With the 2021 puppy boom and the 2022 cost of living increase, many people have found themselves stuck in the middle of wanting the companionship of a new puppy yet wondering what they can realistically afford. Below we have put together some key pointers when trying to find the ‘healthiest’ dog breed.
What is health?
Health is a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, not just being free from disease and infirmity. The definition covers so much more than what initially springs to mind with the connotations associated with ‘health’ making selecting the ‘healthiest’ dog breed almost impossible!
Specific breeds have been genetically selected for desired features
However, this can affect their ability to ever have a good standard of physical wellbeing. These genes cause physical attributes which we once deemed as attractive for either aesthetic or work-related reasons. Genetic traits that we have selected for in breed lines which now affect the health of dogs include but are not limited to:
Having longer backs and shorter legs predisposing to spinal disease such as intervertebral disc disease.
Brachycephalic dogs including pugs, bulldogs, boxers, frenchies
These breeds commonly suffer from the inability to breathe efficiently. This is due to having a decreased size and flattening of the skull leading to decreased diameter of their windpipes and decreased nostril size. This creates a much higher air resistance for breathing.
German Shepherd Dogs
Their sloping backs predispose them to osteoarthritis along the spine and within the hips.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
This breed is predisposed to neurological disease due to their brains being too large for their skull.
Because these genetic based problems are breed specific, some may argue that cross breeds have more chance of being physically healthy.
In addition to the breed specific genetic problems, there are also genetic diseases which could be directly inherited from a parent or both parents of any breeds. There are dominant and recessive genetic abnormalities which lead to diseases. It is very important you receive and understand the paperwork regarding your dog’s genetic line in order to understand which genetic tests have been performed. Ideally, you need to view both the mother and father to ensure you believe they are both currently healthy. Be sure to ask questions about the health of the parents. And if possible, request their medical history from the veterinary surgeon from their most recent clinical examination at the vets.
There are many aspects of health which are influenced by the environment we keep our pets in.
Being overweight due to being in a calorie surplus (giving your dog too much energy in comparison to the amount of energy they burn in exercise) can be linked to genetics; but is also hugely influenced by external factors. Being overweight affects health physically because your dog will be prone to other diseases such as diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis and heart disease. Socially your dog may be affected too. They will not want to play for as long at a high intensity due to feeling exhausted sooner.
In contrast, dogs not being walked enough or not receiving enough attention may have poor mental health due to having reduced stimuli. This can cause separation anxiety and may display as a behavioural issue. Dogs need enough room to display natural behaviours and depending on the size of the dog, this size will vary.
Dogs not being fed enough, having the correct nutrients within the diet or not having enough water would also affect a dog’s health. This would alter their ability to grow efficiently, function mentally efficiently and absorb nutrients properly from their diet. These things are all essential in developing healthy body systems.
Social wellbeing will be determined by the dog’s temperament and personality based on when they feel socially satisfied. This means what suits one dog may not suit another and therefore would not be deemed a healthy approach.
These factors show how us as owners are able to influence our pets’ health and promote a healthy lifestyle. As well as how vital thorough, thoughtful breeding is.
It is too unpredictable to judge the health of dog breeds generally based on their genetics alone. Equally, the health status of animals can change very, very quickly.
To conclude, health can not be determined by breed alone. Many breeds have diseases which they are predisposed to. However many aspects of health are determined by much more than genetics alone. Do your research prior to committing to purchasing a puppy. And be sure to analyse the health of their family too!