How Anatomy and Physiology Determine Your Dog’s Health Risks

July 22, 2016 | We Learn | Tips from Carly Bush
Serious illnesses and injuries can be devastating for dog owners. Unexpected vet bills can be a major financial setback, and of course, witnessing your best friend in pain causes a great deal of psychological distress.

It might be surprising that certain breeds are more prone to health problems than others—and depending on what breed your dog is, he or she might be more susceptible to certain types of illnesses.

There are many anatomical and physiological differences between various breeds, and thanks to these observable variations, professionals have been able to pinpoint certain patterns relating to large- and small-breed health. You may have heard that pugs have difficulty breathing due to their facial structure, but there are other, less obvious disabilities that your dog may be prone to.

Photo credit JohnGoode via Small Kitchen  CC BY_opt
Photo credit JohnGoode via Small Kitchen CC BY
Photo credit Emery_Way via Foter_opt
Photo credit Emery_Way via Foter


“There are other, less obvious disabilities that your dog may be prone to.”

Large Breeds

Hip dysplasia is extremely common amongst large muscular breeds such as Mastiffs and Rottweilers, as well as athletic breeds like Retrievers and St. Bernards. Many breeders are working to selectively “breed out” the tendency towards hip dysplasia, but efforts have not been entirely successful, and many puppies are still born genetically predisposed towards hip dysplasia. The good news is that surgery is available for dogs with severe hip problems; others can live long, healthy lives with only mild discomfort.

Panosteitis, more commonly known as “pano,” is a mysterious ailment that typically affects large breed puppies before they reach their first birthday. The most obvious symptom is lameness in one or more legs. If your dog is suffering from pano, you will notice that they walk with a stiff, seemingly painful gait. Veterinarians are uncertain exactly what causes this, but one theory suggests that the rapid growth of large breeds during the first year of life causes bone inflammation.

Small Breeds

Due to their small stature, tiny breeds are often sensitive to different types of chemicals, foods, and vaccinations. They have weaker immune systems, and generally fare better with a natural diet. Although vaccinations are important for all breeds, it is advisable to avoid giving multiple vaccinations to your small dog at once. Try to space out their shots over a period of a few weeks to prevent allergic reactions.

Hypoglycemia is common in toy dogs like Yorkies, teacup Poodles, and Shih Tzus. If your dog’s eyes appear glassy or they move weakly, they might have low blood sugar. In addition, lap dogs, on average, live longer than big breeds, which means that sometimes they are afflicted with illnesses during their old age. Cancer, heart disease, blindness, and dental problems are particularly common for elder dogs.

If you are interested in making changes to your dog’s diet or lifestyle in order to prevent illness, your vet will be able to provide you with more detailed information about preventative measures.

Have you experienced any breed-specific healthy issues? Leave a comment!

Leave a comment!


  • Dedicated server / March 1, 2017

    If you suspect that your dog may be in pain, your veterinarian will need to conduct an examination to determine if your dog has OA.

    • admin / March 1, 2017

      Definitely true. Thank you for the comment!

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