Are Half-breed Dogs Healthier Than Purebred Dogs?

Whether purebred or half-breed, that pup's health depends on his lineage.
Whether purebred or half-breed, that pup's health depends on his lineage. (Image: DTP/Photodisc/Getty Images)

While conventional wisdom states that mixed- or half-breed dogs may be healthier than their purebred counterparts because of their more diverse gene pool, this may not always be the case. Responsibly bred and genetically tested purebred dogs may be healthier than a mixed breed. Although some breeds are more prone to certain health issues than others, generally, all dogs are equally likely to suffer from most health issues.

Responsible Breeding

Not all breeders are responsible and some don't care about preserving the health of their pups. These breeders may repeatedly inbreed their dogs to bring out certain physical characteristics of their offspring, at the detriment of the pups' health. Such purebred dogs won't be as healthy as their half-breed counterparts because of this limited gene pool, according to the Vetstreet website. Historically, breeds with a small gene pool tend to have more health issues than those with a large one. Responsible breeders who work with a diverse group of breeding dogs and have them tested for genetic diseases regularly, typically produce pups with limited health problems.

Half-Bred vs. Purebred Pooch

A study published in the June 2013 issue of the "Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association" showed that both the mixed breed and purebred pups studied exhibited an equal amount of health problems. Purebreds didn't suffer from a greater number of common health conditions including hip dysplasia, cancers, cardiac problems, lens luxation and adrenal issues. The study did find that some health issues were more prevalent in certain breeds than others, usually based on the genetic lineage of the breed itself. Researchers also found that some health issues may be missed in mixed breeds because owners may not be specifically looking for them as they would in a purebred pup with a history of disease in his breed.

Hybrid Vigor

The concept of "hybrid vigor" is usually used as a justification as to why purebred pups aren't as healthy as crossbreed canines. Unfortunately, this is only true if natural selection is at play, advises the Family Education website. Natural selection dictates that a dog with an illness, such as hip dysplasia, wouldn't survive long in the wild and pass on his unhealthy genes to his offspring. In the modern world, though, veterinary care is available to treat such conditions and that pup could easily breed with another dog. In addition, hybrid pups of two different breeds, each of which suffer from a hereditary medical condition, will also suffer from that condition, just as a purebred would.

Choosing Pups and Breeding Concerns

If you're considering adopting a pooch, find out as much as you can about his lineage, whether he's a purebred or not. When purchasing a pup from a breeder, ask her to provide proof of genetic health tests on both him and his parents, no matter what the breed of each of pooch. Never breed a dog with serious health issues, even with a healthy dog, because of the chance that his unhealthy genes could be passed on to his pups or their offspring. In general, adopting a mixed breed pup from a shelter is a better idea than purchasing one from a breeder with no idea of her pups' health histories.

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