Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Choosing Your New Dog
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when choosing the best dog breed. Some people decide on a small dog that does not bark much. Others want a dog that does not shed much, an affectionate dog, or maybe just a dog breed that is really cute. I am guilty of that one!
If you have taken care of a sick dog, you might want to choose your next dog based on his health. Potentially, healthy dogs share a number of characteristics. They are not giant and usually are not tiny. They have normal anatomy without excess folds and flat faces and are built to survive even in the wild.
Here comes the sad part. Just because a dog has these characteristics and is from a breed that is usually healthy, there are no guarantees. Any dog can get sick.
Picking a dog breed with a long average lifespan will not guarantee your dog will live a long life. Remember, dogs are individuals and there are no guarantees; sometimes even dogs from a breed with numerous problems will beat the odds and be healthy.
If you have found the dog breed you want based on other characteristics, good health can be another important factor to consider. Take a minute and see if the breed you are interested in is listed among the healthiest dog breeds here.
1. The Australian Herding Dogs
This Australian Cattle Dog was probably developed using very healthy animals, and the result has been a healthy dog—Dingoes, working Border Collies, and perhaps some other breeds were involved in the beginning. The ACD lifestyle has tended to allow only the healthiest dogs; they have erect ears, normal height and weight, and have not been chosen for oddities like a flat face or short legs.
Australian Cattle Dogs are active dogs and have only a few minor health problems. Most of them usually become inactive late in life and only then because of injuries. One dog was reported to live almost 30 years, and it is not unusual for a dog to stay active and working up to 14 years of age.
Several of the Australian herding breeds are healthy, mostly because of their development and continued selection process. Kelpies have few problems and Koolie owners’ state that their dogs usually live over 15 years without health problems.
All of these dogs are easily bored and need to work, so their exceptional health cannot be the only reason to choose an Australian herding dog. If you are away from home most of the time and you want one of these dogs for your apartment, you are making a mistake. If your lifestyle is active and you have a place for one of these dogs to run and work, though, they are an excellent choice.
Although this breed is not common, they really deserve to be on this list because of their fantastic health. Azawakhs have been isolated for a long time, and they do not have any of the genetic diseases so common in large dogs.
These dogs are also free from the few problems seen in sighthounds. Their DNA reveals that they are most closely related to the Pariah dogs—like that dog, they are free from genetic diseases.
Azawakhs are really only at risk from injuries, but even then their fanciers report that dogs heal very quickly. In sub-Saharan Africa, dogs usually live about 12 years. I would not be surprised if their lifespan in Europe and the US is a lot longer, although there have been reports of Wobbler´s disease, probably related to rapid growth secondary to a rich diet.
This dog is not an ideal pet for many households and good health alone is not the reason to find one. Only someone willing to take care of a sighthound should even consider adopting an Azawakh.
This English hound has everything he needs to be healthy. The Beagle is neither too large nor too small, too short or too tall, and has a normal nose and bones that fit together nicely.
About the only thing unnatural about a Beagle are those floppy ears.
Some Beagles are prone to obesity when they get older, and they have a few genetic diseases which are related to their size and form. Some of them develop immune arthritis, but it is rare.
Beagles are so healthy that it gets them into trouble. They are often drafted by labs looking for a large “lab rat” since they do not have genetic diseases that would ruin a research project. (This breed is also picked frequently since they are small enough to fit in a cage and are docile enough to accept that life.)
Being healthy may not be such a great thing.
Although the dogs in the US come from a small foundation stock, the Siberian Huskies originally imported were exceptionally healthy and carried few genetic diseases. No one has exact numbers since Siberians were imported from about 1908 until 1930, when the Soviets closed the borders and would no longer allow any exports.
All of the arctic breeds are healthy. Sick dogs, like those that growled at the children or snapped at their owners, died. Hip problems are rarely seen; out of 160 breeds tested for hip dysplasia, Siberian Huskies ranked 155th.
Racing dogs are more likely to have injuries and problems related to their tough lifestyle. If you are interested in this breed, and willing to meet all of the requirements (like plenty of exercise and a good enclosure), poor health is rarely a problem.
5. Pariah Dogs
All feral dogs that have been bred in poor areas are free from most genetic diseases. The reason is obvious. Dogs that display any problems are dropped out of the gene pool—the sooner the disease strikes, the sooner the dog ceases to breed.
Pariah dogs (in India) or other feral dog breeds (like the Carolina dog, Canaan dog, and many others) do not live where they can receive any medical attention. If they develop a condition like hip dysplasia, they are not able to forage normally, and they die.
They also die from contagious diseases, of course, but if you are looking for a healthy dog breed, this will not be a problem. Pariah dogs are a great breed to choose if you are looking for a hardy and healthy dog.
Dog breeds that are most “natural” (like Border Collies from the UK, Shiba Inus from Japan, and Canadian Eskimo Dogs) are the least likely to suffer from genetic diseases. Those that are most “unnatural” (like the Pug from China, the English Bulldog, and the Neapolitan Mastiff from Italy) are most likely to suffer from health problems. Maltese are one of the few small dogs that does not have many problems, but of course if your dog comes from a puppy mill she is more likely to be poorly bred with luxating patellas, poor dentition, and other conformation problems.
When researching the information on this article, I took a look at what other breeds were listed on the web. It was very disappointing. Many of the lists were wrong and, like so many of these articles, once an incorrect list is published, it is copied and many sites come out with the same thing. All of them are very wrong, so if choosing for health is important to you do not trust a list; look at the breed and decide how natural they are.
But, as I mentioned above, good health is important but not the only reason to choose a new dog. Decide what is most important to you, find a source of healthy dogs or puppies, and provide good veterinary care from the beginning.
And most of all, enjoy your new dog!
More About Dogs
- Five Dog Breeds With The Longest Life Expectancy
Are you looking for a breed of dog that will live a long and healthy life?Photos, videos, and a description of the best five will help you choose a companion for many years to come.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have a large fenced in yard and am considering adopting a Blue Tick hound from my local shelter. I have three free-range chickens and three free-range guinea hens who are only three months old. Will the Blue Tick hound harm them?
Answer: The Blue Tick hounds I have been around are pretty lazy and good farm dogs. Most of them do not chase chickens. I cannot be sure that your new dog will not chase, but it is not likely. If he is older, and no longer a small puppy, your chances are better still.
Guineas should be kept in until they are about four months. After that, dogs almost never hurt them unless it rains. (They become waterlogged and cannot fly off if chased.)
© 2013 Mark dos Anjos DVM
Judy Specht from California on July 22, 2013:
There is an Australian herding dog mix that the boys and I meet everyday. She speaks a different herding language than my dogs. We love to watch her try to herd the boys as they fixated on the capturing the ball. She is very sweet.
Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 11, 2013:
Thanks for that comment, ugagirl66. It sounds like Tanner is lucky to have you, too.
LKMore01, I appreciate your taking the time to read this and watch that video. Some of them need to be seen, but are really rough!
LKMore01 on July 09, 2013:
Thank you for introducing us to a few breeds we've never seen or heard of before. The beagle project video had me in tears as I knew it would. Thank you again for another moving informative HUB.
Regina Harrison-Barton from South Carolina on July 09, 2013:
I have an Australian Shepherd and they have a lot of personality, run surprisingly fast with their butts low to the ground when herding and they do have a lot of energy. They are also instinctively smart. A lot of what Tanner has learned, he learned by his own instincts. I love my Aussie.
Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 09, 2013:
Thanks jtrader. They are beautiful dogs, but not for everyone.
jtrader on July 09, 2013:
First time hearing of the Azawakh. Voted up and useful!