The Same, But Different: The Difference Between Commonly-Confused Dog Breeds And Their Unique Health Problems

14 May 2015
 Categories: , Blog

The American Kennel Club recognizes over 180 dog breeds. Some breeds, like the Poodle and Dachshund, are available in varying size varieties. On the other hand, certain breeds are similar in nearly every physical aspect to other breeds except for size. Yet, these breeds, like English and French Bulldogs, Miniature and Doberman Pinschers, and Collies and Shelties, are individual purebreds, each with unique health risks.

English and French Bulldogs

The English Bulldog is a very old breed, dating back to at least the 1200s. The English Bulldog was originally bred to fight in bullbaiting and bearbaiting rings. These English Bulldogs needed short snouts, underbites, and strong statures, so early breeders crossed Mastiffs, Pugs, and other bullish breeds. When these blood sports were outlawed in the early 1800s, dedicated English Bulldog fanciers continued breeding these dogs, but for companionship instead of fighting.

Many of the English Bulldogs found in the southern region of Great Britain were smaller than the traditional English Bulldogs. French traders snuck these dogs out of England and, in France, bred these small English Bulldogs specifically for their size. Several generations of conscious breeding (and possibly cross-breeding with terriers) resulted in the French Bulldog. This breed is known for its signature bat ears, friendly persona, and amicable personality.

Health Risks: The English Bulldog is prone to a wealth of health problems, most of which can be attributed to their unique appearance. Common English Bulldog health risks include skin yeast infections, cherry eye, heart disease, dysplasia, cysts, and overheating. Most English Bulldog litters are delivered via caesarian section, as well. French Bulldogs share some of the same medical risks, like heat stroke and cherry eye, along with Von Willebrand's disease and luxating patella (common in small dog breeds). 

Miniature Pinschers and Doberman Pinschers

Contrary to popular opinion, Miniature Pinschers are not simply "little Dobermans." As a matter of fact, the Miniature Pinscher preceded the Doberman Pinscher.

The Miniature Pinscher was originally developed in Germany during the early 1800s. The Min Pin, as fanciers frequently call the breed, probably descended from Dachshunds, Italian Greyhounds, and German Pinschers. The earliest Min Pins served as ratters, watch dogs, and companions. Today, this breed exhibits confidence, a protective nature, and a proud gait.

In the late 1800s, a German man by the name of Louis Dobermann worked as a tax collector and moonlighted as a dog catcher. He needed a strong, obedient, agile guard dog to protect him in his dangerous day job. He cross-bred several breeds, including the Rottweiler, German Pinscher, German Shepherd, Greyhound, Manchester Terrier, and, of course, the Miniature Pinscher; the result is the breed you know today as the Doberman Pinscher. Dobermans are highly intelligent, obedient, loyal pets.

Health Risks: The Miniature Pinscher is prone to several medical conditions, including luxating patella, Legg-Calve Perthes disease, canine epilepsy, and hypothyroidism. The Doberman Pinscher has an increased risk of developing cardiomyopathy, Von Willebrand's disease, dancing Doberman syndrome, wobbler syndrome, and like the Min Pin, hypothyroidism. 

Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs

The first Collies appeared in the Scottish countryside as early as the 16th century. Collies, which are available in rough and smooth coats, possibly originated from Borzois, Greyhounds, and Setters, although their exact genealogy is unknown. The first modern Collie, called "Old Cocky," was the first of this breed to appear in dog shows and appears in the pedigrees of all Collies today. Thanks to their excellent personalities and appearances on the big screen in the mid-1900s, Collies became extremely popular here in America.

The Shetland Sheepdog, often mistaken for a miniature Collie, is a much newer breed. The Sheltie, as the breed is affectionately known as, descended from a Scandinavian Spitz-type shepherding dog, along with the Pomeranian, King Charles Spaniel, and the Collie. The Sheltie is very close in appearance to the Collie, though it is not available in a smooth-coated variety. Shelties are intelligent, active dogs that are more popular today than their ancestor, the Collie. 

Health Risks: The Collie is prone to eye disorders, epilepsy, bloat, and arthritis. The Shetland Sheepdog is susceptible to Von Willebrand's disease and, like the French Bulldog and Miniature Pinscher, luxating patella. The Sheltie and Collie both are prone to hip dysplasia, "collie eye," and dermatomyositis. Speak with a veterinarian for more information.