Crossbreeds can make some of the most gorgeous dogs. The downside is with those two breeds coming together, that’s double the risks of potential breed-dominant disorders and diseases. Whether you have a purebred dog or a mutt, you should be aware of common conditions that may affect your dog from puppyhood to senior age. Additionally, two of the most common genetic-linked health issues among virtually all breeds are hip dysplasia and allergies. Find out more about what you should be aware of when it comes to your dog’s physical health.

If you adopted a shelter dog, have you been eager to have dog DNA test to know its genetic makeup?

I’ve had a few Greyhounds so I know their lineage, but I also have a shelter dog and have been intrigued to know. 

Wondering even about my genetic makeup, I took the test from My Ancestry where you spit into their little vile, mail it in and wait for email updates. One said, “It arrived at the lab!” Another said, “It’s going through testing.” Then the final results were reported as inconclusive. Did I not provide enough spit? Am I a gypsy or an alien? They sent another kit, and I needed to spit and repeat. In the end, my results weren’t too exciting nor unknown. I’m of European heritage. Um, I knew that.

So I’m a bit hesitant to do this for my mixed breed even though part of me is curious. 

Thank goodness the procedure for dogs is simpler: It’s a cheek swab. Voila! You may learn his or her genetic background, history of the breed, personality traits, and more. Just like my human sample, they run the dog’s DNA through a database of certified dog breeds. Dog DNA matches from the cells of the dog are recorded, and you may find out your dog’s breed makeup. The swab type knows about 40 dog breeds.

A blood test can be more specific and can detect about 130 breeds. The American Kennel Club (AKC) includes more than 150 breeds, and the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognizes about 300 breeds. Even though the blood test is more thorough, each method has its limitations.

I’m sure as these tests improve, more breeds will be recognized and included.

Geneticists have identified more than 300 DNA markers that help identify specific breeds. The ability to identify specifics in the canine genome is what helps the dog breed DNA identification tests. Susan Nelson, DVM of the Kansas State University Vet Medical Teaching Hospital, says, “The more dogs these companies test, the more information they’ll have.”

So beyond curiosity, why is it a good idea to know your dog’s breed? One reason is you’ll be more aware of possible heredity conditions. For instance, Great Danes are susceptible to bloat; Labrador Retrievers may have joint and hip disorders; and Schnauzers may get diabetes.

While it’s good to be aware, it doesn’t mean that your pet will have certain heredity issues. Either way, it helps you be more proactive. For instance, if joint issues are a possibility, you may want to add glucosamine into your pet’s diet. 

Predisposition Doesn’t Mean They’ll Get It

So what is it about genetics that has many of us diving into our past—human or canine? Well, for a dog, a genetic predisposition means it’s at risk of getting a health issue because of that breed’s associated genes. Just as diabetes, epilepsy, and arthritis can run in humans, certain dog breeds may be predisposed to issues. But predisposition simply means a higher risk than normal. These conditions can pass through dog families even when that dog is from multiple breeds.

Unfortunately, there’s no completely safe breed. All breeds are susceptible to genetic-associated issues. Plus a dog that is not predisposed can also get diseases.

The most common issues are hip dysplasia and allergies. Hip dysplasia is seen in larger breeds such as the American Staffordshire, St. Bernards, Retrievers, Rottweilers. But it can also happen in smaller breeds such as Pugs and French Bulldogs. You can’t totally prevent hip dysplasia, but you can help prevent it from getting worse through nutrition and not overfeeding your dog, especially during the puppy years. Increased calcium levels may increase growth too quickly. And extra weight puts more pressure on the joints and hips. 

In a study of 27,000 dogs from the veterinary clinic at UC Davis, they compared 24 genetic disorders in mixed versus purebred. They found:  

  • The incidence of 10 genetic disorders (42 percent) was significantly greater in purebred dogs.
  • The incidence of one disorder (ruptured cranial cruciate ligament; 4 percent) was greater in mixed breed dogs.
  • For the rest of the disorders examined, they found no difference in incidence between mixed and purebred dogs.

To be more aware of potential ailments, conditions and/or diseases, here is a list of popular breeds with hereditary issues. 

Reminder: While these breeds may have a predisposition for these ailments, it doesn’t mean they will get it. 

American Pit Bull Terrier: allergies, thyroid, hip dysplasia

Basset Hound: glaucoma, back

Beagle: cataracts, deafness, epilepsy, heart

Bloodhound: bloat, hip dysplasia, eyelid

Border Collie: cataracts, deafness, hip dysplasia

Boston Terrier: cataracts, cherry eye

Boxer: allergies, deafness, sinus, cancer

Bulldog: respiratory problems

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: mitral valve disease

Chihuahua: glaucoma, heart disease, collapsing trachea

Cocker Spaniel: ear infections, eye issues, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, thyroid

Dachshund: back, baldness

Doberman Pinscher: heart condition

French Bulldog: cataracts, breathing issues

German Shepherd: hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts, heart disease

German Shorthaired Pointer: aortic stenosis

Golden Retriever: skin allergies

Great Dane: bloat

Greyhound: cancer

Labrador Retriever: obesity, joints, hip dysplasia, skin issues, epilepsy

Maltese: Little White Shaker Syndrome (shakes/tremors)

Miniature Schnauzer: diabetes

Pomeranian: hair loss

Poodle: heart, epilepsy, immune system, glaucoma

Pug: eye problems

Rottweiler: joint problems

Saint Bernard: cataracts, digestion, hip dysplasia

Shetland Sheepdog: collie eye

Shih Tzu: patellar luxation (bad knees)

Siberian Husky: autoimmune disorders (skin, cataracts)

Staffordshire Bull Terrier: cataracts

Yorkshire Terrier: portosystemic shunt (blood vessel birth defect)


Allergies can also be inherited, with flea allergies among the most common for dogs. Dust mites may also make them uncomfortable.

Washing dog beds and toys, along with and vacuuming often, will help keep dust mites at bay. They thrive in humidity, so keeping the air conditioner going will help too. 

So I’ve still opted not to test my mixed breed. His health has been great for several years. I love him no matter what he is, and we focus on quality food and exercise. But I’d love to hear your stories of having your pet’s DNA test and any surprises you encountered.