The 6 most common genetic diseases in dogs: these breeds are the most vulnerable

Szénási Szimonetta

2024. April 12 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary; Love My Dogz

Some health problems are more prevalent in certain dog breeds. The following six are the most typical genetic issues.


The PetMD animal health website compiled the most common genetic diseases in dogs according to specific breeds.

German Shepherds can inherit numerous health problems

1.) Hip dysplasia

The incorrect fitting of the hip joint leads to cartilage degeneration, joint inflammation, and severe pain.

Its symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty lying down and/or getting up;
  • Difficulty climbing stairs;
  • Inability or difficulty jumping on furniture or getting into the car;
  • Running then walking becomes problematic.

Treatment for hip dysplasia includes pain management, physiotherapy, and other therapeutic options such as laser or stem cell therapy. Depending on the severity of the condition, surgery may be recommended by the veterinarian.

As a preventive measure, it is essential for the owner to control the weight of their pet, as excess weight increases the risk of joint problems. Breeds more commonly affected by hip dysplasia include German Shepherds, the Rottweilers, Great Danes, Saint Bernard Dogs, the Neapolitan Mastiffs, and Retrievers.

Hip dysplasia also threatens large-breed Saint Bernard Dogs

2.) Bladder stones

The formation of bladder stones is also influenced by a predisposition, which can be exacerbated by improper nutrition. Signs of the disease include difficult urination, increased frequency of urination, and bloody urine. The removal of stones is usually done surgically, but sometimes endoscopy and laser are used to break up the stones so they can pass naturally.  The Dalmatians, the Newfoundlands, Bichon Frises, and Miniature Schnauzers are particularly susceptible breeds.

Bichons are prone to urinary stone formation

3.) Epilepsy

Genetics also play a significant role in the development of epilepsy, which is characterized by seizure episodes. Seizures may be accompanied by drooling, limb stiffness, loud barking, restlessness, and urinary and fecal incontinence.

According to research so far, German and Belgian Shepherds, Beagles, the Dachshunds, Keeshonds, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors often inherit this problem. The good news is that with medication, the condition can be very well managed.

Dachshunds can also suffer from many diseases /Photo: Love My Dogz

4.) Heart disease

Several dog breeds are known to have inherited heart problems. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dachshunds are at risk of mitral valve disease, a condition where pressure builds up in the heart chambers, leading eventually to signs of heart failure such as coughing, weakness, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, and collapse.

Additionally, breeds such as Dobermans, Great Danes, and Boxers show a genetic predisposition to dilated cardiomyopathy, which is the enlargement of the heart muscle. Dogs with this condition have abnormal heart muscle, leading to a weakened and enlarged heart.

Heart problems are common in Boxers

Boxers are also at risk of inheriting a condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). As the name suggests, ARVC is also a heart muscle disease. In Boxers and Bulldogs affected by this condition, abnormal heart muscle cells replace normal ones, leading to arrhythmias. Symptoms of this condition may include general weakness and fainting spells, and unfortunately, it can result in sudden cardiac arrest. Heart diseases are managed with medication, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary.

5.) Degenerative myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a progressive spinal cord disease in dogs, mainly affecting older dogs. It’s a slowly progressive neurological condition caused by damage to the nerve fibers and their myelin sheaths within the spinal cord. Dysfunction in nerve conduction in the thoracic and lumbar spinal cord results in symptoms in the hind limbs such as weakness, wobbly gait, dragging of the hind limbs, inability to stand, and eventually paralysis. Symptoms typically appear in middle-aged or older dogs, typically over 5 years old. The disease is not curable, but the animal’s everyday life can be made easier with the use of a wheelchair.

In addition to German Shepherds, degenerative myelopathy is more common in American Water Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, Corgis, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Kerry Blue Terriers, and Pugs.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi /Photo: Love My Dogz

6. Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic dogs suffer from various respiratory problems due to their genetics. The elongated soft palate, narrowed nostrils, deformed larynx, and narrowed trachea are behind these issues. Snoring and constant snorting are typical signs of these problems. Their heat dissipation is also poorer, so they are prone to overheating faster than other dogs. Skin and eye problems are also common in their cases. English and French Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, and Boston Terriers are also at risk, as they are all brachycephalic or similar breeds.

French Bulldog / Photo: Love My Dogz

In their case, close veterinary monitoring is particularly important, as these issues not only affect their quality of life but often escalate to life-threatening conditions.

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brachycephalic syndrome epilepsy heart disease hip dysplasia urinary tract disease veterinarian

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