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There are strict rules about how every purebred dog should look, from the length of their muzzle to the width of their eyes, from how it stands to how it walks. The Kennel Club has set these standards to judge which dog is "the best in show".
This focus on purebred dog standards has led to a wide variety in canine appearances. The truth is that some dogs barely look like the same species. A recent study revealed there is more difference between the skulls of a Pekinese and a collie than those of a walrus and a South American raccoon called a coati.
However, this focus on standardised purebred appearance of each breed has another side: health problems related to inbreeding.
Let's look as some of the most common health problems found in purebred dogs.
Some breeds of dog have a short muzzle (this is called being "brachycephalic"). Brachycephalic breeds can develop Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS). In these dogs, the skull length is reduced, but the airway isn't. This causes breathing problems, as the airway is compressed into a smaller area.
Dogs with BAOS often have narrow nostrils, an overlong palate and a collapsed trachea, which make breathing difficult. Treatment often aims to correct these defects and so make it easier for the dog to breathe.
Dog breeds that are typically brachycephalic include: Pekinese, pug, Chihuahua, bulldog, boxer, and Shih Tzu
Hip Dysplasia is a disease that causes the ball and socket joint of the hip to be deformed. Multiple genes appear to be involved in the development of the disorder, which is a painful condition, causing: malformation, deterioration, and loss of function of the hip joint.
Hip Dysplasia begins while dogs are still puppies, or young dogs. It's a very common genetic complaint in purebred dogs, and it appears that large breeds suffer more than smaller breeds. The breeds that experience Dysplasia most often are: Labrador Retriever. Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Rottweiler, and German Shepherd.
Hip Dysplasia is a diagnosed by X-ray, and may require surgery, particularly if your dog is less than a year old. Other treatment options include anti-inflammatories, prescribed by the vet.
Some purebred dogs face a problem called Obstetric Dystocia. This is where the bitch is in labour, but cannot give birth to her pups because their heads and shoulders are too large. This is particularly common in Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers, who have all been bred for head size. In these cases a caesarean section is required, as it would be unsafe for the bitch to attempt to give birth naturally.
The inability to pass the puppy's head through the dog's pelvis is called "cephalopelvic disproportion". This is a medical emergency for both mother and pups, so you need to contact your vet, if your dog has been in labour for two or more hours and has yet to give birth to a puppy. Mother and pups could die.
If your bitch has had a previous Dystocia, think long and hard before subjecting them to another pregnancy.