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Hi there!

My husband and I are hoping to adopt a dog in our next home (we are military, waiting for PCS) and are trying to do a little research in the time before then (we hope to move in the summer).

We are going to adopt a shelter dog, and just going by the shelters in our current area, there are some fantastic dogs needing homes, many of them mixes.


My question is this- if a dog is a mix from purebred parents, do you need to be concerned about health issues the parents have due to selective breeding, etc? This honestly hadn't even occurred to me but a friend of mine adopted a corgi-mix from a shelter and her poor dog has had a few issues, which they believe stem from the fact the parents may have been purebreds? Is this something we need to be concerned about/ask about?

Many of the dogs we are seeing are some sort of Pit mix. I'd heard these mixes were pretty healthy but honestly I'm hoping for some good advice from people who own mixes/know something about them.

Just to clarify: a dog being potentially prone to problems because of parent breeds would not necessarily put us off adopting them! We just want to be prepared in terms of vet insurance, etc and kind of know what to look for :)

Thank you!!! Any advice appreciated!

Rebecca
 

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Dogs don't have more health problems because they're purebred (although certain health issues are persistent in certain breeds for one reason or another). That's a myth. Dogs have health problems because of poor breeding. A well-bred dog who's parents and grandparents and great grandparents have been health tested before being allowed to breed is far less likely to develop a chronic genetic health issue than a dog whose parents have never been health tested and were bred without any real forethought.

That being said, just because a dog is purebred doesn't mean its health will be better. There are plenty of backyard breeder (BYB) who put two purebred dogs together willy-nilly without health testing and without any thought for temperament. That's where issues like cancer in Golden Retrievers or hip dysplasia at a young age happen. If the dog is in a shelter, then the dog is likely a backyard bred dog or a dog that is descended from backyard bred dogs, because responsible breeders take back their puppies for any reason and do no let them end up in a shelter.

So, if you're thinking of adopting a Golden Retriever/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a product of two purebred parents (an example only), then yes, you would have to worry about two known issues in the breeds; cancer (Goldens) and life ending heart defects (CKCS).

Just because it's a mix doesn't mean its healthy will be better, either. The only way to stack the odds in your favor health-wise is to purchase from a reputable, ethical breeder who health tests all breeding stock and works to eliminate health issues from the breed. Any shelter dog is going to be a risk, honestly. The vast majority seem to live to ripe old ages with few health issues (excluding old age related issues). It's just a toss-up, really.
 

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Just being a mixed breed doesn't automatically make a dog any healthier, nor does being a pure-bred mean they are less healthy. There are some diseases/health conditions that are "generic dog problems", and can crop up in any breed/mix, like hip dysplasia and cancer. However, it's also true that certain things are more common in some lines of purebred dogs and mixes of those breeds, no matter how diligent breeders are about screening for them, like Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dobermans.

To answer your question, if a disease/health issue has a genetic component, then yes, it can be a concern in a mixed breed. And even getting a purebred from the most conscientious breeder who test for everything they can, and only breeds dogs who pass those tests, doesn't always mean that you won't wind up with the one and only pup they breed that has "X".
 

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Double post, for whatever reason.
 

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I'd differentiate between a dog that's a cross of purebreds, versus a true multigenerational Heinz 57 mutt. The former can have pretty much any of the health problems of the contributing breeds. The latter are often hardy animals because of natural selection, as they often come from street or rez dog populations or similar, where survival of the fittest actually applies - it seems like if you can get those dogs to live a domestic life, they often live just about forever.

As far as the risk level goes, not all purebreds and mixes of purebred are created equal. Certain dog breeds, like Australian Cattle Dogs, rarely suffer serious congenital health issues. Others, like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are just riddled with potentially lethal ailments. (That risk might be somewhat curtailed by crossing them with a healthier breed...but then why not just get a dog from that healthier breed in the first place?) Most breeds fall somewhere in the middle. I adopted a Giant Schnauzer/Great Pyrenees mix of unknown parentage without worrying too much about health problems, because neither of those breeds has a high incidence of deadly or expensive problems. But if I wanted, say, a Rottweiler or a Golden Retriever, I would only get one from a breeder who was known to be working to reduce the incidence of cancer in the breed.
 
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