Health Issues & Conditions in Specific Dog Breeds

A big part of a dog’s general wellbeing is their health. Unfortunately some breeds are more likely to suffer from certain conditions than others. 

These breeds are:

  • Bulldogs
  • Beagles
  • Boxers

However, they’re not the only ones. Before choosing to adopt or buy one of these breeds you should know about the potential health problems they can be born with. Health problems can start affecting dogs while they’re puppies, adolescent dogs or adult dogs.

If you own one of these breeds (including the ones we’ll discuss below) it’s important to be aware of health issues that could affect your dog. Any changes in behaviour or physical appearance should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Tests can rule out or confirm issues and if necessary your veterinarian should recommend a plan to manage the symptoms and reduce complications.


Dogs likely to suffer from bloat: Great Danes, Saint Bernards and other giant and large breeds.

What happens: Internal organs can suffocate when the stomach twists and traps gas inside. This reaction is caused by the shape of their chests which can make their stomachs swell with liquid and gasses.

How to help prevent and deal with bloat: If you have a giant or large breed, place food in a raised bowl or make use of an elevated feeder. Also regularly check your dog’s stomach. If it seems tight or swollen a careful examination can be performed by your veterinarian.


Dogs likely to suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia: Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and other large breeds.

What happens: Hip dysplasia can cause lameness, arthritis and loss of mobility due to the abnormal formation of the hip socket that causes serious pain. Elbow dysplasia, which can cause lameness, occurs in the joints of the front legs.

How to help prevent and manage hip dysplasia: Avoid overfeeding and make sure your dog exercises regularly.

How to help prevent and manage elbow dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia can be treated. Options include medication and surgery.


Arthritis and joint problems are not breed-specific conditions. Dogs usually experience arthritis and joint problems when they grow older, but it’s usually treatable. Joint problems, manifesting as lameness, can also occur earlier, mostly in larger breeds.

How to help dogs with arthritis and joint pain: Weight management, exercise and pain medication can all help reduce pain and manage the condition. Some dogs may even grow out of it.


Dogs likely to suffer from glaucoma and cataracts early in life: Beagles, Chow Chows and Poodles. Dogs likely to suffer from glaucoma and cataracts later in life: Most breeds (it’s part of ageing).

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) AKA Progressive Rod-cone Degeneration (PRCD): This group of eye diseases, which can eventually lead to blindness in both eyes, can start affecting dogs at an early age.


Heart diseases and related conditions in general are not limited to certain breeds and dog sizes. Regular medication is often required and exercise should be kept to a minimum in some cases.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) can be caused by atrioventricular valvular insufficiency (AVVI), dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and mitral valve disease (MVD).

  • AVVI: Most common in small to medium sized breeds such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Miniature and Toy Poodles, Schnauzers, Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers.
  • DCM: Most common in Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Boxers and Cocker Spaniels.
  • Mitral valve disease: More common in smaller breeds e.g. Poodles, Yorkies, Pugs and Pomeranians.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) can also be caused by inherited defects such as aortic stenosis, subaortic stenosis (SAS), tetralogy of fallot (TOF), ventricular septal defects (VSD) and persistent ductus arteriosus (PDA).

  • Aortic stenosis and SAS: Breeds susceptible to subaortic stenosis include Newfoundlands, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers and Boxers (larger breeds).
  • TOF: More likely to occur in purebred dogs, specifically English Bulldogs and Keeshonds.
  • VSD: Appears sporadically in many different dog breeds.
  • PDA: The most commonly affected breeds are Maltese, Poodle, Pomeranian, Keeshond, Bichon Frise, Chihuahua and German Shepherd.

Other heart conditions include:

  • Tricuspid valve dysplasia: Susceptible breeds include Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: Uncommon, but most frequently seen in young to middle-aged large breeds such as Rottweilers, Dalmatians, German Shepherds, Boston Terriers and certain Pointers (males are more susceptible).

Before choosing a breed, learn more about their potential health issues. If possible, get both parents’ medical histories. Also make sure the breed you choose fits in with your lifestyle.

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