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Designer Dogs: Do Cross-Breeds Have Fewer Health Problems?

Learn about the health considerations of cross-bred dogs.

Through the years, it's become widespread knowledge that mutts, or mixed breed dogs, have fewer inherited health problems than purebreds. In general, that might be true to an extent. However, the rise of "designer dogs," or crosses between two breeds, is showing that it isn't always the case.

Cross-Breeds Have Genetic Issues Too

Veterinarians are finding that there seem to be just as many cases of inherited conditions in dogs that are crosses of two main breeds as there are in purebreds. In some instances, that is probably because both breeds are prone to a particular condition. For example, poodles and Labradors both have a higher incidence of hip dysplasia in their breeds than some others, so Labradoodles do as well.

In fact, in some cases, there might actually be a higher incidence of certain conditions in cross-breeds.

In a study done at UC California Davis, researchers found that some conditions are more common in purebred dogs than mixes, but others are actually found more often in mutts (Bailey, 2013). They looked at the records of over 90,000 dogs that were seen at the veterinary school over a fifteen year period, searching specifically for 24 genetic conditions that have a high degree of accuracy in diagnosis. The researchers determined that some diseases, like cardiomyopathy and elbow dysplasia, were more common in purebred dogs but some, like anterior cruciate ligament rupture in the knee, were more common in mixed breed dogs.

During the UC California Davis study, researchers determined that some conditions, like elbow dysplasia, occurred more commonly in breeds that are closely related to one another. So it stands to reason that dog breeds that are crosses of two of those breeds would also be more prone to developing elbow dysplasia.

What About Human Allergies?

One of the common reasons for people to get certain designer breed dogs, especially those termed doodles, which are a mix of poodle and some other breed, is to get a dog with the personality of the second breed but less of a chance of triggering human allergies. This is widely accepted to be a trait of poodles because they shed less than some other dogs.

But is it true that doodles and other cross-bred dogs are hypoallergenic for humans?

Unfortunately, it's not. Doodles do shed, though it might be less than some other breeds. But even if they didn't, they wouldn't be hypoallergenic. When humans are allergic to dogs, it's a substance in their saliva, urine, and dander that triggers the over-response of the person's immune system. Some dogs do produce less of the allergens that bother humans, but that's an individual thing, not a breed characteristic.

So a person who is allergic to dogs can have a severe reaction to one and a much milder reaction to another, and that can be within one specific breed. That person would need to spend some time with an individual dog, even if it's a doodle, to see if they have a reaction.

So Are Designer Dogs Bad?

Designer dogs, which are crosses between two purebreds, are becoming wildly popular. Labradoodles, aussiedoodles, puggles, yorkipoos, buggs, schnoodles…The list goes on and on.

There are lots of varying opinions on designer dogs, from those who feel they are new breeds with their own unique characteristics to those who chuckle and say they're just "glorified mutts," to those who are against the perpetuation of the new breeds.

At DogHealth.com, we feel that dog adoption is the best option. Going to a shelter and finding an individual dog you feel a connection with is saving a life.

Beyond that, we don't have a problem with designer breeds. Except, of course, those issues that are associated with puppy mills or unscrupulous breeders who breed dogs without thought to genetic conditions or the good of individuals in their care.

All breeders, regardless of whether they're breeding dogs in a hundreds-year-old purebred lineage or a brand new cross-breed, should do so with extreme care and attention to any genetic conditions prevalent in the breed or breeds they are dealing with.

If you are looking for a breeder for a cross-breed dog, we recommend you do your due diligence in ensuring the one you choose is not over-breeding, is aware of the genetic conditions prevalent in the two breeds he or she works with, and does any testing available to ensure his or her line is clear of those issues.


Works Cited

  1. Bailey, P. (2013, May 28). Purebred dogs not always at higher risk for genetic disorders, study finds. Retrieved from UCDavis.edu.

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