Before 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:
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
2. 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.
1. 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!