Breed-specific conditions are medical problems that affect certain breeds of dog. Common medical problems in dogs include skeletal problems, vision conditions and even blood clotting disorders.

Breeding programs, by necessity, limit the number of dogs who pass genetic information to future generations. This can result in medical problems occurring more frequently in some breeds.

Mixed breeds are not immune to medical problems, however. While some mixed breed dogs will not suffer from the breed-specific conditions of their parents, other mixed breeds will inherit medical problems.

Hip Dysplasia and Large Breeds

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common medical problems in breeds over a certain size. Large dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, Wolfhounds, and Alaskan Malamutes are most susceptible to hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative joint disease: the ball of the femur (thigh bone) doesn’t fit neatly into the hip socket. Puppies are not born with this breed-specific condition; instead, hip dysplasia causes progressive deformity of the hip socket.

Signs of hip dysplasia include:

  • “bunny hop” when running
  • change in temperament
  • lameness (especially after exercise)
  • morning joint stiffness
  • overdeveloped forelimb muscles
  • pain
  • swaying
  • underdeveloped rear limb muscles.

A “bunny hop” when a dog runs is a classic sign of hip dysplasia. The dog moves both hind legs together to run, instead of running with a normal gait.

Hip dysplasia can be a crippling condition. Corrective surgery is sometimes necessary to repair the hip socket.

Patellar Luxation (Slipped Stifle)

Patellar luxation, like hip dysplasia, is one of the breed-specific conditions that affect the skeletal system. Patellar luxation is one of the more common medical problems in breeds such as the Chihuahua and Pomeranian.

The patella is the kneecap in a dog’s hind leg. Structural abnormalities can cause dislocation of the kneecap, which affects surrounding tendons and muscles.

Dislocation of the patella causes pain when flexing the leg, and the dog will often hold the leg off the ground. Patellar luxation is a breed-specific problem for smaller breeds and toy breeds. Like hip dysplasia, surgery may be required to correct the problem.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, is a breed-specific condition that causes progressive blindness. In PRA the cells of the retina degenerate first causes night blindness and eventually complete loss of sight.

PRA is a genetically inherited medical problem documented in over 100 breeds of dog and in mixed breed dogs as well. PRA is sex-linked in Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds and occurs primarily in males. Some of the breeds affected by PRA include:

Symptoms of PRA usually develop after five years of life, however some dogs will be affected at birth and are blind by the time they reach one year of age. As long as the dog’s environment does not change, most dogs adjust well to their fading vision. Dogs with PRA should be neutered or spayed.

Collie Eye Anomaly

As the name suggests, Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is one of the breed-specific conditions that target Collies. CEA develops as one or more ocular medical problems, including cataracts, retinal detachment and retinal degeneration. CEA is so common in Collies that most veterinarians agree that the number affected is around 85 percent.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

Von Willebrand’s disease is the most common of the inherited blood clotting medical problems. Breeds particularly associated with VMD are:

VMD is a type of hemophilia, which causes excessive bleeding from injuries and trauma and may be fatal.

Medical Problems in Large Breeds

While hip dysplasia is easily one of the most common medical problems in breeds over medium size, large dogs can suffer from a wide range of breed-specific conditions. Here are some of the more popular large breeds, and the breed-specific conditions that can affect them:

Breed Breed-Specific Conditions
Alaskan Malamute hip dysplasia, thyroid problems, skin conditions, dwarfism of the legs
Doberman Pinscher hip dysplasia, deafness, skin conditions, VMD, urinary stones
Golden Retriever hip dysplasia, heart problems, cataracts, PRA, VMD, skin conditions, epilepsy
Rottweiler hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, cataracts, heart problems

Medical Problems in Medium Breeds

Listed below are some of the common medical problems associated with medium sized dogs:

Breed Breed-Specific Conditions
Australian Cattle Dog hip dysplasia, deafness, PRA
Basset Hound spinal disc disorders, bloating, ear infections, eyelid abnormalities, glaucoma
British Bulldog heart defects, heart attacks, collapsed nostrils, respiratory problems, eyelid abnormalities, skin conditions, heatstroke
Keeshond hip dysplasia, heart defects, skin conditions

Medical Problems in Small Dogs

The most common medical problems associated with small dogs, especially toy breeds, are fractures. Small dogs are vulnerable to injury: stepping on a dog as small as a Chihuahua can cause serious fractures or even death. Dental and gum disease is also common among small breeds and is associated with eating canned food instead of kibble. These are some of the conditions associated with specific small breeds:

Breed Breed-Specific Conditions
Boston Terrier PRA, heatstroke, eyelid abnormalities, respiratory problems, eye lacerations
Chihuahua fractures, slipped stifle, jawbone deformities, heart problems, rheumatism, dental problems
Jack Russell Terrier PRA, glaucoma, epilepsy, dwarfism of the legs, undescended testicles
Lhasa Apso eye lacerations, skin problems, kidney disorders
Pomeranian patellar luxation, heart problems, collapsed windpipe, eye infections, skin conditions, dental problems

Avoiding Medical Problems

Before choosing a breed, talk to breeders about breed-specific conditions. A good breeder aims for as few inherited medical problems as possible, and can often produce certificates guaranteeing a dog’s pedigree is as free of medical problems as possible.