There’s a popular belief today that mutts are healthier than purebred dogs, or that purebred dogs are more prone to diseases. It’s hard to say exactly why this belief if so popular. Perhaps Americans like to believe in the myth of the “underdog” – the hardy dog who gets a bad start in life and turns out to be better than the pampered pooch. However, in this case, the myth is not true. You can find a great pet at your local shelter but your odds of getting a healthy, long-lived dog are better if you go to a good breeder and get a purebred dog.

Do purebred dogs have diseases? Sure they do. But so do mixed breeds. Here are the facts you need to know.

Genetic Disease

Dogs, in general, are subject to about 400-500 known genetic diseases. All dogs – purebred and mixed breeds – carry some genes for some of these diseases. With all the genes a dog has, there are always a few genes that can lead to genetic diseases. A purebred breed can be more likely to have one certain disease appear in the breed. But there will also be breeders who are working to eliminate the problem by carefully choosing dogs for breeding who don’t have the disease. There are often genetic tests so breeders can find a gene and spay or neuter dogs who have the gene so they won’t be used for breeding.

By contrast, dogs that are random bred don’t usually have breeders who are working to choose the best dogs for breeding. They don’t have genetic tests to identify a gene or a health problem. Dogs simply mate because of circumstances. They can have nice puppies but this doesn’t do anything to reduce the risk of genetic diseases if the puppies reproduce later.

It’s virtually impossible to completely eliminate the risk of a genetic disease from a breed, but careful breeding can greatly reduce the chance that a purebred dog you get will have a specific disease.

What About Hybrid Vigor?

Many people think that mixed breed dogs are healthier because of something called “hybrid vigor.” Hybrid vigor refers to breeding together two things that are different enough that the resulting offspring will be healthy and hardy. It doesn’t really apply to breeding dogs since all dogs are so genetically similar. Even dogs as different as Chihuahuas and Great Danes are basically the same. For example, if you breed a Labrador and a Poodle together, expecting to get hybrid vigor, you might instead double up on some of the same genetic health problems. Both breeds are subject to canine hip dysplasia and an eye disease called progressive retinal atrophy. So, breeding a Lab and a Poodle together might produce increased health problems instead of hybrid vigor. It’s the same with many mixed breeds. Most mixed breed dogs carry a variety of genes and when they are mixed with other random genes, you can get something unexpected which could produce some very unwelcome traits.

Good Start In Life

Another important factor to consider for any dog is whether they get a good start in life. A healthy mother dog who was vaccinated before giving birth will be able to pass on a good early immunity to her puppies until they are vaccinated. Puppies that are carefully raised during their first few weeks and who receive all their shots and worming before going to their new home are at a distinct advantage from a health perspective. On the other hand, puppies that are dumped at a shelter at an early age where they can come in contact with diseases and where they may lack good socialization are at a disadvantage. There are times when a shelter has to close and euthanize all of their puppies and dogs because of an outbreak of disease. Puppies who get a good start in life will usually have better health for a long time, especially if you continue to care for your dog and make sure he gets good nutrition and regular vet care. Puppies who get a bad start in life can have a harder time with their health.

You can see that there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to what makes purebred dogs healthier than mixed breeds. Of course, these are generalities. You can always find a good, healthy dog at your local shelter. And there are purebred puppies and dogs who are not healthy. But, overall, purebred dogs tend to be healthier than mixed breeds when you consider dogs in shelters who are not adopted as well as adopted dogs.

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