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Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month: Don't Breed or Buy When Homeless Animals Die

Posted October 30, 2013 in A Vet's Life

Dr. Justine Lee implores you to adopt a shelter dog. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook or at!

Often, veterinarians (and pet owners) fall into two different categories of dog owners: either those who own only purebreds or those that only own rescued Heintz-57 varieties.

And honestly, either way is fine.

After all, maybe you’re set on a particular breed. You know exactly what color, size, characteristics, traits, and sex of dog that you want. The great thing about purebred dogs is you know exactly what you’re getting (for the most part) – the size, coloring, and traits are all generally similar. However, keep in mind that depending on the popularity of a breed, there may be a smaller gene pool (especially the rarer the dog breed), and the potentially for irresponsible inbreeding may occur… particularly if you go with a puppy mill or pet store. With that comes an increased risk of potential genetic diseases such as cancer, hip dysplasia, heart disease, dental disease, and eye problems.

Personally, there are several breeds of dogs I’d love to have. I’m particularly fond of working dogs due to their smarts, but have a few small breed dogs that I love for their friendliness and affection (especially the Bichon Frise, Jack Russell terrier, and Maltese).

But, in my heart, I’m a rescue-advocate. That’s because my general philosophy is “Don’t breed or buy when homeless animals die.” So, I wanted to make sure everyone was aware that October was Adopt a Shelter Dog Month! 

If you’re wondering what type of dog to get and don’t have your heart set on anything, consider a mutt. Here are three reasons why shelter dogs beat buying purebred dogs.

Hybrid Vigor and Potentially Less Medical Problems
Back when it was cool and hip to marry your relative (think European royalty), a prevalence of genetic problems increased (e.g., hemophilia, etc.) due to inbreeding depression. This increased the risk of recessive – and potentially deleterious - traits.

Likewise, back in the mid-18th century, Mendel demonstrated the importance of genetic diversity with his work on plant hybridization. So, how does this relate to mutts? With mixed breed dogs, there’s less of a chance for inherited diseases. That doesn’t mean that mutts are guaranteed to be problem free, but they may have less risk of certain inbred diseases thanks to more genetic variability.

Cost Savings (Lower Hospital

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer:

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.