The Most Food-Obsessed Breed, They're an Open Invitation for Obesity

Story at-a-glance -

  • Most dogs are predisposed to certain disorders, including some of the most popular breeds
  • For example, Labrador Retrievers are prone to obesity, Dachshunds to disc disease and brachycephalic Bulldogs are known to overheat
  • Most Collies have multidrug sensitivity; Golden Retrievers often develop hip dysplasia; Chihuahuas are prone to luxating patellas (floating kneecaps)
  • If your dog is a breed (or breed mix) predisposed to a particular health problem, there’s often much you can do to either prevent or effectively manage the disorder

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Most dogs are predisposed to certain disorders, including some of the most popular breeds. For example, Labrador Retrievers are prone to obesity, Dachshunds to disc disease and brachycephalic Bulldogs are known to overheat. Also, most Collies have multidrug sensitivity; Golden Retrievers often develop hip dysplasia; and Chihuahuas are prone to luxating patellas (floating kneecaps).

If your dog is a breed (or breed mix) predisposed to a particular health problem, there’s often much you can do to either prevent or effectively manage the disorder.

Common Health Problems in 10 Popular Dog Breeds

1. Labrador Retriever: Obesity — Research suggests some Labs are hardwired to eat anything that isn’t nailed down, however, genetics are never the sole driving force behind a dog's weight problem. It’s ultimately it's up to you, as your dog’s guardian and advocate, to help her stay lean and fit.

Even though Labs have the highest rate of obesity and are more food-obsessed than many other breeds, this doesn't mean your dog is destined to become the next obesity statistic. The right portion-controlled diet and plenty of exercise are the keys to keeping your pet slim and healthy. More information for Labrador Retriever parents: “What to feed a dog prone to weight gain.

2. Dachshund: Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) — Dachshunds a century ago had short but functional legs and necks in proportion to their overall size. Since then, they have been bred for longer backs and necks, jutting chests, and legs so short their bellies barely clear the floor. Sadly, bad breeding decisions have given Doxies the highest risk of any breed for intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).

Unfortunately, even after treatment, IVDD symptoms recur in about 50 percent of pets, especially if they are obese, out of condition or if they’re allowed to jump freely. Regular physical therapy focused on establishing and maintaining core strength and muscle tone can help reduce the risk of IVDD and its recurrence. For more information on Dachshunds, IVDD and intervertebral disc extrusion (IVDE): “Common condition triggers paralysis.”

3. Boxer: Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) aka ‘Bloat’ — GDV is most often seen in older, large and giant breed deep-chested (as opposed to barrel-chested) dogs, including the Boxer. It may be a partially inherited trait, since many GDV dogs have relatives who also have the condition. In GDV, the stomach expands to several times its normal size due to trapped gas, air and in some cases, fluid.

In a worst-case scenario, the bloated stomach twists around on itself, squeezing off the blood supply to the stomach and spleen, and creating the potential for significant damage to other internal organs. GDV is a life-threatening medical emergency. Without treatment, it can lead to death in a matter of hours. Read my most recent article on GDV/bloat for a thorough discussion of this dangerous condition, including prevention tips.

4. Bulldog: Overheating — Like the Dachshund and sadly, several other breeds, Bulldogs can suffer from a long list of diseases thanks to exaggerated breeding to achieve a certain look. The Bulldog is a brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog, and all brachy breeds are prone to breathing problems and inefficient panting that inhibits their ability to release heat from their bodies. If you’d like to learn more about your Bulldog and how to keep him healthy, view my video “Special Needs of Brachycephalic Breeds.”

5. Collie: MDR1 Gene Mutation aka Multidrug Sensitivity — Collies and many other herding breeds can carry a mutation of the multidrug-resistant gene (MDR1) that can cause serious adverse reactions to some medications, including certain anti-parasitics and anesthesia drugs.

Approximately 3 of 4 four Collies in the U.S. have the mutant MDR1 gene, and since the frequency is about the same in France and Australia, it’s likely most Collies worldwide have the mutation. The only way to know if your dog has the mutant MDR1 gene is to test for it. For more information, visit Washington State University’s Multidrug Sensitivity in Dogs page.

6. Golden Retriever: Hip Dysplasia — Golden Retrievers are absolutely wonderful dogs that are unfortunately prone to a long list of disorders, one of which is canine hip dysplasia (CHD).

In addition to a breed predisposition, other markers for CHD include: a body that is longer than it is tall; high BMI (body-to-mass) ratio; spayed or neutered; less than 1 year old and diagnosed with hip joint damage and microfractures of the hip socket; and young to middle-aged dogs with pain and lameness linked to osteoarthritis.

Whether or not a dog develops CHD and DJD/osteoarthritis, and the severity of it, depends on both nature (a genetic component) and nurture (environment and nutrition). To learn more about hip dysplasia, including the symptoms to watch for and the role of environment and nutrition: “Help Your Golden Avoid Hip Dysplasia.”

7. Doberman Pinscher: Von Willebrand Disease (vWD) — Von Willebrand Disease is a blood clotting disorder that inhibits normal clotting function and causes excessive bleeding even for minor skin wounds, which can be serious and even deadly. vWD is caused by a genetic mutation, and Dobermans are predisposed to Type 1 vWD, which typically causes mild to moderate symptoms.

Fortunately, most dogs with the disorder have few if any symptoms, and symptoms tend to improve as a dog matures. Dogs with Type 1 vWD are often not diagnosed for years until surgery or an acute injury points to a problem with a blood clotting issue. For much more information see “Von Willebrand Disease: The Disorder That Can Turn Everyday Fun Into a Life-Threatening Event.”

8. Chihuahua: Patellar Luxation (Floating Kneecap) — Chihuahuas are one of several small and tiny breeds prone to patellar luxation. The kneecap moves up and down in a wedge-shaped groove right on the thighbone. The patella ridges hold the kneecap in place, and as long as the ridges are deep, the kneecap can only move up and down as nature intended.

Unfortunately, some dogs have a very flat patella ridge. This means the kneecap doesn't seat snugly in the groove and can pop out either medially, to the inside, or laterally, to the outside. A grade 1 luxation is the mildest; grade 4 is the most severe. If you have a small or tiny dog, there are steps you can take to help prevent or effectively manage the condition, which I discuss in detail in my video on patellar luxation.

9. German Shepherd: Degenerative Myelopathy — Degenerative myelopathy, or DM, is a disease of the spinal cord that is most often seen in the German Shepherd. The disease begins with loss of coordination in the hind limbs, causing a wobbly walk, knuckling over and dragging of the hind feet. As the disease progresses, the legs become weaker, the dog has difficulty standing, and ultimately becomes unable to walk.

To learn about options for managing this disease, beneficial supplements and more: “Why Early Diagnosis of Canine Degenerative Myelopathy Is Important.”

10. Siberian Husky: Uveodermatologic Syndrome — Uveodermatologic syndrome is an immune-mediated disease in which the body attacks its own melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment primarily in the skin, the retina and the uveal tract of the eye.

The first ocular sign is usually uveitis, which ultimately leads to blindness. You might notice your dog's eyes are bloodshot or seem to be causing her pain. She may bump into objects and show other signs of a problem with her vision, including changes to the appearance of the eyes.

Within three to six months, 90 percent of affected dogs will have whitening of the coat, which is sometimes confined to the face. In about 50 percent of dogs, the skin will also whiten, and will be most obvious on the eyelids, nose, lips, footpads and scrotum.

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