Document Type

Editorial and Commentary

Publication Date



Despite the fact that companion animals enjoy the status of “members of the family” in contemporary society, there are numerous diseases affecting the longevity of these animals and their quality of life. Some of the most pervasive and damaging problems accrue to pedigreed animals whose genetic lines contain many major and severe diseases which are detrimental to both the quality and length of life. If one considers the most popular dog breeds in the United States, the top 10 include the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, French Bulldog, Beagle, Poodle, Rottweiler, Yorkshire Terrier, and German Shorthaired Pointer. Some idea of the pervasiveness of genetic defects across breeds can be gleaned from a recent book detailing genetic predisposition to disease. The book contains 93 pages of references. The list of diseases for the most popular dog, the Labrador Retriever, is 6.25 pages long. Yet, despite the tragic consequences of such diseases in animals regarded as beloved family members, breed standards associated with these diseases remain unchanged. This represents a major tragedy to which insufficient attention is paid. The point of this paper is to show that even as dogs have increasingly become viewed as “members of the family”, this status is belied by the proliferation of genetic diseases perpetuated by breed standards.


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