Purebred vs. Mixed-Breed: Which Dogs Are Healthier?

Purebred vs. Mixed-Breed: Which Dogs Are Healthier?

Author WDF Staff


One of the most common topics dog lovers discuss is the correct answer to the question, “Are mixed-breed dogs healthier than purebreds?” This is a heated topic, and since World Dog Finder works with dog breeders, you might think we will immediately say purebreds are healthier. However, that is not always the case.

We were wondering what the actual truth is and is it possible that mixed-breed dogs are healthier than purebred dog breeds. We decided to talk to several prominent veterinarians, whose clinics have more than 35.000 patients each year. After that, we looked at the only conclusive study about genetic disorders and diseases in purebred and mixed-breed dogs. Here’s what we learned.

Which dogs have more health issues?

One of the first things we wanted to find out is what type of patients veterinarians have. We thought the difference in numbers might be the first sign regarding overall health. However, we quickly learned that there is no significant difference in the number of purebred or mixed-breed patients. That means that roughly the same number of dogs from both categories visit vets with some sort of an issue.

border-collie purebred

That might sound confusing since many animal welfare organizations claim purebred dogs are prone to different diseases and health issues. Naturally, we assumed there would be a disproportion between the two categories. To our surprise, veterinarians told us their numbers and really surprised us.

Health study of purebreds and mixed-breeds

If someone claims mixed-breed dogs are healthier than purebreds, they should have to back their claim up with some sort of proof. Otherwise, it is just a personal opinion that doesn’t carry that much weight. Luckily, there is a study conducted at the University of California-Davis. This study included 27,254 dogs that already had an inherited disorder. Researchers focused on the 24 most common genetic conditions like hip dysplasia, patent ductus arteriosus, ventricular septal defect, patellar luxation, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, hyperadrenocorticism, etc. The results were fascinating, to say the least.

Study results

After conducting a thorough examination of more than 27,000 dogs, the researchers learned that some genetic diseases are more common in purebred dogs. However, some, like the ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, were more common in mixed-breed dogs. 13 genetic disorders showed no significant difference, and the number of cases was roughly the same in both categories. Purebred dogs showed they are more likely to develop 10 genetic disorders, including dilated cardiomyopathy, elbow dysplasia, cataracts, and hypothyroidism.

The interesting thing about the results is that they were directly connected to the coefficient of inbreeding.

purebred corgi

What is the coefficient of inbreeding?

The inbreeding coefficient can be tricky to understand, especially if you’re not a geneticist. Luckily, we spoke to really helpful vets who were pretty patient with us and understood why we need to learn this to know the effect inbreeding has. Here is what the inbreeding coefficient means - The coefficient of inbreeding is the probability of inheriting two copies of the same allele from an ancestor that occurs on both sides of the pedigree. These alleles are “identical by descent.”

How vital is inbreeding for dog health?

As you can probably imagine, inbreeding is very important for the overall health of a single dog and the breed in general. Inbreeding means mating two dogs that are related. The closer the dogs are in the family tree, the higher the offspring’s chances of inheriting copies of the same allele. For example, if a breeder mates dogs that are brother and sister, the chances of producing puppies with severe genetic disorders are 25%.

Since all purebred dogs come from the same ancestors, they have a limited gene pool. Naturally, the possibility of inheriting genetic issues is present. However, there is a large number of dogs within a breed, and if they are separated by at least 10 generations of unrelated parents, they are considered healthy. The possibility of inheriting a genetic disease is very low.

mixed dog

One conclusion we can take from this is that mixed-breed dogs are healthier than inbred pureblooded dogs. However, when it comes to carefully bred pureblooded dogs, mixed breed dogs are at a disadvantage. Carefully bred pureblooded dogs are healthier than mixed-breed dogs.

Advantages of pureblooded breeds

One of the significant advantages pureblooded dogs have is controlled breeding. More precisely, their advantage is their responsible breeder. If a dog comes from a kennel whose breeder is dedicated to breeding and approaches each mating with care, extensive pedigree studying, and health tests, they will undoubtedly be healthier than mixed-breed dogs. In fact, modern-day health tests are so advanced that responsible breeders can produce puppies that will not develop genetic disorders.

The disadvantage of mixed-breed dogs

There is a severe disadvantage mixed-breed dogs have compared to pureblooded dogs, which is the lack of pedigrees. Modern-day Cockapoos are a prime example of that. There is absolutely no control over the breeding practices those breeders have. They rarely test their breeding dogs, and many dogs are inbred, especially those that claim they produce “pureblooded” hybrids like Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, or Cockapoos. Mind you, there are registries like the one for the Australian Labradoodle that created a healthy breeding program. Nevertheless, most hybrids are produced in uncontrolled environments and breeders who don’t health test their dogs.

shepherd mix

In conclusion

Answering the question, “Which dogs are healthier, mixed-breed or pureblooded?” is not easy. It cannot be answered without loads of secondary questions. However, we can say that a dog’s health will significantly depend on how the dog was bred. Pureblooded dogs indeed have limited gene pools, but responsible breeders will account for that and choose a breeding pair that is not related. The bottom line is that dog buyers should be careful when getting a dog. Always ask for health tests and the puppy’s parent’s documents and pedigrees.

World Dog Finder team

World Dog Finder Logo