When it comes to the health of your dog, one of the most important things to consider is inherited health issues. While some health issues may be preventable, others are passed on through genetics.
This is why it’s important to get your dog from an ethical breeder, such as Responsible Pet Breeders in Michigan – genetics play a significant role in the development and health of any dog. Dogs that come from breeders with no breeding plan will tend to be predisposed to develop more significant diseases or conditions that can either shorten a dog’s lifespan or compromise their quality of life.
Inherited health conditions in dogs can range from relatively minor issues such as allergies or skin disorders, to more serious illnesses such as heart disease. Many of these conditions are hereditary, meaning they are passed down from parent to offspring.
As a responsible pet owner, it is important to understand what types of inherited diseases your pup may be at risk for and how you can help reduce their likelihood of developing them.
4 Common Inherited Health Issues in Dogs
1. Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a condition that affects the hip joint in dogs and is characterised by an abnormally shallow hip socket or looseness of the joint. It is a congenital disorder, meaning it is present at birth, but may not become apparent until later in life.
The hip joint consists of two bones: the femur (thigh bone) and the pelvis. In normal hips, there is a tight fit between these two bones which allows for smooth movement. With hip dysplasia, however, this fit becomes loose and causes pain and lameness due to instability in the joint. Over time, this instability leads to arthritis which further worsens the animal’s mobility and quality of life.
Diagnosis of hip dysplasia typically involves physical examination and radiographs (X-rays). An experienced veterinarian will look for evidence of subluxation (partial dislocation) or luxation (complete dislocation) of the hip joint as well as signs of arthritic changes such as bone spurs around the joint margins.
It is especially common in large breeds such as German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers, but it can affect any breed or crossbreed.
If your dog has a genetic history of hip dysplasia or another type of joint disorder, it’s important to have them tested periodically by a veterinarian so that any problems can be caught early on and addressed promptly with appropriate treatment.
2. Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited eye disease that affects the retina in dogs. It is caused by a genetic mutation, which causes the gradual deterioration of the retina over time. This results in progressive vision loss and eventual blindness.
PRA is an autosomal recessive disorder, meaning that, in most cases, both parents must carry the mutated gene for their offspring to be affected.
Breeds at higher risk include:
American Cocker Spaniels
Although there is no cure for this condition, regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist can help detect any changes early on so that appropriate treatments can be implemented before full-blown blindness sets in.
3. Heart Disease
Inherited heart disease in dogs is a broad term used to describe any heart problem that can be passed down from one generation to another. This type of heart disease is caused by a genetic defect that affects the structure, function or metabolism of the dog’s heart. These defects can cause various types of problems ranging from mild to severe and even fatal.
The most common inherited heart diseases in dogs involve the valves and chambers of the heart. Valvular Heart Disease (VHD) is a condition which causes narrowing or leakage of the valves within the heart. This narrowing or leakage prevents proper blood flow, leading to an increased workload on the heart muscles and ultimately causing them to become weak and inefficient.
As the condition progresses, it can lead to congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke, and even death if not treated promptly.
Other types of inherited heart diseases in dogs include Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), which is characterised by an enlarged left ventricle; Aortic Stenosis (AS), which involves narrowing of the aorta; Pulmonary Stenosis (PS), which involves narrowing of both pulmonary arteries; and Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), which involves abnormal communication between two chambers in the upper portion of the heart.
In addition, some breeds are predisposed to certain types of cardiac arrhythmias due to genetic factors. These arrhythmias can cause palpitations, fainting spells, weakness or collapse and can also be life-threatening if not addressed quickly.
In order to diagnose inherited heart diseases in dogs correctly, veterinarians will typically perform diagnostic tests such as x-rays and ultrasound scans as well as electrocardiograms (ECGs).
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition but may include medications such as ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers as well as surgical options like valve replacement or pacemaker implantation. Diet modifications may also be necessary for some conditions such as DCM.
Early diagnosis can help improve prognosis significantly, so owners should look out for signs such as coughing, laboured breathing or exercise intolerance in their pet, and consult with a veterinarian immediately for further investigation.
4. Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord in dogs. It is an inherited disease which means that it is passed down from generation to generation through breeding. It affects all breeds, but some are more likely to be affected than others.
Clinical signs of DM usually begin with hind limb weakness and loss of coordination that may appear as early as 6 months old or as late as 8 years old. Other clinical signs include a gait abnormality (knuckling over or dragging feet), involuntary muscle twitching or trembling, difficulty rising from a resting position, reluctance to jump up on surfaces or go up/down stairs/hills, and weakness in the back end when walking.
In more severe cases, dogs may lose bladder control and become completely paralyzed.
Diagnosis for DM can be challenging due to its variable presentation and lack of reliable laboratory tests available for definitive diagnosis. The best way to diagnose this condition is through an examination by a veterinarian who will assess your dog’s clinical signs and record their medical history while ruling out any other possible causes such as trauma or infectious diseases that could present similar symptoms.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be used to confirm suspected cases of DM by showing lesions on the spinal cord associated with this condition.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for DM as it currently stands, but there are management options available that can help slow its progression and improve quality of life for affected animals.
While there are no surefire ways to prevent all inherited health conditions in dogs entirely since genetics play an unavoidable role, you can still take proactive steps towards reducing their likelihood.
You can start by only dealing with responsible breeders who test their dogs for these conditions, and by scheduling routine veterinary checkups. Most dogs are still able to live rich, fulfilling lives even with these conditions, so don’t lose hope even if your dog is diagnosed.