Skip to main content

Aggressive breeding has ruined these 10 dog breeds’ health

According to an article in Scientific American magazine, people have been breeding dogs for certain traits for more than 4,000 years. They may have been looking for a certain type of hunting dog or a companion with a friendly disposition. It’s only in the past two centuries with the rise in popularity of dog shows that people began selectively inbreeding dogs to have specific physical features. Unfortunately, inbreeding has put many of today’s most popular breeds at risk for numerous health issues. The blog Science and Dogs compared photos of popular dog breeds featured in the 1915 book Dogs of All Nations with photos of those breeds today. It’s astonishing to see how certain breeds have changed so much and not always for the better. Aggressive breeding practices, which put dogs at risk of birth defects and genetically inherited diseases, have ruined the health of the following 10 breeds.

The bulldog

In a Washington Post article, Neils Pedersen, a veterinarian at the Center for Companion Animal Health at the University of California at Davis called the bulldog the most “egregious example of getting carried away with oneself in actually designing a dog that’s as far from nature as you can possibly get.” As with all flat-faced breeds, brachycephalic airway syndrome is one of the most common health issues seen in this breed. In severe cases, surgical correction may be recommended. Following is a list of other common health issues:

Related Videos
  • Dental disease
  • Bone and joint problems, including hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Spinal deformities
Close up of bulldog's face.

Basset hound

Basset hounds were originally bred in France and Belgium as a low-build scenting hound used to track rabbits and deer. Today’s bassets have much shorter back legs, longer ears, looser skin, and longer backs. According to VetMD, bassets are prone to major health issues including:

  • Osteochondrosis dissecans (a painful joint condition)
  • Gastric torsion (bloat)
  • Elbow dysplasia


Dachshunds were originally bred as working dogs to chase and exterminate badgers and hunt rabbits and foxes. Today’s dachshunds have longer necks and backs and shorter legs than their working relatives. This puts them at high risk for intervertebral disk disease, the most common cause of spinal cord injury in dogs. Other common health conditions include:

  • Acanthosis nigricans (a skin condition unique to dachshunds)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Progressive retinal atrophy


A century ago, pugs were smaller, had slender bodies, and their faces weren’t as flat. Topping the list of pug health issues today is brachycephalic airway syndrome. Other common health issues include:

  • Pug dog encephalitis (a condition causing blindness, seizures, and difficulty walking)
  • Eyelid problems
  • Skin infections

Cavalier King Charles spaniel

By age 5, half of all Cavalier King Charles spaniels will develop mitral valve disease, a serious heart condition that leaves the dogs susceptible to premature death, according to the Scientific American article. Other common health issues for this breed include:

  • Canine syringomyelia (a debilitating neurological disorder)
  • Allergies
  • Hip dysplasia


Boxers were originally bred for endurance and had long muzzles. Today, like other flat-faced breeds, boxers can suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome. They are also at risk for arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (also known as boxer cardiomyopathy). According to veterinary specialists, this disease most commonly causes heart arrhythmias that can result in episodes of collapse or fainting and even sudden death. Other common health issues in boxers include:

  • Cancer
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism

Chow chow

Bred as bird dogs for Chinese aristocrats, original chow chows had straight muzzles. In contrast, the eyes of today’s chow chows are so deep-set that the dogs have limited peripheral vision and suffer from a variety of genetic eye disorders. Other common health issues include:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Gastric torsion (bloat)
  • Diabetes mellitus (inability of the body to utilize sugars properly)
Chow chow dog.


According to veterinary specialists at Embrace Insurance, Rottweilers are one of the dog breeds most affected by hip dysplasia, a genetic deformity. This extremely painful condition often requires hip replacement surgery. Other common health issues include:

  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, and eyelid deformities
  • Heart problems, including cardiomyopathy and subaortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aorta that carries blood away from the heart

French bulldogs

Substandard breeding practices have led to many of the health issues seen in this popular breed, according to DVM360. Frenchies are particularly prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome. Other common health issues include:

  • Cherry eye
  • Skinfold dermatitis
  • Intervertebral disk disease

German shepherd

A century ago, this breed had a straight back and long, sturdy legs. Today, many German shepherds have a sloped back, causing their hips and knees to come closer to the ground and their hindquarters to be more angular. Osteoarthritis is commonly reported in shepherds, which veterinary experts believe may be caused in part by the sloping back and dropped hindquarters. Other health issues include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Degenerative myelopathy (a disease affecting the spinal cord)
German shepherd dog in field.

Before choosing any new animal companion, remember there are thousands of homeless dogs across the U.S. Many of these are healthy and happy purebred dogs just waiting for someone to love. If you’re determined to buy a purebred puppy, steer clear of puppy mills or backyard breeders, which put profits above the health and well-being of their dogs. In addition to doing your own research, your veterinarian may also be able to provide a recommendation. While there’s never a guarantee that your puppy will be free of health issues, you know you’ll be doing the right thing by supporting responsible breeders.

Editors' Recommendations

How cold is too cold for dogs? What you should know
Signs that your dog is too cold in the outdoor winter conditions
An Australian shepherd playing outside in the snow

Your dog is more than just your constant companion; he's also a beloved member of the family. No matter the season, frequent exercise, a well-balanced diet, and outdoor playtime are essential to your dog's health and happiness.

Not only does exercise prevent obesity, but it also provides the mental stimulation your pup needs to lower the risk of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. We're all aware of the potential dangers of overheating, but what should we do when temperatures drop? At what point is taking your pup outside for a walk more harmful than helpful? How cold is too cold for dogs?

Read more
4 2023 pet trends we’re happy to see (and 1 we’re not)
Pet care trends to look forward to in 2023, according to experts
Pet owner playing with his dog

Every time a new year rolls around, we can't help but think ahead. That's what New Year's resolutions are all about, right? Whatever our goals for the next 365 days may be, though, making predictions for the following year is nothing short of fun. What do you think 2023 will be like for us and our animal companions?

It's impossible to know for sure what the most popular pet trends of 2023 will be, but these animal experts have an idea. From the positive to negative and everything in between, these are next year's predictions.

Read more
What are the 7 breed groups and where does my dog fit in? Find out what your pup is known for
The American Kennel Club dog groups and the breeds that fit in them
A group of dogs sits on the sidewalk during their walk

We know dogs came to us from wild canines (likely wolves or jackals) and probably domesticated themselves rather than the other way around. In the process, different types of pups came about, possibly splitting into groups more than 5,000 years ago! To categorize all these beasties, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has a list of recognized breeds, each of which fits into one of the seven groups. We'll walk you through the breed groups so you can determine where your pooch fits best.

What are breed groups?
Like any other classification system, these categories came about to help determine where each animal goes due to specific characteristics. In this case, breeds are placed together based on the original job they were bred to do. That means if you went back in time to your dog's ancestors, you would see them performing a job and being bred to do it well. Now, certain breeds continue to have similar dispositions as a result.

Read more