreso a neurological disorder, but still related to the eye). Von Willebrand’s Disease, Pyrotraumatic Dermatitis, Osteochondritis Dissecans, and Gastric Torsion are all less common issues that should be looked out for with simple blood tests, which should be done alongside heart health screenings, elbow/hip monitoring, and eye tests.


Nothing too serious today, just a nail trimming, thankfully!

3. Bulldog – All types of Bulldogs have undergone what some call, “the most extreme example of genetic manipulation,” due to the Brachycephalic nature of their flat little faces. This adorable trademark has become a dominant part of the breed due to generations of exploiting a skull abnormality – a process which has also ensured a host of hereditary and congenital diseases/disorders as well. Among the major issues are Canine Hip Dysplasia, Elongated Soft Palate (abnormality in formation of the mouth), Internalized Tail (ingrown tail that will most likely need to be removed with surgery), Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (defect in tear duct formation resulting in irregular tear production), Shoulder Luxation (dislocation of the shoulder joint), and Stenotic Nares (collapsed nostrils). Minor issues include Cherry Eye (eyelid problem resulting in “third eyelid”), as well as most of the other eyelid/eyelash abnormalities including Ectropion/Entropion/Distichiasis, and Patellar Luxation is also a possibility. Many people LOVE Bulldogs, whether they are of the English or French variety, but they aren’t prepared for the slew of medical procedures, checkups, and (possible) surgeries that ownership entails. They may be extremely trendy at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they are the right dog for you! If you are willing to monitor their health with regular exams and keeping your own watchful eye on them, then by all means give a Bulldog a home!

germanshepherdvet2. German Shepherd – Unfortunately this is another large breed that could be affected by Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, much like other similarly sized breeds on this list. In addition to this, the other health concerns that German Shepherds face are all across the board; including Cataracts, Cardiomyopathy, Pyotraumatic Dermatitis, Von Willebrand’s Disease, and Skin Allergies. A rare spinal cord disease (Degenerative Myelopathy) called Cauda Equina is also on the radar, as is the possibility of Malignant Neoplasms, cancerous tumors that spread throughout the body quickly. Pannus (growth of tissue where it shouldn’t be, especially on the cornea which could result in blindness if untreated) and Panosteitis (bone issue resulting in lameness and limping) could be possibilities; but Perianal Fistulas (opening in the anus that cause ulcers and other lesions) and Progressive Posterior Paresis (bone issues resulting in difficulty walking) are very closely associated with German Shepherds. Many of these issues are caused by inbreeding or other improper breeding strategies used to keep the purebred appearance; but even if bred properly, these issues can still present themselves and should be looked out for! If your German Shepherd is mixed with another dog breed, these risks are diminished greatly.

cockeratvet1. Cocker Spaniel – This was somewhat surprising to me, since I do not hear much about Cockers having health issues; but they are apparently prone to orthopaedic issues, heart problems, and more. One thing that stands out is their predisposition to Albinism (decreased production of the pigment melanin) that could lead to eyesight problems and sun sensitivity. Among many of the eye-related problems are Glaucoma, Cataracts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Epilepsy, Cherry Eye, and Ectropion/Entropion. Heart conditions may arise such as Cardiomyopathy, Congestive Heart Failure (buildup of harmful liquid in the heart), and Liver Disease is also on the table as well. Many other illnesses are possible, including Seborrhea (dry, flaky, red skin patches), Lip Fold Pyoderma (caused by bacteria caught in skin folds), Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (blood disease similar to Diabetes in regards to blood sugar), Urolithiasis (kidney stones), and Gastric Torsion. Because of the all-encompassing nature of these diseases and disorders, it is highly recommended that not only should a prospective Cocker Spaniel owner be a seasoned dog owner in general, but that they should have routine blood, eye, hip, knee, and heart tests. If possible, a DNA test done to detect Phosphofructokinase Deficiency so that it can be treated accordingly. All of this must be done in addition to monitoring your Cocker yourself and inspecting its skin as often as possible for abnormalities.

