Breed Profiling

Racial profiling is considered taboo, and for good reason.  Breed profiling, however, is fair game for those of us in the veterinary profession! We breed profile on a daily basis particularly pertaining to health issues.  Name just about any breed of dog or cat and I can provide you with a laundry list of potentially inherited diseases.  Patty Khuly, VMD (the “VMD” means her veterinary degree is from the University of Pennsylvania) has created a wonderfully comprehensive list of canine breed related diseases (the feline list is in the works).  I encourage you to check it out at Not only does she list the most common maladies for each dog breed, she rates the risk for disease inheritance (low, medium, or high), describes each disease, and provides the approximate (emphasis on approximate) cost to diagnose and treat each disease. Hats off to Dr. Khuly for creating such a useful tool!  And if all of this weren’t enough, Dr. Khuly also manages to find the time to pen a witty and informative daily blog (    

So how might Dr. Khuly’s information about breed-specific diseases be useful for you?  Certainly, if you are thinking about adopting a purebred pup, what you learn might sway your opinion about a particular breed.  If you already have your heart set on a specific breed, the disease-specific information will empower you to ask the right questions of the breeder to learn if the litter’s dam, sire, grandparents, and aunts and uncles have been affected.  A word of warning: don’t dare rely on the proverbial, “None of my dogs have ever had that problem.”  A conscientious breeder will offer forth official paperwork rather than verbal reassurances. Finally, if you already share your heart and home with a particular breed or think you know what breeds have gone into the “making of your mutt” being informed about the diseases that may arise will allow you to better be on the lookout for early symptoms. Timely detection and intervention can favorably affect the long-term outcome.     

Official White House Photo

Now, just for kicks, let’s check Dr. Khuly’s list of inherited diseases pertaining to Bobama (the name I’ve affectionately bestowed upon the newest dog in the White House).  According to the list, Portuguese Water Dogs are at medium risk for hip dysplasia (instability of the hip joints that results in arthritis), and at high risk for Addison’s disease (a hormonal imbalance) and follicular dysplasia (a hair follicle issue resulting in abnormal hair growth).  President Obama might be interested to know that one of his predecessors in the White House had Addison’s disease- none other than the late John F. Kennedy!  I wish Bobama a lifetime of good health, not only for the sake of the first family, but for the sake of the White House veterinarian as well!   

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health,   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook    

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

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7 Comments on “Breed Profiling

  1. Greetings,

    I’ve heard from several breeders (many responded privately) letting me know that there are inaccuracies in terms of disease prevalence and risk in the list I referred to in this blog. Admittedly, I did not double check the accuracy of all of the information on Dr. Khuly’s list. While I still consider her list to be a useful resource, especially in terms of disease descriptions, I encourage you to visit the breed-specific national organization websites to substantiate disease prevalence.

    Thank you for all of your feedback.

    Best wishes,
    Dr. Nancy Kay

  2. Pingback: Breed Profiling By Dr Nancy Kay, DVM and Dogasaur Master - Dogasaur

  3. Dear Dr Kay,
    It is a wonderful idea that someone has produced a book offering the world a list of diseases/conditions common to specific breeds, however having a Pet Insurance Company as the source of the information leaves a lot to be desired. I have been in the Vizsla breed for 40 years and I personally do not agree with what I read. When a profiting entity is the source of information in any instance, there is distortion.

  4. Dear Dr. Kay,
    I agree that it is important for anybody who is looking for a purebred dog to learn all they can about that particular breed. Your info is right on in that regards.

    However I have some big issue with this insurance company and the information they are posting on their site. The Anatolian Shepherd community is pretty small and I haven’t heard of anybody who insures their Anatolian with this company, I have sent them a letter asking them how many actual purebred registered Anatolians are in their database to base their information on. If a dog is not registered as a purebred it may as well be a mixed breed and even if it is purebred but of unknown origin who knows what’s behind it as far as health goes. If they really want to compare something, they should compare apples to apples, in my case, compare registered Anatolians from breeders who do health testing to Anatolians who come from rescue or from breeders who don’t health test.
    Their claim that mixed breeds are healthier really gives a stamp of approval to those who either breed mixed breed dogs intentionally or due to ignorance.
    I looked up several breeds, even some of the designer “breeds” which are really mutts, and everywhere if you scroll down to the bottom of the page does it say that this breed costs more to insure than a mixed breed because purebreds (even Aussiedoodles who are mutts), are more prone to hereditary diseases than mixed breeds. What ignorance to claim that dogs that come from a background of health tested parents and other relatives have more hereditary diseases than mixed breed dogs of unknown origin. As far as my breed is concerned, some of the health problems such as bloat, cardiomyopathy and epilepsy they list as a medium risk are extremely rare in our breed, but they give the impression that it is quite common. The best advice I can give people is to get in touch with the breed clubs of a particular breed and get information from the people who really know the breed and aren’t prejudiced against purebred dogs.

    Below is my letter to this company:

    To Whom it may concern,

    I was looking through your site and came across the breed information part, first of all Aussiedoodles, Chugs, Labradoodles or whatever are not breeds, they are mutts just like most shelter dogs, to include them in the “breed” section is pretty bizarre and to claim they have more genetic diseases than other mutts without a fancy name is even more bizarre and makes absolutely no sense.

    I have looked at the breed info for several breeds and basically you claim that all purebred dogs are more prone to genetic diseases than mixed breeds and therefore you charge more to insure a purebred dog than a mixed breed dog. Why don’t you look at breed statistics at the OFA website and learn about how responsible breeders check all their breeding stock and offspring and that it is a lot less likely for a purebred dog from a responsible breeder to have those genetic conditions than a mixed breed dog with unkown background.
    When you look at data for my breed the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, how many Anatolian Shepherd Dogs that are actually registered as such and come from a reputable breeder are in your database to support your claim that they are less healthy than a mixed breed dog? You should not include dogs as Anatolian Shepherd Dogs in your statistics unless they are registered as such, if they are not registered they may just as well be mixed breeds of unknown origin. If you look at the Petfinder site and search for “Anatolian Shepherd Dog” you will find a lot of dogs, but only a small percentage of those are actually Anatolian Shepherds.
    Why don’t you offer a discount for purebred dogs that where produced by breeders who have done the healthchecks that are recommended by their breed clubs? Wouldn’t that support responsible ownership of dogs?

    One more thing, dog owners are not dog parents. Dogs are not children and they are not human. I am not my dogs’ mother or guardian. I own them and I love them and I take responsibility for their care.

    End of my letter

  5. Thanks for a great intro to the issue of purebreds and mixed breeds. I live with and talk a lot about Cavaliers, pros and cons. Your site and links are excellent resources

  6. I learned the hard way that if your vet doesn’t love your dog’s breed you need to move on ASAP. If I ever get another cocker spaniel I’ll call every vet in town and ask “How many cocker spaniels do you see?” and I’ll quiz the vet about cocker ears before letting them touch my baby.

  7. Thank you, Dr. Kay, for giving us a wonderful link to the breed-specific illness data, within you witty welcome to Bobama (love that nickname, btw).
    Those of us who write about dogs try our best to educate owners and potential owners about canine illness, and links to this information and to your own proactive messages will be included in my work.
    I am a fan because you continue to Speak for Spot . . .
    Linda Rehkopf