Breed Specific Wellness

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What Diseases Might Your Dog Develop Because of His/Her Breed?”

Many disease problems are genetic or inherited. Certain breeds are at risk for certain diseases. This doesn’t mean that just because your dog belongs to a certain breed he will always develop these problems – it just means that he’s more at risk than the average dog. It also doesn’t mean that these are the only diseases your pet could get – life is not that simple. It does, however, help to guide the medical care your pet needs.

Client education has long been a passion of ours. There is so much information we can give to clients to support them as pet owners! As you may know, a great deal of the illness we see in dogs and cats is breed related. All breeds have genetic susceptibility to particular medical and behavioral problems. These range from deadly heart and kidney conditions to painful problems such as hip dysplasia and to minor cosmetic things such as pattern baldness.

You need to know what to watch for, how to avoid problems when possible, and what treatments are available should your dog or cat develop a problem. This is especially true if you want to breed your pet. You can view or print information about over 50 breeds of dogs on our Breed Risk page in our pet library.

Just as some genetically related diseases in humans don’t begin to cause problems until later in life – heart disease or breast cancer, for example – many genetic diseases in dogs appear late in life. Some of these can be tested for, enabling earlier diagnosis and intervention. Some simply require awareness on the part of the owner as to what to watch for and when to call the veterinarian. We try to make sure that every owner of an at-risk breed knows about the diseases and problems that could affect their dog.

Mixed breed dogs have genetic risks as well, especially designer breeds, which are usually a mix of two breeds. Cockapoo, golden doodle, puggle and schnoodle are just a few examples. When a pet's heritage is unknown, DNA testing is available to identify your pet’s ancestry (Wisdom Panel testing). We also are able to test for specific genetic defects, both individually and as a 150 test panel. These tests allow us to pinpoint health risks both to your pet and to any offspring he or she might have.

We don’t see nearly as many purebred cats as dogs but every cat breed has risk for genetic defects and diseases too. We will make sure you are informed about all the health risks your pet has, no matter what its species or breed.

Dr. Nan Boss, the owner of Best Friends Veterinary Center, is a leading expert in breed-specific health care and has published a handbook and two sets of handouts for other veterinarians to utilize in their own practices. We are well-prepared to handle diagnosis and treatment of breed-related problems.

Breed specific wellness is not brand new but it is only gradually becoming the standard of care in veterinary medicine. Most veterinary clinics are not doing much genetic or breed-related screening but we think it's vitally important to the health of your dog or cat. We can often very accurately predict what diseases your pet is likely to get sick or die from based on genetics. 40% of purebred dogs have genetic defects and the average dog carries the genes for 4-6 genetic problems that it can pass on to its offspring, even if it doesn't develop the disease itself.

Many of the dogs we see, like Dr. Boss's dog Izzie on the left, are mixed breed rescues, and we generally have no information on their parentage. Breed specific wellness can be applied to mixed breeds though, after finding out what different breeds are present. To do this, we use the Wisdom panel DNA test, http://www.wisdompanel.com/.

Even without this testing we can make generalizations about disease risks based on a dog's size and appearance. For example, most tiny dogs are going to be prone to periodontal disease, bladder stones, a heart condition called mitral valve insufficiency, and bad knees. Large dogs would be more prone to hip dysplasia, tumors of the spleen, bloat and ACL ligament tears in their knees.

Annual blood testing and other screening tests, dental care, weight management, treating osteoarthritis, prevention of tick carried diseases and vaccinations have always been our core wellness steps in all breeds, both cat and dog. Now we are able to factor genetic risks in as well. This means we can tailor a health care program to the exact needs of each patient. Together, we can prevent and treat many of the common diseases we see in pets every day.