Mixed-Breed Dog

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A common question that vets often get asked is whether mixed breed dogs are generally healthier than purebreds. The short answer is no. Any dog can get sick and while there is some evidence that certain purebreds are at higher risk of developing certain diseases, but this may be attributed to the breed itself, and not necessarily to the matter of mixed-breed vs. purebred.1

On June 1, 2013, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a report based on a recent study. The study analyzed more than 27,000 veterinary patients in connection with 24 of the most common hereditary diseases in dogs and found that in 13 of the diseases, neither purebred nor mixed-breed dogs seemed to be at any greater risk. Many disorders that are often attributed to purebred dogs are actually just as likely to be found in mixed breed dogs. This includes illnesses such as lymphoma, tumors, certain cardiac problems, hip dysplasia, and lens luxation.2

The domesticated dogs that we have as pets today are descended from wolves, but only from certain lineages. This means that modern-day dogs generally share a lot of genetic factors. Many national breed clubs also work to identify the breeds that are at higher risk for certain health problems and actively fund related research.2 The likelihood of certain dog breeds developing specific hereditary illnesses can be higher in some breeds than others, but studies suggest that this is not a consistent pattern amongst all purebred dogs. Furthermore, mixed-breed dogs also develop the same illnesses. In this article, we’ll take you through the differences between mixed-breed and purebred dogs, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both kinds. Whichever one you choose, there are ways to ensure that your pup will be healthy, happy, and thriving.

What’s Better: Mixed-Breed Dogs vs. Purebreds

Mixed-breed dogs have a family lineage consisting of at least 2 different breeds, while purebred dogs come from a single breed. Although many people would argue that mixed breeds are the healthier of the two, it’s actually not so easy to determine.

A responsible dog breeder will carry out consistent testing on their dogs in order to screen for any hereditary illnesses. Additionally, responsible breeders will refrain from breeding dogs that have a history of any disease and will make sure to only pair up dogs that will produce healthy puppies, without genetic problems.3

Mixed-breed dogs have a family lineage with at least 2 different breeds, while purebreds come from a single breed

Many purebred dogs live long, healthy lives, while some are born with a genetic disorder. The previously mentioned study from 2013 found that the incidence of 10 different genetic disorders (42% of the 24 tested disorders) was significantly higher in purebred dogs. These diseases were:

  • Aortic stenosis
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • IVDD
  • Addison’s disease
  • Atopy / allergic dermatitis
  • Bloat
  • Cataracts
  • Epilepsy (confirmed, probable, suspected)
  • Portosystemic shunt

Mixed-breed dogs seemed to be more likely to develop a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, while the remaining 13 disorders were equally present in both purebreds and mixed breeds.4

List of conditions purebred dogs are more likely to develop

The conclusion from this study is that the risk of genetic disorders is essentially the same in mixed breed and purebred dogs alike. It confirms that mixed breed dogs may suffer from many of the same medical problems as purebred dogs. Selective breeding and specific breed combinations in mixed-breed dogs might also contribute to the reduction of certain diseases, making it seem like they are generally healthier than purebreds.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Mixed-Breed Dogs

Getting a dog is a big decision, so it’s a good idea to do your research beforehand. It’s also a good idea to write down any specific preferences you may have, whether it’s to do with physical appearance — like color, size, and type of fur — or personality traits, like energy level, curiosity, and sociability. Think about whether you would prefer to adopt from an animal shelter or a breeder, and what kind of characteristics your ideal dog would have. Narrowing down your personal preferences might help you better make the decision about whether to get a mixed-breed or a purebred dog.

You should also consider your budget and local resources. If there are many animal shelters in your area and you’re looking for more reasonable adoption fees, then perhaps adopting a mixed pup is the better option. However, if your heart is set on a specific breed or look, then a purebred pooch would fit best.

Advantages

So what are the advantages of owning a mixed-breed canine pal? Well, for starters, they tend to have hybrid vigor, which refers to the phenomenon of recessive, disease-carrying genes becoming buried in the process of cross-breeding. This tends to result in a generally healthier dog. Often, certain negative character traits seen in purebred dogs are not present in mixed breeds, or at least only mildly present.6 You might prefer a hypoallergenic dog, like the poodle, but with the active nature of an Australian Shepherd. In this case, a mixed breed gives you the best of both worlds.

Mixed breeds are usually more readily available than purebred dogs. Many animal shelters are overwhelmed with dogs in need of loving homes. Stray dogs are a common sight in many countries, and unfortunately, there is not enough space to accommodate them all. There is a high chance that your local animal shelter will have plenty of mixed breed pups for you to choose from and each one is sure to be wonderfully unique.

Limited space in animal shelters also means that mixed breed dogs are often less expensive than purebreds.5 Animal shelters are grateful to anyone who wants to adopt one of their dogs, and therefore more likely to have more reasonable adoption fees. However, you should consider the cost of vet visits, particularly for procedures that are necessary shortly after adoption, such as vaccinations, neutering, or spaying. Some animal shelters do spay/neuter their dogs beforehand, but this isn’t always the case. Additionally, you should always make sure that your new furry friend is up to date on all vaccinations, especially if they were recently brought to the shelter.