So there ya have it, the most high-maintenance dog breeds there are! Are you surprised? Can you personally vouch for these claims, or do you object to them? Please feel free to comment and share your own experiences with these dog breeds! The more information that prospective dog owners have, the more awareness they will have to treat these inevitable health problems!

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{ 30 comments… add one }
  • PAT October 6, 2016, 10:18 am

    Why do you label glaucoma as a cancerous condition? It may be hereditary, secondary to other problems (light colored irises, etc,) or an angle issue inside the eye, but I am unaware of cancer being equated with glaucoma.

    • VetDepot October 6, 2016, 12:25 pm

      My mistake, I have always thought Glaucoma was eye cancer! Wow, I have been living a lie! Thank you for your comment! <3

  • Kay October 6, 2016, 11:40 am

    I still love my toy poodle

    • VetDepot October 6, 2016, 12:25 pm

      Of course! My intention wasn’t to discourage people from having these dogs, just to give a heads-up!

  • Melody October 6, 2016, 4:46 pm

    I am surprised you didn’t mention degenerative myelopathy in regard to German Shepherd Dogs.

    • VetDepot October 7, 2016, 9:59 am

      Is that a pretty common thing? If it is, I’ll gladly add it to the list!

    • VetDepot October 7, 2016, 10:09 am

      Melody, I did mention Cauda Equina, which is a type of Degenerative Myelopathy. 🙂

  • Kristen October 7, 2016, 5:48 am

    Wow what an ignorant piece on German shepherds. First it’s not almost inevitable that all German shepherds will develop dysplasia. If you get a puppy from a reputable breeder that screens its breeding stock the chance of getting a dysplastic dog is small. If you look at OFA’s website over 100,000 German shepherds have been screened for dysplasia and less than 20% came back positive for it. Also most of the other diseases listed may occur in the breed, but by no means are common. And to blame them on inbreeding is ignorant as well. Dysplasia, for example, is a polygenic disease and can’t be eliminated just by breeding clear dogs to clear dogs.

    • VetDepot October 7, 2016, 10:02 am

      Thanks Kristen, although I would have preferred clarification without the hostility. I will gladly edit any part of this blog, that is why I asked for responses. I know that based on almost all of the German Shepherds that have been in shelters (and a few friends who have owned them) that they have all had hip/elbow issues. Whether or not it was full-on Dysplasia in ALL of the cases isn’t a certainty, but many dogs that are their size have this issue. I stand by the statement that is pretty common, and while it can be reduced by breeding clear to clear dogs, it is still very much an issue.

      • Carla October 27, 2016, 10:33 am


  • Ann October 7, 2016, 6:37 am

    I have a cookapoo 7 years old . What would be his issues about his health?

    • VetDepot October 7, 2016, 10:04 am

      Hey Ann, seeing as he is a mixture of a Cocker and a Poodle, his health issues will hopefully be reduced due to the fact that he is not a purebred. However, you should stay alert and watch out for any of the health problems that are present in BOTH breeds! As long as you are keeping a watchful eye, he should be a-ok! 🙂

  • Anita October 12, 2016, 5:18 am

    Hi, your blog was very informative. I did notice that the Boxers were not mentioned. We had 2 that lived to be 10 but died of cancer, Tebo had hip issues that resulted in surgery. I love, love, love Boxers but we won’t get another one because they are very prone to cancer. Too heartbreaking to lose them that way.

    • VetDepot October 12, 2016, 10:27 am

      Hey Anita, I was going off of a list that had breeds ranked based on the number of health problems they had, and Boxers were surprisingly later in the list! I was expecting them to be at least number 5 or so, because I too have several friends whose Boxers ALL have gotten cancer at one point – even if it was just a fatty tumor that needed to be removed. Besides cancer, hip/elbow dysplasia and skin problems seem to be rampant among Boxers. But they were #19 on the list: http://dogs.petbreeds.com/stories/12037/dogs-with-the-most-health-issues#7-Boxer! Interesting!

