Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker
recently penned an article
about how he'd like to see less of. Not because he thinks they're "bad" breeds or undeserving of homes. Quite the opposite. As he writes: "I love all pets. I wouldn’t be a veterinarian if I didn’t, and I celebrate the human-animal bond every day. I do look forward, though, to the day when these five breeds aren’t as popular. The reasons vary, but in many cases the problems are health-related, and overbreeding by puppy mills and other less-than-ideal operations has a lot to do with that. What would help these breeds is for there to be a lot less of them. A couple of them need many more adopters and far less breeding, and all would benefit from people who are well-prepared for the challenges of owning a dog, and who make sure to look to rescue, shelters and reputable breeders for their pets. Here are the breeds Dr. Becker highlights in his article, and why he thinks their popularity is bad for them.
Bulldogs, while adorable and loving goofballs, often have major health problems due to overbreeding. According to Dr. Marty Becker, "The exaggerated features of the Bulldog and other related breeds have produced a perfect storm of health problems that diminish the quality of life for many of these dogs, and often make them extremely expensive to own. Many need surgery to shorten their soft palate and enlarge their nostrils just so they can breathe somewhat normally. Must as I love them as individuals, as a veterinarian these problems make me hurt for these dogs and their families."
Beautiful, intelligent, brave dogs, German Shepherds are nonetheless also plagued with health problems. Dr. Becker states, "A good German Shepherd is an awe-inspiring dog, and the best have served in so many ways. German Shepherds were the original service dogs for people who can’t see, and they’ve long been used for police and military work, and for search and rescue. Their popularity has been pretty steady since the days of Rin Tin Tin, but the problems with the health of the breed seem to have increased with every decade. German Shepherds are prone to epilepsy, vision problems, bleeding disorders and digestive problems, as well as bad hips and degenerative myelopathy, an incurable condition that causes progressive paralysis. The German Shepherd is the world’s first media-darling dog, and remains the classic example of the problems of popularity."
It's not health that is the problem with these pups. Instead, it's overpopulation. As Dr. Becker relates, "Health usually isn’t the problem with the Chihuahua. These active, in-your-face little dogs behave much bigger than they are (but not bigger than they think they are, which is huge!), and many of them live well into their teens with regular wellness care. But as one of the two most common breeds in many shelters these days, finding homes for them all is a challenge. For that, you can thank Taco Bell and Paris Hilton, I guess, but I’d like to thank everyone who adopts them, and spays and neuters them. A little Chihuahua goes a long way, and I’ll be happier when I see a lot less of them in practice, because that means the shelters aren’t struggling to cope with the overpopulation."
This playful, happy breed is popular for a reason. Perhaps, too popular. Again, health problems often cut a Golden's life short. Dr. Becker, who has a Golden Retriever, says, "We love Shakira, our 12-year-old Golden whose sunny personality, supermodel looks and ball-crazy behavior are everything people love about Goldens. But Goldens have had more than their share of breed-related health issues, the most common and most tragic is cancer. Our family has been lucky enough to escape this diagnosis, but countless other owners will be getting bad news about their dogs today, and many of those dogs will be young. Many of us veterinarians not-so-secretly call this breed “The Cancer Retriever,” which is why I’m so excited about the Golden Retriever Lifetime Project, a huge and important step in helping to save many of these dogs down the line. And many people too!"
These sweet, devoted dogs suffer from irresponsible breeding and overpopulation. Dr. Becker thinks they have an undeserved reputation: "I fell in love with Gracie, a Pit-Lab mix, while visiting shelters at Christmastime to give gifts to the pets there. Gracie was found as a stray puppy, and even though everyone at the shelter loved her, no one adopted her until I came along. I guess I could see beyond her 'Plain Jane”' exterior and her troubled legs to the beautiful heart inside...the popularity of Pit Bulls has driven a population explosion that’s out of sync with the number of homes available and suitable for these large, powerful dogs. The majority of Pitties are sweet and stable, but the unfair negative press the breed has received makes many people afraid to adopt them...more adoptions and a lot fewer litters are the answer."