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Health problems in pedigree dogs

The welfare and quality of life of many pedigree and purebred dogs are seriously compromised as a result of selective breeding practices. Here's more about it and the health problems it can cause.

close-up portrait of a King Charles Spaniel

Selective breeding

Most dog breeds were originally selected for particular purposes, such as hunting or guarding property. Humans selectively bred dogs that were best suited for the various roles required of them. This was based on their fitness, ability and utility.

Nowadays, in order to win dog shows, pedigree dogs have been bred to emphasise certain physical features in accordance with breed standards set by the Kennel Club. The dog who's judged to most closely match its breed standard is awarded the winner.

As a side effect of keeping different dog breeds separate, and focusing on breeding for appearance, there's a lack of genetic diversity within dog breeds. This lack of genetic diversity can increase the risk of inherited diseases like cancer and blindness.

Exaggerated features can cause dogs to suffer

Below are examples of problems that pedigree dogs can suffer from as a result of selective breeding, ranging from irritating to life-threatening issues and those that require risky surgery.


  • Short, flat faces: pugs, French bulldogs and other similar types of 'designer' dogs. Their face type mean they often have narrow nostrils and abnormal windpipes. Flat-faced dogs are called brachycephalic, and many of these dogs have breathing difficulties and struggle with exercise.
  • Bulging or sunken eyes are prone to injury, pain and discomfort.
  • Long floppy ears often suffer ear infections or injury. The dog can't move their ears to communicate with other dogs.


  • Dogs with a large head and small hips have trouble giving birth, which can risk their lives or require surgery.
  • Very large and heavy dogs are more likely to suffer heart, digestion, muscle and joint problems and live shorter lives.
  • Dogs with long backs can suffer crippling deformities, while those with ridges along their back are prone to nervous system problems.
  • Very curly or short tails can make it difficult for dogs to communicate, as they can't raise or wag their tail.
  • Screw or corkscrew tail dogs can suffer with crippling back deformities.


  • Folded and wrinkled skin can get itchy and sore, as well as causing infolding eyelids that scratch the eye.
  • Hairless dogs struggle to keep warm.

Prioritise health and welfare in all dogs

We believe that all those who breed dogs - whether pedigree, purebred or crossbreed - should prioritise the health, welfare and temperament of their dogs over their appearance. This will help protect the welfare of both the parents and puppies.

We want to help potential puppy buyers choose puppies that have been bred to have the best chance of being happy and healthy. If you're thinking of buying a puppy, avoid the pitfalls of buying from a bad breeder.

Find out more