Common Genetic Disorders in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs can inherit certain conditions and disorders from their parents. Some of these inherited conditions are due to chromosomal or DNA differences, while others are caused by physical variations that predispose the dog to issues. Many people mistakenly believe that genetic disorders only affect purebred dogs, but mixed-breed dogs can also be affected.

In addition, environmental factors still play a big role in the development and progression of many of these genetic conditions. This means that just because a dog displays a genetic marker for a condition, there is no guarantee that the dog will actually develop that condition without environmental influence as well. This also suggests that dog owners can make environmental adjustments to decrease their dog’s likelihood of developing the said condition.

In this post, we’ll summarize some of the most common genetic or hereditary disorders in our canine friends:


It is widely known and accepted that certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to allergies, indicating that a genetic source is a likely cause. Breeds known to be vulnerable to hereditary allergies include (source and source):

  • Labradors
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Poodles
  • Spaniels
  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers
  • French Bulldogs
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • Chinese Shar-Peis
  • Wirehaired Fox Terriers
  • Dalmatians
  • Boxers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Shih Tzus

Allergies typically manifest as skin-related symptoms like excessive itchiness, licking, and scratching. This is known as atopic dermatitis or atopy. Other canine skin issues that relate to allergies are chronic inflammatory otitis, recurrent hot spots, and pruritus. Immunotherapy is the preferred method of treatment for canine allergies, just like humans. Comfort measures to soothe and heal the affected skin areas are also required.

Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is the most common musculoskeletal disorder found in dogs and causes instability, and eventually dislocation, of the hip joints. Dogs with a genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia usually show excessive hip laxity at very young ages. Proper assessment during puppy visits and neutering/spaying can identify hip laxity and help the dog owner prepare for the potential of dysplasia. In some cases, preventative surgery on the hip joint is recommended.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

Some people just fawn over a dog with a short snout and flat face, like pugs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and boxers. However, these cute facial features can come at a price. The mismatch in proportions of the skull to the soft tissues in the nasal area causes serious breathing issues in these breeds, especially during and after strenuous activities. Many of these short-snouted breeds (often called brachycephalic breeds) cannot even handle relatively short walks or moderately-high outside temperatures. Prevention of BOAS must occur at the breeding stage by only choosing dogs that do not show signs of BOAS as breeding partners.

Bladder Stones

Bladder or urine stones are concentrated, crystallized minerals that build up in a dog’s urine. The amino acid cystine is a common culprit in developing bladder stones. Bladder stones can be extremely painful and impair the dog’s urinary function. In fact, changes in urinary behavior is usually the first sign a dog owner will observe in this disease process. However, bladder stones are often only found after the dog receives a radiograph for another reason. While they can affect any dog, there are certain dog breeds that tend to display genetic markers predisposing them to the development of bladder stones, including Dalmations, Newfoundlands, Bichon Frise, Miniature Schnauzers, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Cattle Dogs, Miniature Pinschers, Mastiffs, American Pit Bull Terriers, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Rottweilers, Dachshunds, and Scottish Terriers, among others.

Inherited Cancers

Many cancers that affect dogs have a definite genetic link. While this post is not long enough to delve into all the different types of canine cancers that are connected to their genes, some of the most common types include:

  • Lymphoma
  • Lymphosarcoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Mast cell tumor
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Mammary tumors
  • Transitional cell carcinoma
  • Histiocytic sarcoma

Heart Disease

Heart disease in dogs can be brought on by both genetic and environmental factors. Congenital issues (those present at birth) usually cause physical alterations that impair cardiovascular function, while inherited issues (those programmed in the dog’s DNA) may not be obvious at birth and delay development until adulthood. Genetic issues that lead to heart disease are often observed in certain breed lines and are more prominent in purebred dogs.

There are many conditions in dogs with potential genetic roots that can ultimately lead to heart disease, including:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Endocardiosis (especially of the mitral valve)
  • Myxomatous valve disease
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
  • Subvalvular aortic stenosis
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

Degenerative myelopathy is a devastating condition with no cure. In this disease process, nerve fibers and their protective coverings in the dog’s spinal cord begin to deteriorate. Disease progression is typically slow as the dog becomes unstable on their feet, unable to control its hind legs, and eventually has an inability to stand and paralysis. Comfort measures are the only treatment for this debilitating condition, although early identification with genetic testing and therapy has been shown to slow DM’s progression. German Shepherds and Shepherd mixes, Siberian Huskies, and Collies are by far the most common breeds found with DM, but other breeds can also be diagnosed with DM.

