Have you ever wondered why purebred dogs are more likely to get cancer? It’s not just because they have a higher chance of developing genetic disorders; it’s because their genetics are more likely to be pure. In this article, we’ll explore why that matters and what it means for your pet.
Purebred Dogs Have Higher Cancer Risk
Purebred dogs have a higher risk of developing certain cancers than mixed breeds.
A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that purebred dogs are more likely to develop cancers than mutts. The researchers analyzed data from almost 15,000 patients and their purebred or mixed-breed dogs, and they found that purebreds were more likely to develop cancers of the heart, brain, mammary glands (breast), nose, and skin.
The results showed that purebreds had a 26 percent higher chance of cancer overall than mixed-breed dogs, but for some types of cancer—like lymphoma (a type of blood cancer), bone tumors, and soft tissue sarcomas—the difference was even larger: purebreds were twice as likely to develop these types of cancer.
The researchers said it’s not clear why this is happening, but there are several possible explanations: “Inbreeding” (or breeding closely related animals together) can increase the risk for genetic diseases like cancer; purebred dogs are often kept indoors more than mixed breeds because owners want them to match their living space; and purebreds tend to live longer than mixed breeds.
Genetic Diversity and Variation
Genetic diversity is crucial for the health of a population. Genetic diversity is the variety of genes in a population and can be seen as a measure of how varied or diverse it is.
Genetic diversity within a species, population, or other group means that there are multiple versions of traits (like eye color) within the group. If all members of a population have brown eyes, then there is little genetic diversity.
Genetic variation helps populations adapt to new environments and evolve over time. For example, if you were stranded on an island with only one type of plant that you could eat and it became extinct due to climate change or natural disaster, you would need to find new ways to survive by adapting your diet or finding other sources of food like hunting wild animals.
Genetic diversity allows individuals within populations to adapt when conditions change so they can survive better than their peers who lack this ability because they are not genetically diverse enough!
In addition, genetic diversity is important for the health of a population. When a population is genetically diverse, it can survive in different environments and adapt quickly to changing conditions. The more genetically diverse a population, the less likely it is to experience a genetic disorder.
Breeding within an expanded gene pool can increase this diversity and improve overall health.
Breeding Within a Specific Group
When dogs are bred with very little genetic diversity, recessive traits become more prevalent.
Inbreeding is a form of genetic drift that happens when an animal has a high degree of inbreeding. Inbreeding also increases the prevalence of recessive traits like hip dysplasia and cataracts because these conditions are thought to be caused by genes that are present but not expressed (known as alleles). If you have two parents who both have a certain allele, you will most likely inherit this trait as well.
However, if your parents only had one copy each in their genetic make-up, then there’s only a 50% chance they would pass down that specific gene. If both parents share two copies of the same allele—a phenomenon known as homozygosity—then all offspring will inherit this trait 100%.
Expand the Gene Pool
Genetic diversity is crucial for the health of a population. When populations become too genetically similar, they can be susceptible to certain diseases, which can have devastating effects on the population as a whole. Inbreeding is one cause of this reduction in genetic diversity and it’s why purebred dogs are more likely than mixed breeds to get cancer.
One way breeders can increase genetic diversity is by breeding within an expanded gene pool—that is, a population in which all or most members are genetically different from each other because they come from different places and have been bred with unrelated dogs throughout their lives.
A smaller gene pool will inevitably lead to less healthy animals overall because it limits diversity among genes that may contain beneficial traits like disease resistance or longevity.
Education Yourself on the Breed
When you’re thinking of getting a dog, make sure to educate yourself about what diseases are most common in that breed and why. If a particular disease is prevalent, it’s important to consider whether your expectations for the dog match up with how much time, money and energy you want to put into keeping them healthy.
For example, if you’re looking for a puppy that’s good at agility competitions but not interested in breeding or training dogs yourself (the latter two being requirements for participating in those competitions), consider adopting an adult sporting mix instead of getting a purebred puppy.
If you do decide on a purebred puppy, be aware that some breeds are at greater risk than others of developing genetic disorders like cancer and heart disease — especially if they have been bred by humans over many generations within an isolated gene pool.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that purebred dogs are more likely to develop cancer. But the good news is, you can still get a purebred dog and reduce your risk of cancer by having it tested for certain genetic disorders and choosing healthier, less inbred breeds. If you really want to avoid the risk of cancer altogether, it might be best not to get a dog at all.