The risk of genetic disorders is essentially the same in mixed breeds and purebred dogs

Disadvantages

On the other hand, there are also some disadvantages to owning a mixed breed dog. You don’t know the precise mix of breeds in your dog, which means there might be some unexpected character traits or behaviors. There is less availability for genetic screening for mixed breed dogs.

Some breeders specifically crossbreed certain dogs in order to get a mixed breed that’s half and half. If you choose to get a mixed pup like this the breeder might charge a higher price, as crossbreeding tends to be a more expensive process. A mixed breed dog won’t necessarily be healthier than a purebred, either, as the more breeds make up a dog’s genetics, the harder it can be to determine the likelihood of hereditary disorders.

Studies show that illness tends to be very specific to each dog and that the lifespan of both mixed breeds and purebreds are generally the same.5

Screening Purebreds for Good Health

Many people opt for purebred dogs, especially if they are looking for a specific breed or characteristics. Shelters may have just the pooch you’re looking for, but it’s more common to get a purebred dog from a breeder. Finding a responsible, reputable breeder is key when looking for a purebred dog. Genetic health problems from poor breeding can result in both medical and behavioral issues down the road.7

Ask your vet for a referral or contact your local breed clubs to start your journey in finding a good breeder. Dog shows are also a good resource. Keep in mind that no responsible breeder will sell dogs through pet stores or online without allowing you to visit the dog first. Meet with the breeder — ideally at their breeding facility — and have a quick interview to see if they (and their puppies) meet your standards.7

Health screenings are vital when it comes to purebred dogs. There are certain, standard tests that a responsible breeder should do when breeding dogs. Some dogs need to be screened for breed-specific issues, often related to eye or breathing problems. Other issues that a dog breeder may screen for include DNA testing, elbow/hip dysplasia, genetic diversity, and deafness. Some breeds may need more specific screenings; for example, cardiac tests for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.8 Being aware of your purebred dog’s susceptibility to certain diseases will help both breeder and owner to support their health and even give them preventative care.

Mixed-Breed Dog

Final Notes

Mixed-breed and purebred dogs are different, but ultimately, one is not necessarily healthier than the other. Every dog is different and unfortunately, any dog can get sick. Certain breeds may be more susceptible to some genetic disorders, but this doesn’t have a significant impact on lifespan, in general.

Responsible breeders will do regular health screenings on their dogs, which minimizes the likelihood of hereditary illnesses. A mixed-breed dog, especially from a shelter, can make a wonderful pet, but it will be more difficult to determine their specific breed mix and any related characteristics. However, any dog that has received the necessary health checks is a good candidate as a pet. Whether you choose a mixed breed or a purebred pup will depend on your personal preferences, but you’re sure to end up with a loyal, loveable companion for many years to come.

There are lots of great breeds in the purebred category, and there are just many cuddly mixed breeds. With Dutch.com, you can receive expert advice about various dog breeds. Book a video call to speak with one of our many licensed vets to learn more about your breed’s health needs.

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References

  1. Vsadmin. “Who’s Healthier: Purebreds or Mixed Breeds?” Corydon Animal Hospital, 1 Mar. 2019, www.corydonanimalhospital.ca/whos-healthier-purebreds-mixed-breeds/#:~:text=What%20Is%20the%20Bottom%20Line,disorders%2C%20than%20mixed%20breed%20dogs

  2. Vsadmin. “Who’s Healthier: Purebreds or Mixed Breeds?” Corydon Animal Hospital, 1 Mar. 2019, www.corydonanimalhospital.ca/whos-healthier-purebreds-mixed-breeds/#:~:text=What%20Is%20the%20Bottom%20Line,disorders%2C%20than%20mixed%20breed%20dogs.  

  3. Anderson, Chris. “Purebred Dogs vs. Mixed Breeds: What’s Better?” Wolf Education & Research Center, 29 Mar. 2021, https://wolfcenter.org/purebred-dogs-vs-mixed-breeds-whats-better/ 

  4. Beuchat , Carol. “Health of Purebred vs Mixed Breed Dogs: The Actual Data.” The Institute of Canine Biology, 29 Mar. 2015, www.instituteofcaninebiology.org/blog/health-of-purebred-vs-mixed-breed-dogs-the-data.  

  5. “Pros and Cons of a Purebred or Mixed Breed House Friendly Dog.” Homes of Distinction, 17 Nov. 2020, https://www.homesofdistinction.co.za/news/pros-and-cons-of-a-purebred-or-mixed-breed-house-friendly-dog/ 

  6. “Benefits of Mixed Breeds.” Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, 25 Sept. 2018, https://phs-spca.org/adopt/mixed-breeds/    

  7. “How to Find a Responsible Dog Breeder.” The Humane Society of the United Stateswww.humanesociety.org/resources/how-find-responsible-dog-breeder. Accessed 11 May 2023.

  8. “Getting Started with Health Testing and Screening.” The Kennel Clubwww.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/getting-started-with-health-testing-and-screening/. Accessed 11 May 2023.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

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