Myths and Truths About Mixed Breeds vs. Purebreds

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
For years, pet owners and scientists have been struggling to answer one of the most challenging questions - are mixed breeds healthier than purebred dogs? Here is what they had to say.

Is your canine purebred or mixed-breed? And what could breed mean for your dog’s health and longevity? Do you believe that purebred dogs are more prone to genetic disorders or that the veterinary checks are more expensive?

Some people claim that responsible breeders can cause more genetic disorders in purebred dogs, although this claim is yet to be confirmed.

Who’s Healthier: Purebreds or Mixed Breeds?

Some battles among pet owners have been raging for years. For years pet owners have disagreed about whether mixed breed or purebred dogs are healthier.

For decades there was no scientific data to support either of the options; at least that was the case until recently. Now, there is scientific data to support some claims. Here is what science has to say about this matter.

The Arguments

Proud owners of mixed-breed dogs argued that inbreeding in purebred dogs increased the likelihood of genetic disorders.

Other owners felt that purebred dogs were significantly healthier because many start their life surrounded by responsible dog breeds in professional breeding facilities.

Therefore, they are not exposed to infectious diseases that may circulate through animal shelters.

Hip Dysplasia Is a Purebred Problem – Or Is It?

Hip dysplasia is often used as the prime example of the difference between purebred dogs and mixed bred dogs, saying that hip dysplasia primarily affects purebred dogs.

This condition is known for creating a malformation of the ball and socket joint in the hip, causing pain and weakness in the hind legs, eventually increasing the risk of osteoarthritis.

However, according to data, hip dysplasia is likely to occur in mixed breed dogs as it may appear in purebreds.

Researchers discovered that other genetic disorders might occur equally often in both groups. they include:

  • Heart Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Orthopedic Disorders
  • Eye Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders

On the other hand, certain disorders are more common in purebred dogs, although the chance that your dog will develop these disorders depends on its breed.

For example, large dog breeds, such as Great Dane or Saint Bernard are more likely to suffer from bloat. Most common health disorders in purebreds include:

  • Cataracts
  • Bloat
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Allergic Dermatitis
  • Aortic Stenosis
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Epilepsy
  • Portosystemic Shunt
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease

What About Mixed Breed Dogs?

Many claim that mixed dog breeds tend to live longer than purebred dogs due to more robust genetic diversity.

Purebred dogs do have a higher incidence of some inherited disorders, but in reality, they are no morality to develop severe and various health considering than mixed breed dogs.

Therefore, when adding a dog to your family, ask responsible breeder questions about health, dog’s parents and dog’s personality, temperament, and even the ability to get along with other pets.

After getting answers to these questions, you will know if the dog is the right for you or you should continue searching. This is extremely important if you are a first-time dog owner.

Keeping a dog healthy for some time is possible with proper nutrition and regular veterinarian check-ups because prevention is always the best medicine.

The Study

TO understand the link between breeds and health, scientists teamed up and decided to conduct a study that could finally put a compulsion on this topic.

Therefore, the study by Bellumori et al (2013) used medical records from the veterinary clinic at UC Davis for more than 27,000 dogs and compared the incidence of 24 genetic disorders in mixed versus purebred dogs.

The abstract of the paper is included at the bottom of this page. Here is what they found:

  • The incidence of 10 genetic disorders (42%) was significantly greater in purebred dogs.
  • The incidence of 1 disorder (ruptured cranial cruciate ligament; 4%) was greater in mixed breed dogs.
  • For the rest of the disorders examined, they found no difference in incidence between mixed and purebred dogs.

Thanks to these results, scientists learned what diseases are more common in purebreds, which appear more in mixed breeds, and what of the examined disorders makes no difference.

This is how we know that Ruptured cranial cruciate ligament is more present in mixed breeds, while the following list shows the disorders that show no difference between mixed and purebred dogs:

  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Mast cell tumor
  • Patellar luxation
  • Lens luxation
  • Ventricular septal defect
  • Patent ductus arteriosus

What Qualifies a Dog as a Purebred Dog?

For a dog to be classified as a purebred, the dog has to be registered with the American Kennel Club and papers to prove that dog’s parents are of the same breed.

