Pure Bred vs Mixed Breed Dogs

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Purebred Irish Setter dog being shown by it's handler

Mixed Breed Dogs

A mixed breed dog, or mutt, is a dog that has a combination of breeds in their heritage. They are typically not the result of intentional breeding. You can find many mixed dogs in shelters or rescues, in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Unlike purebred dogs, who are commonly bred to work, hunt, or guard, mixed breeds tend to be more adaptable to the average dog owner’s lifestyle. They are generally less expensive than purebred dogs, both in adoption cost and ongoing veterinary care.

Pure Bred Dogs

If you want a purebred dog, the most responsible way is to go through a good, reputable breeder. Ask your vet for recommendations. He or she will know the best breeders in the area and, because they see the dogs from puppyhood to adults, they can give you great insight on health. A point to make is that the label “AKC registered” tells you nothing about the health of the animal or its parents. It is often used as a marketing ploy by the pet store or breeder. Always ask to see the mother and father of the puppy. This will give you a good indication of health and insight as to the size your new puppy will become. If you request to see the puppy's parents and the breeder’s answer is “no,” then your answer should be no to that breeder.

It is important to request vaccination records, parental health records, and to see the living situation in which the puppies are being housed. All too often, puppy mills mask themselves as breeders.

What to Avoid: Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are puppy factories with horrid conditions. In the past, Missouri and Kansas were the worst, but the Buckeye state now leads in the number of puppy mills. Surprisingly, the Amish and Mennonite communities of Holmes County, Ohio and surrounding communities are the epicenter of this trade. The Amish view animals in a different light than we “English” do, viewing them as beasts of burden, an instrument to make a living. Sad to us, but true. So where do you get one? Pets stores? No! Most of the pet store get dogs from puppy mills. You should never buy a puppy coming from these conditions.

The Debate

Now, to the meat of the debate, purebred or mix breed? I find most people think purebreds are healthier. The more you pay, the better the puppy is, right? Not especially on either count. It has been thought for years, by veterinarians, that hybrid vigor gave the advantage to the mix breeds. The breeder is looking for a cosmetic trait, but along with that trait can come some defective traits. It was thought for years that mixed breeds, due to a larger gene pool, would have far less likelihood of recessive gene expression. But, it’s not always that cut and dried:

In June of this year, a study done in California looked at 60,000 patient records of veterinarians and got some surprising results. The study showed that mixed breed dogs were just as susceptible as purebreds to 13 common hereditary problems such as hip dysplasiaepilepsylymphoma, and bone cancer. The study did show purebreds are more prone to 10 conditions including allergies, cataractsbloat, low thyroid, disc issues, and liver shunts. Only one condition was more prevalent in mixed breed dogs and that was anterior cruciate ligament rupture. The design of this study did have some shortcomings since they lumped all purebreds in one group, and did not look at individual breeds. There are definitely certain disorders that are more prevalent with specific breeds, that is a given.

So…what to think? I still lean to the mixed breeds because I feel as a whole I see more problems with purebreds, but that is just my opinion. One great option: make an appointment and talk to your vet about what type of dog to consider. You should also think about getting pet insurance for breed-specific conditions to avoid any costly problems that might come up in the future. He or she can offer a wealth of knowledge, be impartial, and help you get the best dog for you.