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5 Common Genetic Disorders in Dogs

For centuries, humans and dogs have shared an intimate bond, with our four-legged companions being an integral part of our families. Just like their human counterparts, dogs can be susceptible to a range of diseases, many of which are genetically determined. 

This article aims to shed light on five common genetic diseases in dogs, expand your understanding, and learn what you can do to help your dog if they’re diagnosed.

1) Hip Dysplasia

A common skeletal condition, particularly in large or giant breed dogs, hip dysplasia is a disorder where the hip joint fails to develop correctly. This results in joint instability and can lead to painful arthritis. Breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Great Danes are particularly prone to this condition.

Hip dysplasia is polygenic, meaning it is influenced by multiple genes. It's also multifactorial, with environmental factors like diet and exercise playing significant roles. Symptoms include decreased activity, difficulty or reluctance in rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs, and a "bunny-hop" gait.

To mitigate the risk of hip dysplasia, responsible breeders use hip scoring systems, like PennHIP or OFA, to assess the hip health of prospective breeding dogs. Regular, moderate exercise and a balanced diet can also contribute to joint health.

2) Urinary Bladder Stones 

Urinary bladder stones, also known as uroliths, can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, diet, and metabolic health. Certain dog breeds, such as Dalmatians, Bulldogs, and Yorkshire Terriers, have a genetic predisposition to develop bladder stones, indicating that genetics can indeed play a role in this condition. Dalmatians, for instance, have a unique metabolic defect that leads to high levels of uric acid in their urine, making them prone to developing urate stones.

However, not all bladder stones in dogs are due to genetic factors. Many cases are linked to dietary and lifestyle factors, urinary tract infections, or other underlying health conditions like liver disease. For example, stones can form when the urine is too concentrated, which can result from dehydration or a diet high in certain minerals.

In any case, if you suspect your dog has bladder stones due to signs such as frequent urination, blood in the urine, or difficulty urinating, it's important to seek veterinary care immediately. The diagnosis usually involves a physical examination, urinalysis, and imaging techniques such as X-rays or ultrasound. Treatment might include dietary changes, medication, or, in more severe cases, surgical removal of the stones.

3) Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

DM is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects older dogs, leading to the loss of coordination in the hind limbs and eventually resulting in paralysis. It's been compared to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in humans. Breeds predisposed to DM include German Shepherds, Boxers, and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

DM is an autosomal recessive disease caused by a mutation in the SOD1 gene. However, not all dogs with two copies of the mutation develop the disease, suggesting other genetic or environmental factors play a part. There is no cure for DM, but physical therapy and assistive devices can help maintain mobility and quality of life.

4) Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic Syndrome in dogs is largely a genetic condition. The term "brachycephalic" refers to dogs with a shortened or "squashed" face and includes breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus. These breeds have been genetically selected for their flat faces and short noses, which unfortunately can lead to various anatomical abnormalities known collectively as Brachycephalic Syndrome.

Brachycephalic Syndrome encompasses several related conditions, including stenotic nares (narrowed nostrils), an elongated soft palate, and in some cases, everted laryngeal saccules or hypoplastic trachea. These abnormalities can interfere with a dog's breathing, leading to the characteristic snorting, snoring, and sometimes even serious respiratory distress seen in these breeds.

Treatment for Brachycephalic Syndrome depends on the severity of the condition and can range from managing symptoms to surgical intervention. As this is a hereditary condition tied to the breed's physical characteristics, prospective owners of brachycephalic breeds should be aware of these potential health issues and ensure they source their pets from responsible breeders who prioritize health and wellbeing.

5) Canine Multifocal Retinopathy (CMR)

Canine Multifocal Retinopathy (CMR) is a hereditary eye disorder that affects several breeds of dogs. This dog genetic disorder is characterized by the development of multiple distinct areas (multifocal) in the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye) that appear raised and change in color. These changes can result in minor retinal folding, which may cause slight visual impairment.

CMR is a result of genetic mutation in a gene that is crucial for normal visual function. The disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner, meaning a dog must inherit two copies of the defective gene (one from each parent) to develop the condition.

Breeds known to be affected by CMR include, but are not limited to, the Bullmastiff, American Staffordshire Terrier, Coton de Tulear, Australian Shepherd, and English Mastiff.

The Benefits of CBD and Other Natural Compounds

CBD treats, like Canine Cush, can significantly help your dog should they be diagnosed with any of the genetic conditions above. CBD has been shown to reduce pain by promoting normal inflammatory processes and bringing the dog’s body back to homeostasis. When the body can return to balance, or as close as possible, fewer symptoms of the condition may be noticed.

In addition to CBD, Canine Cush contains the following ingredients to help your dog:

  • Eggshell membrane: Eggshell membranes are a great source of protein and essential amino acids that are necessary for the health and maintenance of a dog's tissues and muscles. Collagen, another component of eggshell membranes, is critical for skin health and can aid in maintaining a shiny, healthy coat. Additionally, collagen can contribute to the health of joints and the digestive system.
  • Boswellia: The most common use for Boswellia in dogs is to help manage symptoms of arthritis. It may help reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints, which can lead to improved mobility and less pain. Boswellia has also been used to manage symptoms of chronic bronchial conditions, helping reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract.
  • Curcumin: Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals, reducing oxidative stress in your dog's body. Emerging research also indicates that curcumin could play a role in managing neurological disorders like canine cognitive dysfunction, a condition similar to Alzheimer's in humans. It's thought to decrease the buildup of harmful plaques in the brain associated with these conditions.

Looking Ahead

Despite these common genetic diseases of dogs, there are lots of reasons for optimism. Continued advancements in canine genetic research and DNA testing technology are allowing us to better understand, manage, and even prevent these diseases. As pet owners, our awareness and proactive approach towards these conditions can make a world of difference.

While genetic diseases can seem daunting, remember that not all dogs carrying a defective gene will develop the associated disease. Various environmental factors, along with the complex interplay of multiple genes, significantly influence a dog's overall health.

Fortunately, there are natural options for your dog should they be diagnosed with a genetic condition. Even if your dog has not been diagnosed with a condition, adding these supplements to their diet could greatly improve their quality of life.

Read More:

Effectiveness of NEM® Brand Eggshell Membrane in the Treatment of Suboptimal Joint Function

Eggshell Membrane: A Possible New Natural Therapeutic for Joint and Connective Tissue Disorders

Dietary Support With Boswellia Resin in Canine Inflammatory Joint and Spinal Disease

Canine Multifocal Retinopathy 1 

Diagnosis, Prevention, and Management of Canine Hip Dysplasia

Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Curcumin in the Inflammatory Diseases

Photo by BP Miller on Unsplash