Following is a sampling of diseases that tend to occur relatively frequently in dogs of specific breeds. By asking the right questions of a breeder, and perhaps searching for some documentation on your own through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), you have a greater chance of being able to procure a dog of the breed you want without the attendant health problem.
Note: This list is not by any means exhaustive. Entire books have been devoted to identifying which dog breeds are more apt to develop which health conditions based on their genetic code as well as physical characteristics.
Hip dysplasia: German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, but in these breeds, the socket component may be more shallow than necessary, or there may be soft-tissue laxity, so the “ball” isn’t held firmly in place. That can lead to severe arthritis even in young dogs.
Atopy: West Highland White Terriers, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Shar-Peis Atopy is susceptibility to allergies that play themselves out on the skin. Allergies to food, pollen, dust mites, molds, carpets, and anything else you can imagine leave dogs itchy to the point that they can’t stop scratching.
Intervertebral disc disease: Dachshunds, Welsh Corgis, Pekingese The jellylike component of the spinal discs calcify early in life, causing the discs to lose their resiliency. The discs can then rupture, making the calcified material press on the spinal cord, which leads to weakness or even paralysis.
Brachycephalic (pushed-in) faces: Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers A dog whose face is too pushed in may have so much difficulty breathing that he can’t exercise for more than a few seconds without gasping for breath. Components of the problem include a soft palate at the back of the mouth that is too long and obstructs airflow, and excessively narrow nostrils and trachea (windpipe).Surgery is often necessary to correct the condition.
Collapsing Trachea: Pomeranians, Pugs, Maltese Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers A collapsing trachea, like a brachycephalic muzzle, makes it difficult to breathe. The collapse, or weakness, occurs in the part of the trachea that’s in the neck, making for a characteristic “goose-honk” cough.
Ear Infections: Cocker Spaniels Severe infections in the ear canal can cause Cocker Spaniels to itch very badly and shake their heads. The dogs can become extremely uncomfortable and might very well require surgery.
Mitral endocardiosis: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Norfolk and Norwich Terriers A high percentage of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are susceptible to this heart condition. The mitral valve separating the left atrium from the left ventricle becomes thickened and misshapen, causing blood to leak backward. That can eventually lead to heart failure.
Histiocytic sarcoma: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Flat-Coated Retrievers This often fatal cancer of the lymph system attacks dogs belonging to both of these breeds, sometimes when they are as young as five years old.