  • Li October 12, 2016, 7:37 am

    Very informative and helpful. Thank you.

    • VetDepot October 12, 2016, 10:27 am

      You’re welcome, thank YOU for your kind words! <3

  • Mary October 12, 2016, 10:38 am

    You mentioned Pannus in German Shepherds being a growth of tissue where it shouldn’t be. Pannus is an autoimmune disorder that affects the eyes. Without treatment(1 or more types of eyedrops), dogs can eventually go blind. This condition is often seen in greyhounds as well. Our first greyhound had Pannus. We discovered it early and faithfully gave her eyedrops. She seemed to see as well on the day that she passed as when we began treating her.

    • VetDepot October 12, 2016, 11:21 am

      Thank you Mary, I was a bit confused about it when I researched it, so thank you for your information! So sorry about your loss! <3

  • Emma's Mom October 12, 2016, 6:32 pm

    I’ve owned and rescued Yorkies for 40 years. My experience has been that the more vaccines, drugs, chemicals, toxins and pet foods given, the worse the health and the shorter the life. I know of 2 Yorkies who were never again vaccinated once they left their breeder; they were also fed a raw diet and given no drugs/toxins – they both lived an amazing quality life of just over 19 yrs. My friend had a Chihuahua who was never vaccinated; also raised on the raw diet without drugs/toxins and this dog lived to be just under 23 yrs old. These dogs were also never ill and had almost no veterinary expense.

    • VetDepot October 17, 2016, 1:09 pm

      I don’t doubt this to be true, because it seems like every day there is more credibility given to the holistic/integrated healing methods that are centuries-old! I remember about 10 years ago, people thought that using natural remedies and herbs was ridiculous, because modern medicine should be the cure-all for everything. Now it seems like more people are looking for natural ways treat illnesses rather than pharmaceuticals (including myself), and that mentality has made its way to pet-keeping as well! I think there are also some dogs that just happen to have a ~magical~ genetic makeup that makes them super healthy and immune to most illnesses, while others aren’t as fortunate. But I definitely agree with you, that any method that is natural and non-toxic is worth trying as opposed to its pharmaceutical equivalent!

    • D. Dlinyenki January 15, 2018, 11:25 pm

      This s an incredibly irresponsible and ignorant thing to do. Working in the vet field, I have seen countless dogs die horribly because of distemper, parvovirus, and leptospirosis, each and every one preventable by vaccination. Refusing to vaccinate is not only irresponsible and dangerous, it’s outright neglect, and all you’re doing is making your dog a potential carrier for disease, not to mention severely increasing their risk of preventable health issues. It’s horrible and heart-breaking to watch someone’s beloved dog die of parvo and distemper because they did not vaccinate them, and it’s agony for the dog. There is no treatment; there is no cure. All we can do is try to keep them hydrated, comfortable, and fed, and it enrages me every time to see an animal suffering something that could so easily be prevented. Shame on anyone who refuses to vaccinate out of some misplaced belief that it somehow reduces a dog’s life. Yes, there are occasional complications associated with vaccination, but there is little risk and cases of anaphylaxis can be addressed easily with antihistamines, and it beats having your dog die of entirely preventable disease, or suffer life-long effects (including dental disease, neurological disorders, or bone disorders) if they happen to survive.

      And if by drugs and toxins, you mean medications intended to prevent ticks, fleas, worms, and fleas, then I reiterate my point. I’ve seen dogs tear their skin to pieces because of fleas, and die of heart failure from heartworms, and slowly starve to death because their intestinal worms weren’t treated. Not to mention Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever; tapeworms passed by fleas, and every other vector-borne illness. Reputable flea, tick, and heartworm medications have low risk associated with them, and help keep dogs happy and healthy.

