Many believe that mixed breed dogs are actually healthier than purebreds. What does it mean for one type of dog to be “healthier” than the other? Well, one common denominator of health is a dog’s risk of being predisposed to certain disorders or illness. It’s believed that mixed breeds have a reduced risk of inheriting disorders that are breed-specific and more likely to occur in dogs who are purebreds and share a similar lineage. Purebred dogs therefore share the same predisposition for certain genetic disorders. Breeding and blending different breeds together (i.e. mixed breeds), naturally results in a lower risk for those breed-based, inherited diseases.
For example, Boxers are susceptible to cancer, while many Poodles suffer from glaucoma, and Labrador Retrievers are prone to obesity. But, mixed breed dogs are less likely to be carriers of these disease traits and develop breed-specific diseases. In turn, they have an increased chance of of living healthier, longer lives.
The relation between overall health and breed is one which has been studied for years. Overall, the data tends to lean in favor of mixed breed dogs indeed being healthier than purebreds. This is especially true from a physical and longevity standpoint. These results support the theory of heterosis which states that hybrid offspring have improved biological quality due to their mixed genetics. But is physical health the only meaningful factor in determining overall health or are there more elements at work here? This article further explores if mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebreds and if so, why?
Mixed Breed vs. Purebred
Purebreds differ from mixed breeds because they’re achieved through selective breeding and have a documented pedigree. However, as a result of selective breeding, some purebreds are prone to specific diseases, illnesses or disorders. Mixed breed dogs, sometimes to referred to as mutts, mongrels or hybrids, are just that – a mix of more than one breed. They may not have any purebred ancestors and are not intentionally bred. Furthermore, due to the mixing of breeds, certain genetic risk factors may be minimized or even offset.
As you can imagine, there’s some bias and belief that contributes to this debate of mixed breed vs. purebred. Hybrid lovers and advocates would say that mixed breed dogs are inherently healthier, while purebred breeders of course would beg to disagree. Veterinarians are sure to have their own opinions as well, which are generally based on research and first-hand experiences. Regardless of opinions and beliefs, it’s also important to remember that “health” encompasses a lot of factors – beyond predisposition to illness and even beyond physical health altogether. The term “health” should also include a dog’s mental and social state. Much like physical factors, mental and social health factors can differ between purebred and mixed breed pups. For starters, mixed breeds unfortunately end up in shelters or as rescues at a higher rate than purebreds. This provides one group the opportunity to learn how to socialize with other dogs from a young age and the other at high risk for canine behavioral issues … there will inevitably be differences in the mental and social state of each. Even if a mixed breed canine is prone to be in a healthier physical state than a given purebred, an unhealthy social history can severely affect mental and emotional state – ultimately impacting his overall health. An unhealthy mental and emotional state can induce high levels of stress and fatigue, both of which negatively impact a dog’s physical health.
So, how can the “healthiest” be determined? As you can see, there isn’t necessarily a clear cut definition of what healthy really is. Health is multifaceted and determined by several contributing factors including physical, mental, social and emotional. Naturally, many have tried to answer this very question. Generally speaking, most determine a “healthier” dog is the one which lives a longer life, absent of disease and illness. Therefore, it’s believed that hybrids can be crowned the “healthiest” because of their longevity and lower prevalence of genetic diseases. With that said, a mixed breed pup who has been poorly cared for or endured a traumatic experience in his past, is at greater risk of developing an illness. And the same goes for purebreds. Regardless of breed, canines who are properly loved and cared for will always live happier, and of course healthier lives. Understanding your pup’s genetics, his risk of developing certain diseases, and providing appropriate preventative care can help contribute to him living a healthier, longer life. Ask your vet to educate you on your dog’s breed and strategies to reduce risk of illness and disease. No matter the breed, make sure to provide your pup with regular exercise, a nutrient-rich canine diet, go for routine check ups with your local vet and monitor any signs and symptoms of illness.
- “Are Mixed Breed Dogs Healthier Than Purebreds?” Dogs Naturally Magazine, 9 Jan. 2019, www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/genetic-dog-diseases-in-purebreds-and-mixed-breeds/.
- “Are Mixed-Breed Dogs Really Healthier Than Purebreds?” Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/canine-corner/201806/are-mixed-breed-dogs-really-healthier-purebreds.
- Khuly, Patty. “The Great Debate: Are Mutts Healthier Than Purebreds?” Vetstreet, www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/the-great-debate-are-mutts-healthier-than-purebreds.