Are Mutts Healthier Than Purebred Dogs?
Are you considering adding a new member to your furry family? Have you heard that mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebred dogs? If you have, you’re probably wondering if there’s any truth to this theory, or is it just another myth that needs busting.
Today we’ll explore the differences between mutts (mixed breed dogs) and purebreds. We’ll answer questions like:
- What is a “mutt”?
- Is a hybrid dog the same as a cross bred dog?
- What happens when you cross two breeds of dog?
- What are the pros and cons to cross breeds?
- Which genetic disorders affect purebreds more than mutts (and vice versa)?
- Are mixed breeds cheaper than purebreds?
Let’s dive right in.
What is a “Mutt”?
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘mutt’ as “a dog, especially a mongrel.” Wikipedia defines a mongrel as “A mutt or mixed-breed dog is a dog that does not belong to one officially recognized breed and includes those that are the result of intentional breeding.”
Is a hybrid dog the same as a cross bred dog?
No. Hybrids only occur when you cross two or more species of animal, not two or more breeds of dog. For example, breeding a coyote with a wolf creates a hybrid called a coywolf. Breeding a golden retriever with a poodle creates a mixed breed dog called a goldendoodle.
What happens when you cross two breeds of dog?
Dog crossbreeds (aka designer dogs), are intentionally bred from two or more recognized dog breeds. There are pros and cons to cross breeding dogs. On the one hand, some believe that cross breeding dogs can minimize the likelihood of pre-existing genetic diseases being passed along. On the other hand, some believe that when you cross two breeds, you’re doubling the chance of passing along health issues.
So which is it? Are mutts healthier than purebreds or not? It’s a controversial topic, and there’s no concrete evidence to prove (or disprove) either side of the great debate.
What we can do, however, is take a closer look at some of the pros and cons to cross breeding dogs.
Variety: Since there are so many breeds of dog to choose from, it’s possible to create a wide variety of designer dogs. As long as the two purebred dogs you choose to mate are compatible, designing the dog of your dreams is a fairly straightforward process.
Health: Cross breeding dogs limits the likelihood of pre-existing genetic diseases being inherited. This, in turn, can increase the strength and vigour of crossbred puppies.
Unique look: With so many possible combinations, each crossbred dog is as unique as the next. Each time two pure breeds mate, it is literally a coin toss as to how the dog will turn out in terms of both its appearance and personality.
Genetic issues: While many breeders argue that cross breeding produces healthier, stronger dogs, there is no scientific evidence to back this up. Therefore, the combination of two separate dogs could potentially lead to serious genetic entanglement issues; it could work out brilliantly, but also terribly.
Sizing: Predicting the size of a puppy is much more difficult in dogs that have been crossbred rather than purebred. If two breeds of differing sizes are combined, it will be anyone’s guess as to how big or small the puppies will turn out to be.
Delivery difficulties: Not knowing the size of the litter can lead to potential difficulties when it comes to delivering them. If the puppies are too big for a dog to give birth to, this could lead to an emergency C-section being required which may lead on to other specialist, difficult-to-diagnose complications.
Which Genetic Disorders Affect Purebreds More than Mutts (and vice versa)?
An extensive 15-year study conducted by Bellumori et al (2013) used medical records from the veterinary clinic at University of California-Davis for more than 27,000 dogs. They compared the incidence of 24 genetic disorders in mixed breeds versus purebred dogs.
The following disorders seem to affect more purebreds than mixed breeds:
- Aortic stenosis
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Elbow dysplasia
- Atopy / allergic dermatitis
- Epilepsy (total)
- Portosystemic shunt
The incidence of 10 genetic disorders (42%) was significantly greater in purebred dogs.
The following disorders seem to affect more mixed breeds than purebreds:
- Ruptured cranial cruciate ligament
The incidence of 1 disorder (ruptured cranial cruciate ligament; 4%) was greater in mixed breed dogs.
And the following disorders seem to affect both mixed and purebred dogs equally:
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Mitral valve dysplasia
- Patent ductus arteriosus
- Ventricular septal defect
- Mast cell tumour
- Hip dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
- Lens luxation
- Epilepsy (confirmed)
- Epilepsy (probable)
- Epilepsy (suspect)
For the rest of the disorders examined, they found no difference in incidence between mixed and purebred dogs.
Are mixed breeds cheaper than purebreds?
Well that’s a loaded question. It all depends on what type of costs we’re talking about.
Buying from a breeder: While we strongly believe in adoption, we also understand that pet owners sometimes purchase their fur-babies from reputable breeders. Generally speaking, you’ll pay more for a purebred dog than a mixed-breed dog.
Vet bills: No one can truly predict future vet bill expenses. Choosing to rescue a dog from a shelter—as opposed to buying from a breeder—could save you some cash early on because costs like spay/neuter and vaccinations have already been done when you adopt.
Pet insurance: While it doesn’t typically cover the cost of routine care, like vaccines or checkups, pet insurance can save you a lot of money if your dog has an accident—whether he’s purebred or cross-bred. According to GoodRx Health, “Usually, mixed-breed dog owners can expect to pay a lower insurance premium than purebred dog owners.” According to research from pet health insurance plans, purebred dogs are at a higher risk for cancer than mixed breeds, which means you could end up paying more for insurance.
If cost factors largely into your decision, consider expenses like professional training, grooming requirements, and size (big dogs eat more!). You can also think about the overall lifespan of your future pack member. According to an analysis published in 2019, mixed-breed dogs live approximately 1.2 years longer than purebreds of the same size. Small breeds also tend to live longer than large breeds.
The fact of the matter is that not all purebred dogs are healthy or sick. And guess what? Not all mixed breeds are healthy or sick either. So how do you decide between a purebred and a mixed breed dog? Do your research to understand the pros and cons of all the breeds you’re interested in. Then weigh the risk against the reward to decide which dog is best for your family.
Above all else, remember that there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a dog. Ultimately, you want it to be a good fit for everyone, so in addition to considering the breed, think about size, temperament, gender, grooming, training, and your current family members—both two-legged and four.