      Finally, it’s simply bad science to draw conclusions of such wide-spread and severe ramifications from a pool of exactly three individuals. I have known of over ten times that number that were never vaccinated and died of parvovirus or distemper, and that’s only within the past five years. In the face of years of veterinary medicine and history of patients who’ve died slow, agonizing deaths because they weren’t vaccinated or properly cared for, your point does not stand up to scrutiny whatsoever, and is dangerous in the extreme to adhere to. Even if an animal does not die, it still suffers, and that suffering is preventable.

  • Tsva March 1, 2017, 7:08 am

    Could I please ask you or anyone else in the know about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels? I was very surprised (and relieved!) not to see them on this list. I’m in the process of looking for a puppy and fell in love with the breed but I subsequently heard that due to overbreeding, these dogs are now at very high risk of developing several serious hereditary health conditions. Eye problems, something called Curly Coat Syndrome (what is that?) and a type of heart disease called MVA. There are almost no breeders I can find who have bothered to have the parents DNA tested (one breeder said that it wasn’t a reliable indicator – true?). Is it possible for the pup to be screened for these three conditions at 8 weeks and if so, should I only buy the pup if it has papers to show these health screens have come back clear, or am I being too demanding?? I’d really appreciate any advice as I’ve never had a dog before but lost a couple of other pets when they were still quite young due to hereditary diseases. And it’s taken me a couple of decades to reach the point of being able to even consider getting another pet and being that heartbroken again!

  • Jackie November 15, 2017, 5:49 am

    My beautiful black German sherpard past away just three days ago at the age of 1 year two weeks. My entire family is heartbroken we are non stop crying for Moonlight (our beloved German Shepherd). She past away instantly with no symptoms we were so distraught. She was a big girl standing up at 5 feet. She had long beautiful black fur. Such a beauty, and tragedy to die from heart disease.

    • VetDepot November 15, 2017, 4:09 pm

      Jackie, we are so sorry to hear about your sweet German Shepard. You and your family are in our thoughts as you go through this difficult time. <3

    • Andrea April 26, 2018, 9:29 am

      I roo lost my precious Pomeranian 6 days ago. She was only 8 and fell down the steps and dislodged her legs which they couldn’t fix.
      We’re heart broken and spenthe 1,000.
      My hear goes out to all who r grieving.

  • Lori Robards February 13, 2018, 9:26 am

    Hi, I’m new to your site. I have a GS who I love very much. He’s 10 years old, but started have health issues about 5 years ago, joint, preianal fistula, pannus. He’s on autoimmune suppressants, and a strong antibiotic. He doesn’t tolerate these very well so he also has to take an anti nausea pill. This is not to mention the pain and anti inflammatory medication and eye salve. Your information on GS dogs in correct. I love mine very much. They are loving pets that are intelligent, loyal and protective, goofy and a lot of fun. He has one more week on the the antibiotics & autoimmune suppressant pills. (I did get my GS from a responsible breeder). He is already feeling some better. It’s hard to except these terrible health issues in our companions, but as responsible pet owners it’s better to know the possibilities. Thanks VetDepot.

  • Koi-bids March 12, 2018, 6:15 am

    Great Blog!! I appreciate your blog; you have shared here Top 10 Dog Breeds with the Most Health Issues. It’s beneficial and informative information for us. Thanks for sharing this kind of information.

  • Andrea April 26, 2018, 9:32 am

    I have now laid my 5th dog 2 rest.
    Every time it’s harder. This last one my beautiful Pomeranian Coco Chanel was perfect in every way.
    My husband is adamant that we do not get another dog, but I’m so lost without one. Any ideas on how I can change his mind?!

    • VetDepot May 1, 2018, 9:26 am


      So sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. Pets become a huge part of our families and when they pass it’s absolutely devastating. Perhaps your husband needs some time to process your loss before bringing another dog into your lives. Don’t give up hope! <3

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