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Dog Genetic Disorders – Five Most Common

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There are many different medical conditions that have been passed on through DNA throughout the decades. If one of your parents are prone to mental illness or high blood pressure, chances are, so will you. This same concept goes for our canine friends.

It has been scientifically proven that purebred dogs have breed-specific health conditions that are passed on through their genes. Taking the previously mentioned into account, it doesn’t rule out mixed-breeds.

Mixed breed dogs are prone to medical conditions that have been passed on through their historic generic structure. Some dog breeds are healthier than others because their DNA doesn’t host as many breed-specific health conditions.

Even if it’s not always possible to tell exactly which breeds your dog is a mix of, it’s important that you know what kind of medical conditions is present in their potential ancestors.

Group of dogs on a grass field

Here follows a list of the five most common genetic disorders that can be found in multiple breed dogs.

1. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

The deterioration of nerve fibers in a canine’s spinal cord is called Degenerative Myelopathy. The disease causes signals from nerves sent to the brain to deteriorate and worsen. Eventually affecting the dog’s neurological responses.

Symptoms of the disease include:

-Weakness in hind legs,
-Pulling of hind legs and
-Eventually paralysis.
Dogs will only show symptoms of DM when they are in the senior stage of their life.

There is no cure for this disease and its effect can be really hard on both canine and owner. As the dog loses the use of their hind legs they experience difficulties urinating too. Harshly taking a toll on the dog’s mental well-being.

Breeds mostly prone to inherit DM are German Shepherd, Boxers, Pug, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Kerry Blue Terrier, Borzoi, and the American Water Spaniel.

2. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where cells in a dog’s brain have an abnormal activity that leads to a seizure.

There are many causes of epilepsy, some known and other unknown. Causes can be brain trauma, liver disease, kidney failure, blood issues, or a present toxin. If it’s not caused by any of the previously mentioned conditions it can be genetically inherited.

Symptoms of epilepsy can include:

-A fall to the ground,
-Stiffening of the muscles,
-Foaming around the mouth,
-Loss of consciousness,
-No bladder control or
-Tongue chewing.
Seeing your dog having a seizure, or fit, can be really distressing.

Epilepsy and seizures can be treated and most common medicines include potassium bromide and phenobarbital. Scientists are finding other ways to treat seizures that are also becoming more popular.

Dog owners can take their pet to a vet for an EEG (electroencephalogram), MRI or CT scans. These scans measure electrical activity in the dog’s brain to identify whether your pet is prone to fits. Medication can be given to dogs to control their seizures.

Breeds mostly prone to inherit epilepsy are Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Tervurens, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, and Beagles.

4 dogs sitting in one spot while looking up at the photographer

3. Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a crippling medical condition that occurs when the hip socket has an abnormal formation.

The first signs of Hip Dysplasia are:

-Less movement,
-Difficulty jumping or climbing,
-Wobbliness when walking,
-A grating sound in the joint while walking,
– or progressive use of front legs.

Hip Dysplasia can be really painful and uncomfortable for a canine. The condition can cause inflammation in the joints. In severe cases arthritis.

If you notice any changes in your dog’s movement you have to take them to the vet as soon as possible. X-rays and a thorough physical examination will confirm the presence of the condition.

The disease can be caused due to an accident, injury or it can be genetically inheritable. Treatments for Hip Dysplasia can be restrictions in exercise and physical therapy that can include hydrotherapy for dogs.

Breeds mostly prone to inherit Hip Dysplasia are Rottweilers, Great Danes, Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, German Shepherds, Bulldogs, and Retrievers.

4. Heart Disease

Cardiac problems have become an increasing medical condition in dog breeds. The condition causes heart failure due to its incapability of meeting the body’s demand.

Symptoms of Heart Disease include:

-Weight loss,
-Trouble sleeping and breathing,
-Changes in walking and exercise,
-Loss of appetite, and
-Difficulty coughing.

Causes of heart failure can be old age, overweight, a poor diet, heartworms, or lack of exercise. Luckily, there are various medications available to manage your dog’s heart condition. It’s important that your dog stays on a healthy diet and get regular exercise to avoid heart disease.

Owners can look out for symptoms of heart disease with the pet dog in order to protect them from severe consequences. Symptoms of heart disease can be stopped and avoided. To identify the cause and severity of heart disease veterinarians take X-rays, blood samples and urine tests.

Breeds mostly prone to inherit Heart Disease are Great Danes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers, Bulldogs, and Dachshunds,

Veterinarians checking up sick Great Done dog with stethoscope in vet clinic

5. Congenital Deafness 

Congenital deafness in dogs is a genetically passed medical condition that causes deafness. Scientists have proven that Congenital Deafness is related to the color of a dog’s coat. Therefore, it’s a genetic disorder that can be passed on through, specifically, a light-colored coat.

The reason why it occurs in light-colored coated dogs is that their ears are white in color. The white skin in the ear causes the withering of the nerve endings that causes loss of hearing in time.

Causes of Congenital Deafness is mostly because of genetic defects but can also be caused by intrauterine infections, exposure to toxic substances, or liver disease.

Symptoms of Congenital Deafness:

-Ignoring a call,
-Not reacting to loud noises,
-Disorientation and confusion,
-Aggressive behavior towards other puppies or dogs, and
-Jumpy behavior when touched or petted unexpectedly.

A BAER test from a veterinarian can identify whether your puppy or dog has congenital deafness. Your vet can also give you advice on how to manage and take care of a dog when they have Congenital Deafness.

Breeds mostly prone to inherit Congenital Deafness are Dalmations, Border Collies, White Bull Terriers, White Boxers, and English Setters.

Owning a pet is a great responsibility and being aware of the medical conditions, symptoms, and treatments for specific genetic disorders will give you the tools to manage your dog’s health needs.

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