When I decided to bring my first dog into my adult life, I learned how important it was to do research. I had a lot of factors going on – I was a first time dog owner, I lived in an apartment in a city and I had a full-time job.
I quickly realized that a large dog like a Bernese Mountain Dog was not going to work in my tiny, one-room apartment. Likewise, an extremely active dog like a Jack Russell Terrier was not a good fit because I had limited time during the day to exercise a dog.
I ended up choosing an Italian Greyhound, which was a small dog who liked the indoors and only required modest exercise.
One thing I didn’t take into account was the dog’s health reputation. I had no idea that Italian Greyhounds were prone to leg fractures, epilepsy and portacaval shunts, of which the latter two my dog developed.
So, in an effort to help others who are looking at adding a dog to their household, here is a glimpse into five of the most popular breeds in the United States today, and some of the health concerns of each.
- Labrador Retriever
Since 1999, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular breed in the United States. It’s no wonder, since Labs are friendly, eager to please and easy to train. They were originally bred to retrieve hunters’ game, and still often do that job today. Because of this background, they are a highly active breed and need a lot of mental and physical exercise to stay content. Some of the major health concerns for this breed include:
- Cataracts, a condition in which the eye lens opacity is no longer clear, causing blurred vision and eventually the loss of all functional vision
- Hip dysplasia, a condition of the ball and socket hip joints in which the ball does not properly fit in the socket causing lameness and painful arthritis
- Patellar luxation, a condition that occurs when the kneecap moves in and out of place, which can cause lameness
- Osteochondritis dissecans, a cartilage disease in which the cartilage of the joints becomes detached from the bones
- Golden Retriever
Like the Lab, the Golden Retriever is a family-friendly pet who loves to please. They will smother you with love and be your constant companion! However, also as with the Lab, the Golden needs daily exercise to stay happy and healthy, so a good game of fetch, a run, or something similar is a must. Some of this breed’s most common health concerns are:
- Elbow dysplasia, the improper development of the elbow
- Hemangiosarcoma, a fatal form of cancer
- Lymphoma, a disease that causes immune system cancer
- Progressive retinal atrophy, the deterioration of the retina
Everyone loves the Bulldog! They are mellow, easygoing and very loving. Bulldogs are comical and amiable, and require little exercise, so they are great for apartment dwellers or city slickers. Unfortunately, they tend to come with a lot of baggage. Most people who bring them home don’t understand how many health problems they tend to have. While most dog breeds have a few health issues they are prone to, Bulldogs are prone to more than 15 health conditions! These include:
- “Cherry eye,” the swelling of the tear glands
- Demodicosis, a common skin condition caused by the Demodex mite
- Distichiasis, a condition of the eye in which the eyelashes grow from a gland
- Ventricular septal defect, a hole in the heart
Dachhunds are adorable pets and make great companions for a variety of different personalities. There are two different sizes: miniature and standard. There are also three different coat varieties within this breed: smooth, long or wire-haired. Dachshunds were originally bred to hunt and kill badgers. Although hunters at heart, they are capable of living in apartments in the city, but still enjoy the outdoors very much. They are bold and curious – a dangerous combination! The most common health concerns for this breed are:
- Intervertebral disc disease, which occurs when the cartilaginous disks in the dog’s back become damaged
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (also known as “dry eye”), an eye condition that causes inadequate tear production
- Shih Tzu
These furry companions are very playful and lively, but also cuddly and affectionate. They may be stubborn, but they love to receive plenty of attention from their owners. Shih Tzus make good pets for seniors, families and people with allergies, as these dogs do not shed. They are a high-energy breed, but require only moderate exercise, like a short walk or play session each day. Unfortunately, this breed is prone to several health issues. These include:
- Entropion, a medical condition of the eyes in which the eyelids roll inward, causing the eyelashes to rub on the eyes