Have Questions About Your Dog’s Genetics?

Is your dog’s breed genetically predisposed to disease? Schedule an appointment here at Affordable Pet Hospital in Tampa to get the answers you need about your dog’s health issues from Dr. Morris and her knowledgeable staff. Armed with the best and most recent information, you can help your dog live their very best life for years to come!

How to Tell if Your Dog Needs Behavior Medication

Dealing with a dog can be difficult for anyone, but raising a dog with a behavior problem is downright exhausting. Just like humans, dogs can have a variety of issues that cause inappropriate or undesired behaviors, such as fear, phobias, cognitive dysfunction, compulsive disorders, and frustration issues.

When people deal with issues like these, they typically defer to their family doctor for guidance and advice. Dogs should be treated the same way. Any of the issues listed above warrant a trip to the vet for some further investigation.

Most dogs are able to overcome behavior issues with competent training and never need to consider medications. However, for a small group of dogs, the intensity of symptoms is so high that their quality of life is sorely affected. For these animals, medication to ease the negative behaviors may be their only hope.

A vet may consider behavior modification medication for your dog if the problematic behaviors:

  • Adversely affect the dog’s quality of life or functioning

If your dog becomes so fearful, aggressive, aroused, etc. that they actually harm themselves or others during the chaos, medication may be called for to bring the dog back down to a manageable level. Dogs that are unable to complete normal daily functions, such as toileting or eating, without extreme fear or anxiety are also prime candidates for behavior medication.

  • Prevent the dog from being able to learn

While hands-on training is the preferred method of correcting problem behaviors, you can’t train a dog that won’t calm down. Medications are sometimes used in the beginning of training plans for dogs that are extremely wound up. These medications are typically tapered off as the dog learns new control skills.

  • Do not match the intensity of the provoking trigger

If the trigger that is provoking the dog’s bad behavior is mild, but the dog’s reaction is intense, there is a disconnect between the two that needs to be resolved. For example, a dog that barks loudly and aggressively at the same person walking by their yard every day could be an unmatched response.

  • Continue on well after the trigger is removed

Even if a dog barks aggressively at the same person every day, they should calm down once that person is out of sight. If your dog continues the undesirable behaviors well after the trigger is gone, you might have a problem.

If your dog is experiencing behavior issues or any of the above apply, it’s time to make an appointment with a vet. If you and your pooch live in Tampa Bay, the animal care experts at Affordable Pet Hospital would be happy to help you figure out how to help ease your dog’s symptoms and eliminate inappropriate behaviors once and for all. Call us at (813) 991-9898 or contact us online to schedule an appointment today!

What to Do When You Can’t Seem to Train Your Dog

Training a dog can be hard, frustrating work. Whether you are training a puppy or an older dog that is a rescue that has never been properly trained, sometimes you need a little help to get your dog to behave correctly. 

There are a lot of different methods for training dogs. Some people use the kennel method, in which the dog is put in their kennel for a time out whenever they do something undesirable. Another method for training your dog involves rewarding them for good behavior with treats. Often, if you work with your dog consistently and not just when they are misbehaving, you will be able to get them to do what you want. Read more

How to Decode Your Dog’s Bad Behavior

Newborn babies cry to communicate their hunger, fear, or discomfort, and our fur babies are no different. Dogs don’t always have perfect behavior, but their bad or destructive behaviors often have a root cause that you can address. Here’s what you need to know to connect with your dog’s needs and stop barking or chewing before it begins.

Constant Barking

Since barking can serve so many different purposes, it must be diagnosed by its function. Alarm barking, for instance, will cause your dog to bark at every single noise and sight, regardless of where you are. This type of barking is often combined with stiffer body language than a dog who is just barking to greet a newcomer. Other dogs bark to get attention, and if it works, they will continue doing so until taught otherwise.

You can try to resolve this type of barking by teaching your dog a routine. Let him bark three or four times, then calmly say “Quiet.” After you clearly say the command, gentle hold your dog’s muzzle closed with your hand a repeat “Quiet.” Release his muzzle, step back, and call him away from the window or door.

