Are Mixed-Breed Dogs Healthier Than Purebred Dogs?


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Considering buying a doggo? You may be asking: “Are mixed breed dogs healthier than purebred dogs?”

Sure, Yorkshire Terriers are adorable, but are you going to spend a fortune in vet bills for their sensitive tummies? And Alsatians are gorgeous too, but what about the potential for hip issues in these dogs?

Could opting for an adorable cross be a better option? We look at the differences between mixed-breeds and purebred dogs and consider whether one is healthier than the other.

What’s the difference?

First off, what does mixed-breed and purebred mean? Where’s the difference?

Purebred dogs

Also referred to as pedigree (though sometimes that a little off the mark), purebred dogs are dogs with parents from the same breed. As an example, in order to be a pedigree Alsatian puppy, both parents have to be purebred Alsatians and each of the dogs need to have dog papers. They must have a proven pedigree lineage

Purebred dogs have a very small gene pool and that can’t be grown because then we’d lose the purebred label. This means that there’s very little diversity in purebred genes, which is what often leads to health problems.

Pair of dogs frolicking in the water.

Mixed breed dogs

Also referred to as crossbred, designer, mongrels, mutts and more – they’re a mix of two or more different breeds.

We’re not just talking hybrid dog breeds for the purposes of this article (or ‘designer’ cross-bred dogs), which is when two breeds are mixed together for a specific outcome. Think Cockapoos – a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle.

When dogs breed with no desired outcome, this is where the ‘mongrels’ or ‘mutts’ labels come into play.

Regardless, these are all mixed-breed dogs. Though obviously a dog DNA test will show the latter type of mixed-breed dogs have more than two carefully selected breeds within their DNA.

What’s important is mixed-breeds have an broader gene pool. So, they’re less likely to be born with genetically recessive traits that can be harmful to their health. 

Purebred gene problems

There’s a vast amount of significant genetic diseases that are fairly common with purebred dogs. These come as a direct result of inbreeding within these small gene pools. They include spinal issues like IVDD in Dachshunds.

Sadly, most genetic diseases are incurable and come with large veterinary bills.

Breeders intentionally selecting harmful traits for cosmetic reasons exasperates the problem. For instance, short noses on Pugs that give them breathing issues and sloping backs on German Shepherds that cause horrible hip dysplasia in dogs as they age.

Does that mean mixed breed genes are good? 

So are mixed breed dogs healthier? While mixed breed dogs have a larger (or much larger) gene pool and are less likely to inherit these genetic diseases that are prone to some pedigree dogs, they’re just as likely to suffer from diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Also, some researchers reviewed the records of 90,000 dogs over a five-year period and noted a number of genetic disorders (like hip dysplasia) occurred equally often in both groups. Find more information here.

One study even found that cranial cruciate disease may be more common in mixed breed dogs. Another found that breeding new cross-breeds – hybrid designer dogs – makes it more likely you’ll introduce genetic diseases from both breeds, rather than remove them.

Further, most mixed breeding is unregulated. So unless you’ve sourced your pup from a registered, professional breeder specialising in designer dogs, you’re essentially getting a lucky-dip packet of genes. It can go either way.

However, if you know the health of your potential pup’s parents you’ll get a good idea of its health prospects. This is one good reason why finding ethical breeders is so important – they apply strong focus on the health of their pups and the pup parents.

Regardless of whether your pup is purebred or mixed, watch this video with Dr Cath Watson to see why regular health checks are so imporant:

Moving forward

We’re realising that in the past breeders were choosing aesthetics over health. 

In moving forward, breeders are trying to find new ways to keep the breed looking the same while breeding out certain health issues that affect different pedigrees. has an article that discusses how they managed to do this in Dalmatians. The challenge: the genes responsible for the breed’s spotted pattern also result in high levels of uric acid in the breed’s urine. Selecting against uric acid, however, would result in a spotless Dalmatian.

So, Robert Schaible started the Dalmatian–English Pointer Backcross Project. He paired an American Kennel Club (AKC) champion Dalmatian with an English Pointer, then crossed a dog from that litter to another Dalmatian and so on. After 15 generations, the AKC allowed Dalmatians from this healthier lineage, spots intact, to register.

Are mixed breed dogs healthier?

Are mixed breed dogs healthier? The verdict 

So are mixed breed dogs healthier? While it’s true pedigree dogs are more likely to inherit disorders, all dogs are prone to disease the longer they live. You can’t get around this. Regular veterinary care is the key to keeping your purebred, designer cross-breed or very much mixed breed dog healthy and giving them the best possible life. 

With proper pet insurance, you’ll be able to cover many of their vet bills without worrying about finances. As you’ve read above, pets, just like humans, have myriad conditions that come out of the blue. Not to mention accidents and accidentally damaging someone’s property, which our pet insurance also covers.

With great dog insurance backing you up you can focus on what’s important: being the best pet parent. 

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