Are Mixed-Breed Dogs Really Healthier Than Purebreds?

Your pup's health has as much to do with environmental factors like diet and activity as it does their breed.

Published August 15, 2023
Woman petting her dog

We all worry about how healthy our pooch is. After all, they're an important part of the family. This leads many to wonder if mixed-breed dogs are healthier than purebreds.

The answer is more about the individual dog than how it's bred. A dog that's a mix of multiple dog breeds isn't inherently healthier than a purebred. The truth is, a number of factors contribute to your dog's health and well-being. And a purebred dog could be equally as healthy, or healthier, than a mixed-breed dog. While genetics may play a role in your dog's health, it's not the only thing that matters.

Genetic Diversity & Dogs

White Dog with Black Spots and Ears

One significant advantage that mixed breeds often have is their broad gene pool. This genetic diversity can potentially reduce the risk of inheriting specific congenital health problems. Purebred dogs are often bred for specific traits like appearance, weight, and behavior. That's why we can narrow down certain attributes to each dog breed. While the benefit of being able to generalize a breed can be helpful, it can also lead to excessive in-breeding, which increases the risk of health conditions. 

Need to Know

Responsible breeders conduct thorough health screenings to reduce the risk of passing on genetic disorders.

Risk of Disease

A study involving thousands of dogs found that mixed-breed dogs are less likely than purebreds to develop certain diseases, but they may still be carriers. This means that while purebred dogs are more likely to have the disease themselves, mixed breeds can pass the disease down to their puppies. So they aren't getting rid of the genes causing disease, but instead passing them down to future generations, especially in the case of designer breeds that have two breeds mixed together. A mutt that has 20 breeds in their ancestry is less likely to develop a genetic condition than one that has one or two.

Fast Fact

Purebred dogs are twice as likely to develop a genetic condition as mixed-breed dogs.  

Risks for Purebreds and Mixed Breeds

Although purebred dogs are more likely to develop certain conditions, that doesn't mean your mixed-breed dog will live longer than your neighbor's purebred. There are factors, other than genetics, that affect your dog's health. Things like feeding a balanced diet, regular exercise, and quality of care can also contribute. For example, a mixed-breed dog that's fed cat food is more likely to have nutritional deficiencies than one who has a species-appropriate diet. 

Designer Breeds Aren't Always Healthier

Cavapoo puppy is sitting on the couch at home

Designer breeds, like the labradoodle, are mixed with two dog breeds. While they're not exactly a mutt, they do have a larger gene pool than conventional purebred dogs. But unlike true mutts with many ancestral breeds, they still have a limited gene pool. A bichon yorkie is less likely to have genetic health problems than a bichon frise, but it can still develop or carry genetic conditions from either the bichon or the Yorkshire terrier.

Which to Bring Home

Don't put too much emphasis on finding a certain mixed-breed dog. Not all purebred dogs are going to get sick, just as not all mixed-breed dogs are going to be fully healthy. Rather than looking for a mixed breed versus a purebred dog based on life expectancy, choose the best dog for you based on which fits in your family.

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Are Mixed-Breed Dogs Really Healthier Than Purebreds?