Proving that they have cash registers where their hearts should be, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has announced its annual list of the 10 most popular dog breeds, hoping to drum up business in the run-up to the Westminster dog show.
As with so many slick marketing campaigns, the AKC has glossed over the downside of purebred dogs, including the fact that they often suffer miserably from congenital defects and inherited diseases. So, here is the info that you won't hear from the AKC about those top 10 breeds:
1. Labrador retriever
As their name implies, Labs are "fetching." But years of over- and in-breeding have left Labs with a higher risk for potentially crippling hip and elbow dysplasia, cataracts and other eye abnormalities, and bloat -- a life-threatening condition in which the stomach twists, cutting off access to the esophagus and small intestines.
2. German shepherd
Breeders of German shepherds may feign ignorance of the epilepsy, eczema, dwarfism, and paralysis that these dogs are often plagued with -- but you shouldn't ignore it.
3. Golden retriever
Do blondes have more fun? Not when they have to endure visits to the vet for many of the same kinds of genetic predispositions that afflict their Labrador cousins -- plus, goldens have a particularly high rate of deadly cancer.
Ranked fifth in 2007, beagle breeding and sales boomed after Uno won Westminster in 2008. But impulse buyers soon abandoned these hounds for the next "hot" breed. So animal shelters filled up with beagles -- many to be euthanized, and others to be tortured and killed in laboratories. Beagles who found homes may still face chronic health problems like hypothyroidism, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and intervertebral disc disease.
Those adorable mashed-in faces? They're the result of breeders' unnatural selection for short muzzles, which can cause severe breathing problems, such as wheezing, coughing, vomiting, gagging, and fainting. Other common problems include hip dysplasia and inverted eyelids (entropion).
6. Yorkshire terrier
Yorkies look like divas but are descended from working dogs. Guardians ought to have good jobs, too, since they may face high vet bills for herniated discs, slipped stifles, eye infections, and other common maladies. Oh, and to meet AKC standards for appearance, you'll have to have their tails chopped off. Why? Good question! Ask the AKC.
Courtesy of overbreeding, canine boxers have the kind of health you'd expect from a welterweight who's taken too many punches. In addition to the breathing problems associated with short faces, boxer guardians should brace themselves for epilepsy, tumors, and a range of potentially fatal heart problems, including subaortic stenosis and dilated cardiomyopathy.
Among other health problems, poodles are prone to glaucoma, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, inverted eyelids (entropion) and eyelashes (trichiasis), and runny eyes, so you probably won't catch one singing, "I Can See Clearly Now."
Rotties are big dogs (males can top 125 pounds) with big personalities--and big health challenges, too, such as subaortic stenosis, progressive retinal atrophy, and crippling joint problems.
Their name, in German, means "badger dog," from their origins as badger hunters, and they are bred for short legs to enable them to descend easily into burrows. Their long bodies relative to their abbreviated legs strongly predispose them to back and spinal problems, sometimes causing paralysis.
Why go for a costly, sickly, mass-produced purebred when shelters are full of one-of-a-kind mixed breeds who are literally dying for a home? By adopting a wonderful mutt, you'll save a life and help reduce animal homelessness while also boosting your chances of a more robust new furry friend, as mixed-breed dogs have demonstrated better health and longer life spans than their purebred cousins. And if you must have a "pedigree" dog then go to the "breed rescue" groups on the internet and you will find the love of your life.