Healthcare for Fido Is Becoming Breed-Specific

If you love dogs and have the chance of owning one yourself, then you quickly realize that – just like having a child – you have a life whose medical care is in your hands. Of course, you want the best care that money can buy and that starts with taking a proactive position on the subject.

But did you know that care of your dog has begun to shift throughout the veterinarian profession from one that relies on a general understanding of canine health problems to one that recognizes that each breed has its own peculiarities that are best served by breed-specific health care options?

We are a nation of specialists. When we have trouble with our eyes, we see an eye doctor – an ophthalmologist. When we have trouble with our feet, we see a podiatrist, and so on and so forth.

According to the website DogTime, there are more than 200 different breeds of dogs, a number that will change depending on what organization you consult, given they might have different criterion they use to define or recognize a breed. The American Kennel Club, which is frequency considered an authority on the subject, currently recognizes 189 different breeds of dogs, although their standards are considered relatively exacting and rigorous compared to others.

Psychology Today, for example, notes that The World Canine Organization – known by their French title Federation Cynologique Internationale (or FCI) – recognizes 339 dog breeds – although why that topic would interest Psychology Today, I couldn’t tell you. (Wouldn’t a psychology magazine be more interested in something like Cairn Terrier temperament than they would the controversy over breed assignments?)

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That said, you do not see veterinary clinics that hang up a shingle near their doors that say, “We only treat Pugs,” or “Our Specialty: Basset Hounds.” But if you ask around, you will find that some veterinarians are noted for their skills as a surgeon, while others are known for treating cancers. You then find that certain breeds are prone to different ailments that will cause customers to steer away from certain clinics, while they seek out the care that is specifically suited to their dog’s breed.

In the first place, strictly defining the breed or the mix of breeds your home pet might be is not an exact science unless you have the money to have your pet’s DNA studied in a laboratory. Since dogs are not particular to their choice of a mate, the world’s most common breed, you might say, is a mongrel with a mix of breeds that can be hard to name. These are the dusty sandlot dogs, the track wandering strays and the backyard garbage hounds of an unspecified variety that still end up watching television with you on the couch, your one and only Dalmatian-Chihuahua-Great Dane-Basset hound-Chow mix that you call your very own.

All breeds from the specific to the unspecified have common enemies, including parvo virus, heart worms, kennel cough and others, while some breeds have very specific medical issues in part because the genetic makeup of specific breeds perpetuates various aliments. In so many words, pure bread dogs in a breed with a small population – or a small population of breeding dogs within an area – tend to pass on specific genetic maladies with much more frequency than, say, humans, who have large pools of mates from which to choose.

The criterion for qualifying as a pure breed Dalmatian, for example, has limited the genetic pool over the years to the point that the breed is widely known for the ailments that tend to fester within the genetic spectrum. As a result, Dalmatians are prone to deafness, kidney stones and urinary tract infections, hip dysplasia and various skin allergies.

According to a veterinarian-oriented web site called DVM 360, “veterinarians are changing clients’ perceptions of wellness care through their breed-specific programs.”

Note the wording of the sentence in the article attributed to Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM. The breed-specific care is associated with the “wellness” aspects of veterinary care, which includes the notion of preventative care, rather than treatment that reacts to an ailment after it strikes.

You can find lists of breed-specific health issues at many medical websites. Just to name one, WebMD notes that Siberian Huskies are prone to autoimmune disorders “many of which affect the skin.” Bulldogs – you can almost see this one coming – are prone to respiratory problems. They huff and chuff for a reason. Pugs – another obvious one – commonly have eye problems. German Shepherds are prone to hip problems, while Labrador Retrievers have later-in-life issues with obesity, which is a strong marker for diabetes. In humans meds, diet and exercise can help control the disease, ask your vet if it could help your four-legged family member.

If you are choosing a dog, try going beyond the basic criterion of cuddly, cute, loyal, affectionate and look into the health factors. They will be a family member, after all and healthcare comes with the package.

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