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Three Dog Breeds to Think Twice About Before Purchasing

Monday, December 20, 2010

Are you thinking about adding a purebred puppy to your household? Every purebred dog breed is genetically predisposed to its own unique list of medical problems. However, a few breeds are notorious for having more than their fair share of medical issues, and committing to a lifetime of care for these breeds without full understanding of the time and cost required is unfair to both yourself and the dog. This article describes the most common medical issues of three popular breeds: the Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, and Dachshund. Read on to become educated and decide if one of these breeds is really the right dog for you!

With so many different dog breeds available, choosing the one that’s right for your household can be overwhelming. Most people do a fair amount of research before purchasing a purebred puppy, and commonly make the decision based on the breed’s size, appearance, and personality. These are all important factors, but one very important factor is often overlooked: medical issues. Purebred dog breeds have essentially been inbred over generations, which ensures consistency in the breed’s traits, but also allows genetic defects and medical disorders to be propagated in the breed. A few dog breeds are notorious for their medical problems, and it is crucial to have an understanding of these issues before you commit the time and money to caring for a dog for its lifetime.

The Bulldog: Respiratory Difficulty, Skin Infections, and Corneal Ulcers

Bulldog Puppy by Cynr
The English Bulldog is famous for its appearance. It has a short, stocky build and a wide stance giving it a tough and sturdy appearance. It has a short muzzle and prolific facial folds. It is a widely popular breed, and appears in numerous commercials and print advertisements for pet products. Unfortunately, the breed is also famous for its medical problems. The short, smashed-in face that makes it so adorable also creates some medical issues. The Bulldog suffers from what is called Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS). The four components of this syndrome are: Stenotic nares (nostrils that are disproportionately narrow), hypoplastic trachea (the tracheal diameter is disproportionately small), elongated soft palate (the tissue in the roof of the mouth extends too far back into the throat), and redundant pharyngeal tissue (excessive tissue in the back of the throat). All of these anatomical problems taken together mean that the Bulldog has a very difficult time breathing. It is so difficult for this breed to move air to their lungs that you can actually hear them breathing, even at rest. The problem worsens exponentially if the animal is stressed, overworked, or overheated. It is very easy for a Bulldog to go into a state of respiratory distress, necessitating emergency veterinary care. In some cases, surgery is necessary to correct the anatomical abnormalities to allow the animal to breath. Expect to pay a few thousand dollars if surgery is necessary.

The Bulldog’s difficulty breathing is not its only challenging trait. The excessive facial skin that creates those adorable wrinkles also causes some major problems for the breed. The valleys of skin between the facial folds create a dark, moist environment perfect for bacteria and yeast to proliferate. This causes smelly, oozy skin infections that require constant attention. The excessive skin on the Bulldog’s face also predisposes the breed to a condition called ‘entropion’, which is the inward folding of the upper or lower eyelid. When the eyelid rolls inward, the eyelashes act as an abrasive irritant to the sensitive cornea, which is the clear outer surface of the eye. Constant rubbing of the cornea leads to corneal ulcerations and abrasions, which require veterinary attention. Many Bulldogs are cursed with repeated corneal ulcers and the only permanent solution to entropion is surgical correction, which is expensive and sometimes requires repeated attempts for success.

The Cocker Spaniel: Severe Ear Infections and Oily, Smelly Skin

Blowin' in the Wind by Mike Baird
The Cocker Spaniel is traditionally one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. “Lady” from Lady and the Tramp, probably the most famous Cocker in popular culture, embodies the more endearing qualities that draw people to the Cocker – the long, heavy ears, the long eyelashes, and the luxurious hair coat. Cocker Spaniels tend to have easy-going personalities and can make great family pets. However, a few characteristics of the Cocker Spaniel can make it less than appealing for the average dog owner.

Cockers are notorious for having severe and chronic bacterial ear infections. Their long, heavy ears combined with underlying skin abnormalities create the perfect place for bacteria to thrive. Ear infections require intense at-home care, and it is not uncommon for an ear infection that is not appropriately treated to become so severe that pus literally oozes from the ear canal. The infected ears have a very distinct, pungent odor that can be smelled from across a room, and handling the ears for treatment leaves a smell on the hands that is only removed after repeated washings. Many Cocker Spaniels with chronic ear infections develop narrowed, inflamed ear canals, which can actually cause the ear canals to be closed off from the outside. This condition requires surgery, which is expensive and painful for the animal.

In addition to the horrendous ear problems, Cocker Spaniels also suffer from a condition known as primary seborrhea, which is a disorder that causes the skin to be flaky, oily, and smelly. This can make petting, or even being close to the dog unpleasant. Seborrhea also affects the way the oil glands function, and causes the formation of sebaceous adenomas, which are benign oil gland tumors resembling warts in appearance. It is not uncommon for an older cocker spaniel to have dozens of sebaceous adenomas on its body. The problem is largely cosmetic and the tumors are benign, but they can be irritating to the animal and sometimes bleed, necessitating removal.

The Dachshund: Intervertebral Disc Disease and Periodontal Disease

Dappled Dachshund Puppy by Mr. T in DC
The Dachshund, or ‘wiener dog’, was bred for hunting small mammals. It’s long back, long muzzle, and short legs make it perfect for sniffing small animals out of their holes. The Dachshund is a very popular breed because of its small size and ability to integrate well into a family. However, anyone thinking of purchasing a Dachshund needs to be aware of a few potential problems with the breed.

First of all, the Dachshund’s extraordinarily long back makes it prone to a condition called Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). IVDD is a degenerative weakening in the intervertebral discs, which are the spongy cushions between the individual vertebrae that make up the backbone. When the disc is weakened, it is at risk of rupturing and protruding into and compressing the spinal cord beneath it. When the spinal cord is compressed, neurologic function in the rear legs is compromised. This results in anything from mild weakness in the hind legs to complete hind limb paralysis and loss of control of the bladder and bowels. IVDD is commonly seen in middle-aged Dachshunds who are otherwise healthy, and many times emergency spinal surgery is necessary to save the function of the legs.

In addition to IVDD, Dachshunds are also genetically predisposed to severe periodontal disease, which is the degenerative loss of structural support around the teeth. Although this may not sound like a big deal, severe periodontal disease has a major effect on quality of life for the animal. If the periodontal disease is severe enough the teeth will become very painful and infected, and will have a terrible odor associated with them. Periodontal disease can affect the animal’s ability to eat, and will require surgical extraction.

In conclusion, choosing which breed to integrate into your household is a very important decision. Common medical problems of the breed should be one of the factors you examine closely when making that decision. The Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, and Dachshund can be great pets, if you are willing to commit to caring for them. Be aware of the potential time and financial commitments that you may be taking on by purchasing a purebred puppy, as you will be doing a disservice to both yourself and the dog if you are not prepared to deal with its potential problems.

About the Author: Bruno is a Norwegian dog expert. He has been blogging about Hunderaser and Hundeutstyr for more than five years.

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