If your dog can continue to sit, give him a treat. If he stays beside you and remains quiet for the next few minutes, continue to give him small treats. Repeat the sequence as needed. It might take 20 times for your dog to learn, but eventually that bothersome barking will stop! Read more

How to Keep Your Pet Safe in the Florida Heat

The heat of Florida is great for the beach, but it has serious drawbacks as well – especially when it comes to your friends on four legs. Pets are extremely susceptible to heat-related health problems and illnesses, which makes it your responsibility to take precautionary measures to protect your dog or cat through the hottest months of the year. The following tips will help you and your furry friend enjoy a safe and comfortable summer.

Never Leave Your Dog Alone in the Car

Just like you wouldn’t leave your baby alone in a hot car, you should never leave your dog. A car sitting in the sun acts like a pressure cooker. It can easily become up to 40 degrees warmer than the outside air in mere minutes. Even if you are only running into the gas station for a soda, leaving your dog in the car isn’t safe. Only travel with your dog if you know that he will be able to join you for all of your errands. Read more

What to Do if Your Pet has Seasonal Allergies

Allergies are miserable for humans, but what about for pets? Even dogs and cats are at risk of suffering from seasonal allergies, especially in the fall when allergens are saturating the air. Just like you rely upon a daily antihistamine to survive your worst allergy symptoms, your pet needs appropriate medical care to avoid and prevent the discomfort that develops as a result of seasonal allergies.  

The Tell-Tale Signs of Seasonal Pet Allergies

If you try to identify your pet’s allergies based on common human systems, you won’t have much luck. Rather than the respiratory tract symptoms that humans experience, dogs and cats are prone to skin irritation and inflammation called allergic dermatitis. You’ll notice your pet struggling with very itchy skin; he will start scratching excessively, biting and chewing and certain spots on his body, and even rubbing himself against vertical or horizontal surfaces to try and alleviate the itching. Unfortunately, this itch and scratch cycle causes the skin to become even more inflamed and tender to the touch. Your pet will eventually experience hair loss, scabbing, and open sores on the skin if his allergies are not treated. Read more

Keeping Your Pup Safe During the Dog Days of Summer

These are truly the dog days of summer, especially in Tampa, Florida where it’s common for July and August temperatures to spike above 100 degrees. As much fun as summer can be, it is also a season of extra strain on your dog. Be sure to follow these simple tips to keep your pup safe during the long summer months.

Learn to Recognize Signs of Overheating in Pets

Animals display signs of overheating differently than humans, so you need to become familiar with the symptoms that indicate your dog could be overheated. The most noticeable sign is excessive panting and difficulty breathing. Drooling and mild weakness are also common symptoms. Read more

Keeping Your Pet Safe in the Summer Heat

The heat of summer has already reached Tampa, which means it is time to brush up on your summer safety habits. Florida’s hottest months can be uncomfortable and even dangerous to people and pets alike. As the temperature soars, these tips will help you keep your furry friends safe and happy until autumn arrives and brings some relief.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Imagine how parched you feel after walking a long distance in the heat or exercising, and remember that your dog feels the exact same way after spending time in the sun and humidity. It’s simple enough to prevent dehydration by making clean, fresh water available to your dog at all times. Just remain alert for any signs of dehydration like lethargy, sunken eyes, and tacky gums. Mild cases of dehydration can be resolved by giving your dog small amounts of water over the span of a few hours, but severe cases will require the attention of a vet. Read more

The True Importance of Neutering Your Male Dog

Times have changed dramatically from the days when dogs were permitted to freely roam neighborhoods without any form of protection. Today, families keep their dogs secured around the house, socialize them strategically, and make medical care a top priority. This medical care includes the process of neutering dogs shortly after they are born. From population control to behavior improvements and everything in between, neutering your own dog offers many important benefits. Read more

Two Dog Behavior Issues and Solutions

17235698 - female beagle puppy on a white leather sofa, barking

Unlike the dogs in most children’s movies, our dogs cannot talk to us to explain what they want and how they think. It’s up to us humans to correctly interpret their behavior in order to keep our furry friends safe, healthy, and happy. So whether you’re trying to connect with a new dog or attempt obedience training with your puppy, you may need some help with these three specific issues.

Constant Barking Read more