Common Health Problems Afflicting ‘Purebred’ Dogs

Breeding “purebred” dogs—dogs with certain genetic traits or appearances—can cause inherited health conditions that can be painful and deadly. The aesthetic standards set by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the group that sanctions the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, among others, can leave many dogs crippled and in nearly constant pain and may even lead to an untimely death. An article in Time magazine estimates that as many as one in four purebred dogs is afflicted with a serious genetic problem. In 2022, Norway became the first country to ban the breeding of English bulldogs and King Charles spaniels over animal welfare concerns related to the medical conditions commonly experienced by these breeds.

Nature didn’t create dog breeds—humans did. There are many health problems that come along with breeding for certain physical attributes. Those issues, by breed, include the following:

1. Bulldogs


As a result of selective breeding, bulldogs (also known as “British bulldogs” or “English bulldogs”) often have to be artificially inseminated and give birth via Cesarean section because their heads are too large and their hips are too small to give birth naturally. They also commonly suffer from breathing problems. Learn more in the video below:

The medical conditions afflicting bulldogs are so severe that Norway banned the breeding of British bulldogs after a court there ruled that the dogs could never be considered healthy.

2. Bloodhounds

Bloodhounds often have low-slung eyelids and, as a result, are at higher risk of suffering from conditions such as these:

  • Chronic eye irritation
  • Eye infections

Their floppy ears and wrinkled skin also increase their risk of developing serious ear or skin infections.

3. Beagles

cute dog

Beagles face an elevated risk of developing problems including:

  • Glaucoma
  • Mammary cancer
  • Herniated discs
  • Dementia

4. Labrador Retrievers

Labs have a higher risk of encountering these issues:

  • Eye cancer
  • Skin allergies
  • Joint pain

5. Yorkshire Terriers

These terriers face a higher risk of developing these conditions:

  • A collapsing trachea
  • Seizures
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Hepatitis

6. French Bulldogs

Close-up of French bulldog©

Vets say that guardians of French bulldogs can expect a lifetime of expensive medical bills because of the dogs’ tendency to suffer from:

  • Ear infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Pinkeye
  • Skin Fold dermatitis
  • Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome

7. Boxers

Boxers are prone to developing these issues:

  • Several types of cancer
  • Eye ulcers
  • Respiratory problems
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy

8. Poodles

Poodles are at risk of developing problems such as these:

  • Progressive vision loss
  • Seizures
  • Diabetes
  • A collapsing trachea

9. Rottweilers

Rottweilers may suffer from:

  • Nerve pain
  • Weakness and loss of control of the limbs
  • Head tremors
  • Heart disease
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Uterine infections (which can be fatal if not treated quickly)

10. Golden Retrievers

Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers are at a higher risk of suffering from these conditions:

  • Melanoma of the eye and mouth
  • Deadly kidney dysplasia
  • Bone cancer
  • At least five different heart conditions

11. Dachshunds

Dachshunds face a host of health problems. Their long backs and short legs lead to a higher risk of lifelong back, knee, and joint problems. They are also particularly susceptible to these issues:

  • Eye disease
  • Heart valve defects
  • Deafness

12. Dalmatians

AKC breed standards stipulate that Dalmatians with large patches of color on their fur can be disqualified. However, dogs with smaller patches who “pass the test” are more likely to be deaf.

13. Shar Peis

Shar Peis are prone to frequent skin infections because of their excessively wrinkled skin.

14. Pugs


Pugs are prone to developing spina bifida because many breeders feel that the tail must be curled as tightly as possible over the hip. They are also at higher risk of suffering from the following issues:

  • Joint dislocation
  • Breathing problems
  • Diabetes and resulting exercise intolerance, leading to obesity
  • Recurrent or chronic inflammation of the brain
  • Proptosis, or the bulging of one or both eyeballs from their sockets

15. Pekingese

The brachycephalic (or flat) faces of Pekingese can cause breathing problems because of shortened air passages. Like many other brachycephalic breeds, they can also suffer from proptosis, or the bulging of one or both eyeballs from their sockets.

16. German Shepherds

German Shepherd Dog

These dogs are at higher risk from suffering from these conditions:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • At least eight different heart conditions
  • Hip dysplasia

17. St. Bernards

The large size of St. Bernards can lead to these problems:

    • Hip and elbow dysplasia
    • Bloat (which can be fatal if not treated immediately), a condition in which a dog suffers from excessive gas production in the stomach
    • Heart disease
    • Neck problems

18. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

These spaniels have been bred to have unnaturally shaped skulls, which can cause a condition called syringomyelia, in which the skull is too small for the brain, forcing brain tissue to protrude through the base of the skull and put pressure on the spinal cord. This is extremely painful for afflicted dogs.

If you bought an American Kennel Club-Registered dog and they became ill or violent or died prematurely, let us know.


Remember, there’s no such thing as a “responsible breeder.”

If you are determined to adopt a purebred dog—and are up to the challenge of taking care of a special-needs pooch, as many of them are—check out your local breed rescue or open-admission shelter. It has been estimated that at least 25 percent of dogs in animal shelters are purebred. With millions of dogs—purebreds and mutts—already in need of homes, every puppy born to a breeder or in a puppy mill means a lost opportunity for dogs waiting in a shelter for a family of their own.

Learn more about the companion-animal overpopulation crisis and pledge to adopt animals from shelters, rather than buying them from breeders or pet stores.

Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us.

 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind