These Are Some of the Most Common Health Issues in Popular Dog and Cat Breeds

Veterinarians weigh in on the Siberian Husky, Persian, Siamese, and other breeds.

We love our pets and want to ensure that they are always at their healthiest. However, that's not always the case. "In humans, genetics play a major role in our vulnerability to disease and developmental disorders. The same goes for our pets," explains Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy. "Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to hereditary diseases, orthopedic disorders, and even to more severe forms of infectious diseases—such as Rottweilers and canine parvovirus. Whether this is due to inherited immunity, issues with anatomical development, or environmental influences, the fact remains that there are problems that recur in some of our favorite breeds of pups. "

bengal cat laying on couch
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This is true of cats, too, which have evolved due to the introduction of manmade breeds according to Dr. Jesus Aramendi, senior veterinarian at Chewy. "Because of this, inherited and genetic disorders have been passed from generation to generation making some of these conditions more likely to happen in certain breeds over others," he says. "One good example is that cats with a brachycephalic skull commonly called 'flat face' such as Persian cats, tend to be more predisposed to having eye discharge and dental disease than other breeds."

So, which dog and cat breeds may be predisposed to certain medical conditions? Here, we tapped our experts to note the most popular ones. It's important to note that this absolutely doesn't mean you shouldn't adopt any of these types of pets, but rather that you should be informed about and prepared for challenges they may arise.

Dog Breeds

Some popular dog breeds with health issues include the Siberian Husky, Pug, Bulldog, German Shepherd, Chihuahua, Beagle, and Shih Tzu. Siberian Huskies, for example, are highly active dogs and need plenty of exercise, as well as diligent grooming and dental care to be at their healthiest. "[Huskies] are prone to eye diseases like cataracts and glaucoma, hip dysplasia, autoimmune diseases like pemphigus, bleeding disorders, epilepsy and thyroid problems," says Dr. Nelson.

Bulldogs, on the other hand, tend to be "a mess, genetically speaking," she says. "They are bred to have bowed legs, flat faces, broad chests, and a short body. This leaves them vulnerable to numerous skin disorders (allergic dermatitis, facial fold pyoderma, interdigital pyoderma), ocular issues (dystechia, buphthalmos, keratoconjunctivitis sicca-KCS), orthopedic disorders (intervertebral disc disease, hip dysplasia, arthritis), and a plethora of breathing disorders associated with the brachycephalic formation of their heads—stenotic nares, hypoplastic trachea, and an elongated soft palate."

For the German Shepherd, common health issues include approximately 50 hereditary diseases. "Seven major diseases afflicting the GSD are pancreatic acinar atrophy, megaesophagus, hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, hemophilia A, von Willebrand disease, and hereditary multifocal renal cystadenocarcinoma and nodular dermatofibrosis," says Dr. Nelson.

Pugs are prone to a disease called Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE), which is an aggressive disease that attacks their central nervous system and tends to be fatal, and Chihuahuas may have inherited diseases like cardiac and dental diseases, orthopedic disorders like patellar luxation and hip necrosis. Beagles tend to be very healthy but still may have issues like chronic ear disease, allergies, skin problems, and hypothyroidism. What about the Shih Tzu? "Shih Tzus are a relatively healthy and long living breed, but can suffer from patellar luxation, disc issues, eye disorders such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), glaucoma and CPRA, dental disease, and breathing disorders associated with the brachycephalic formation of their skulls," Dr. Nelson says.

Cat Breeds

Designer breeds like the Persian and Bengal are prone to certain medical conditions, as well. "Persians are a very desired breed due to their large eyes and long soft coat. However, these physical features at times are the reason for this breed to be more prone to hair coat issues, dental disease, eye discharge, and kidney disease," explains Dr. Aramendi. Bengals, which have a leopard-like appearance, are prone to heart disease in the form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a common diagnosis in cats.

Other cat breeds that have common health problems include Ragdoll, British Shorthair, Ragamuffin, and Siamese. "Ragdolls are one of the largest domesticated cat breeds. Females can grow up to 15 pounds and males can be as large as 20 pounds," says Dr. Aramendi. "For this reason, they tend to be prone to obesity and joint problems. It is very important to consult with your veterinarian if your Ragdoll seems to be gaining weight." British Shorthairs may have a rare gene for Hemophilia B, a condition that affects the normal coagulation of the blood, he says, so it's important that you have your cat tested before starting any breeding program for this breed.

"Siamese cats are very popular for their majestic look and their history," continues Dr. Aramendi. "They have the tendency of developing Mast cell tumors, a type of skin tumors that could grow and have the potential to develop into cancers. If you see any skin masses on your Siamese, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian sooner rather than later." Ragamuffins are prone to a kidney condition called polycystic kidneys, but this is a health problem that any cat breed can develop. "This disease will eventually cause kidney failure (failure of the ability to excrete toxins in the urine)," Dr. Aramendi says. "If your cat is losing weight excessively, drinking more water than usual, and urinating more often than usual, it could be an indication of kidney disease. If your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately."

As always, it's important to talk with your veterinarian when bringing home a new pet to know what kind of care to provide, especially if a breed needs special considerations.

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