An Introduction To Hereditary Disorders And How They Affect Certain Dog Breeds

Veterinarians (such as those from Alexandria Pike Animal Hospital PCS) treat dogs suffering from a wide variety of illnesses and ailments, but unfortunately, they also must help dogs suffering from hereditary disorders. In some cases, these hereditary disorders can be prevented with more conscientious breeding practices; in other cases, they are not easily screened out of bloodlines. Hereditary disorders affect all dog breeds, but some breeds have higher rates of specific genetic disorders. Here are some examples. 


In 2009, the Chihuahua Club of America surveyed owners and breeders about their pets' health issues. In the survey,45% of Chihuahua owners disclosed that at least one of their dogs suffered from "idiopathic seizures." Idiopathic seizures are neurological disorders categorized by involuntary shaking, twitching, confusion, and even unconsciousness. These seizures are considered "idiopathic" because they occur for unknown reasons. Because idiopathic seizures are so common in the breed, researchers believe that it is a genetically inherited condition. 

Seizures are not always fatal, but a Chihuahua owner can take steps to improve the pet's quality of life. If a Chihuahua experiences its first seizure before the age of two, then a veterinarian can perform diagnostic tests and prescribe medication. Chihuahuas should also receive veterinary care and potentially take medication if they experience more than two seizures in a week, or have episodes lasting longer than five minutes. 

German Shepherd Dogs

German shepherd dogs frequently suffer from "hip dysplasia." Hip dysplasia is a genetically-inherited disorder caused by the degeneration of the cartilage in the hip joint. German shepherds that have "loose hips" caused by this cartilage degeneration will have difficulty walking, arthritis, and inflammation. 

Because of the high occurrence of hip dysplasia in German shepherds, breeders often have their veterinarians x-ray their stock to determine whether their animals should produce puppies. Screening animals before breeding them will improve the overall health of the breed because, theoretically, affected dogs will be bred out of the gene pool. 

Owners of German shepherds diagnosed with hip dysplasia can manage pain symptoms with veterinarian-prescribed anti-inflammatory pain killers. In very severe cases, surgery is the only option. 


Dalmatians are known and loved for their spots, but unfortunately, the gene responsible for this unique color pattern is also the cause of hereditary deafness. Approximately 30% of Dalmatians are born deaf in one or both ears. Owners often struggle with deaf Dalmatians because the dogs startle easily and cannot respond to voice commands.

There is no cure for hereditary deafness, but it can be screened out of a bloodline. Veterinarians now offer a test called "brainstorm auditory evoked response test," or BAER test. This test identifies if a puppy or adult dog is deaf in one or both ears. Deaf puppies can be neutered or spayed, and deaf adult animals can be identified before breeding. 


The beloved bulldog suffers from more hereditary disorders than any other breed of dog. The bulldog's trademark "brachycephalic" face, which is identified by a short snout, under-jaw, and wide-set head, contributes to a grand majority of these genetic problems. One of the leading causes of death is overheating; a bulldog's snout does not allow it to effectively breathe and cool itself. The brachycephalic face also affects the bulldog's ability to chew its food, affects the eyes' placement, and interferes with the skin's ability to stay clean. 

Veterinarians are unable to fix the skeletal structure of a bulldog, but they can oversee treatment plans to mitigate the negative effects that resulted from unscrupulous breeding. Veterinarians and bulldog breeders are also widely protesting bad breeding practices that are affecting the breed, and helping people understand the problems and breed against these genetic problems. 

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