If you have papers showing a dog’s ancestors all coming from the same breed, then the dog is considered a pedigreed purebred dog.

It’s important to note that purebred dogs are a product of selective breeding by humans; it’s known that dogs changed a lot because of humans over the centuries.

Dogs were bred for specific purposes. They had specific working roles, which is why today we have great protective dogs, dogs that are good swimmers, or dogs that can endure long and extreme hiking.

Selective breeding lied on responsible breeders today, where dogs of the same breed are chosen for their genetic traits, such as temperament, size, coat color, coat type, and then bred together.

This is why it’s important if you are not adopting to always deal only with responsible breeders who care about good breeding and have great knowledge about dogs and their health.

Mixed Breed Dogs and Hybrid Dog Breeds

Unlike purebred dogs, mixed breed dogs are defined as offspring that are not from the same breed. Their ancestry is usually unknown.

If you are searching to adopt a dog, check local shelters, or go for long walks around the block because maybe your perfect canine is just waiting for you to adopt. Always think about adoption first. When it comes to mixed-breed dogs their is a sub-category known as hybrid dogs.

According to the American Canine Hybrid Club, a hybrid dog is the intentional offspring of two purebred dogs from different breeds.

Hybrids are usually the offspring of a purebred Poodle and something else. These dogs usually have very memorable names, like Goldendoodle, Maltipoo, or a Saint Bernadoodle.

So far, these dogs may have many health problems since some breeders are taking it one step further, crossbreeding hybrid dogs to create second-, third- and fourth-generation hybrids.

So… Are Mutts Healthier Than Purebreds?

The purebred dogs have a slightly higher incidence of some inherited disorders; they are no more likely to develop any health-related severe state opposite to mixed breeds.

The truth is that mixed breeds come with a more diverse gene pool, and if you ask a breeder with decades-long experience if mixed breeds are healthier than purebred dogs, they will tell you that because of genetic testing, inherited disease testing, and temperament testing, a purebred is healthier.

This is yet to be confirmed because hundreds of studies should be conducted before something becomes a scientific claim.

In practice, mixed-breed dogs tend to live longer, and they have lower incidences of inherited disease, such as some cancers and back problems.

Infectious Disease

One of the biggest truths is that pets who live in large groups are naturally exposed to more infectious illnesses.

This is the main reason why mixed breeds are generally recognized as sturdier than purebreds. Therefore, the mixed genetics of mutts often increases their immune systems’ effectiveness, making them stronger in terms of health.

Mutts Vs. Purebreds: How to Choose

When it comes to choosing your future furry friend, you need to think about finances. It’s not emphasized enough how important this factor is as a pet owner.

When you commit to having a dog, it’s for a minimum of five years, and some breeds can live for over 15 years.

So please, always think about this factor. Many factors come into play when making this important decision, including:

  • Temperament: as mentioned earlier, purebred dogs were bred for specific tasks, such as herding, guarding, and so on. So, unless the owner has a specific need for a specific breed’s assets, these traits can become a future problem. Mixed breeds may have a mix of personality, but they are usually recognized as being laid back and easy to train, less stubborn. They are also extremely adaptable, including different weather regions, and may adapt easily to various activity levels – remember that every dog is different and has its physical limits. So, if you have a working dog or you plan a long hiking trip, talk to your veterinarian before any activity level changes.
  • Upfront costs: yes, purebred dogs are often associated with higher upfront veterinary cost. This is even higher in dogs with white coats or hairless dogs. The animal shelter won’t ever give you an animal that not spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped.

Making A Difference

If you choose to adopt a dog from a local shelter or rescue, you make a tremendous difference. Plus, you are making a life-changing impact in the life of a deserving pet.

Not only that, you will save a life, but you will free up space for another animal in distress because unexpected things happen in life, and sometimes pets end up all alone in these worlds, even if they had someone to care for them 24/7.

By doing so, you are taking a stand against puppy mills and other unethical breeding operations.

Still, it’s up to you to decide what kind of canine you want, and as long as you provide safe surroundings, good nutrition, enough exercise, and love, we support your decision to welcome a dog into your life.