Your dog is unique, but their genetic makeup and physical structure can make them vulnerable to certain health conditions that could compromise their quality of life. When you understand these breed-related health problems, you can take strategic steps to protect your dog’s health and potentially minimize their risks. For this blog post, the Wales Animal Clinic team compiled the most common health concerns by breed group—large and giant breeds, toy breeds, and brachycephalic breeds—for an overview of common conditions. After reviewing this list, conduct your own breed-specific research to uncover additional conditions that may affect your one-of-a-kind companion.

Large- and giant-breed dog health problems

Big dogs are beloved for their impressive stature and gentle demeanor. However, their size can also make them prone to certain health issues, including:

  • Hip Dysplasia Breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and German shepherds are predisposed to hip dysplasia, an inherited hip joint malformation that can lead to painful arthritis and reduced mobility.
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus — Commonly referred to as bloat, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening emergency condition that can occur in any dog, but deep-chested breeds, such as Great Danes, Doberman pinschers, and Weimaraners, are considered high risk. Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off vital blood flow and damaging nearby organs. Because bloat causes are poorly understood, the only way to prevent this dangerous condition is with a prophylactic surgery known as gastropexy.
  • Osteosarcoma — Osteosarcoma is a particularly aggressive bone cancer that commonly affects the long bones or limbs and is especially common in large- and giant-breed dogs. This painful, aggressive cancer can occur in young or older dogs and has usually already metastasized by the time of diagnosis.

Toy-breed dog health problems

Toy-breed dogs are small in stature but possess big personalities. Unfortunately, these pint-sized pups can also experience significant health issues, such as:

  • Patellar luxation — Chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, and other small breeds are prone to patellar luxation (i.e., slipped kneecaps), where the patella or kneecap temporarily dislocates. Patellar luxation may affect one or both knees and can cause limping, discomfort, and arthritis. 
  • Dental disease and oral abnormalities — Toy poodles, Maltese, shih tzu, and other small-breed dogs are prone to various dental problems, including periodontal disease, overcrowding, retained deciduous (i.e., baby) teeth, and malocclusion (i.e., a misaligned bite). Routine dental cleanings and X-rays under anesthesia at Wales Animal Clinic can keep these conditions in check and prevent discomfort and disease progression.
  • Tracheal collapse —The trachea or windpipe is a rigid tube of C-shaped cartilage rings. In small-breed dogs, such as Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas, these rings can weaken over time and breathing can become difficult. Affected dogs may cough or wheeze, especially when pulling on the leash, so harnesses are generally best for walking or exercising small-breed dogs. 

Brachycephalic dog health problems

Brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds with short muzzles, such as pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs, and boxers, have special health considerations because of their unique anatomy. Because these issues typically affect the pet’s ability to breathe and regulate their body temperature, brachycephalic pet owners should be familiar with breed-associated health risks to ensure their pet’s health and safety. Common conditions include:

  • Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome — Brachycephalic breeds and mixed-breed dogs often suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), a collection of structural abnormalities that can block the airway and compromise oxygenation and temperature regulation. BOAS abnormalities include narrow nostrils, an elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules, and a narrow trachea. 
  • Heat intolerance — Short-muzzled breeds are less able to cool themselves through panting, making them more susceptible to life-threatening heatstroke. Brachycephalic breeds must be closely monitored during warm weather to avoid this rapidly fatal condition.
  • Eye issues — Most brachycephalic breeds have large, protruding eyes that make them vulnerable to ocular conditions and injuries, including cherry eye (i.e., prolapsed third eyelid), irritations and abrasions such as corneal ulcers, and eyelid abnormalities such as entropion. In some dogs, proptosis or eye displacement can occur during trauma or stress. 

Breed-specific health awareness can help your dog enjoy a long and comfortable life by ensuring you take preventive measures—such as visiting Wales Animal Clinic for routine wellness care and exams—and can recognize concerning changes in your pet’s behavior. While genetics play a significant role in many breed-related health conditions, proactive measures can mitigate these risks and help your dog thrive.

Whether your dog is large or small, purebred or mixed breed, the Wales Animal Clinic team can provide individualized veterinary care and guidance to support their unique health and behavior needs. Contact our team to schedule an appointment or for additional health resources or advice.