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Genetic Disorders in Animals: What to Know for Dog Owners

Did you know that differences in dog breeds contribute to 27% of genetic variation? Genetic disorders in animals affect their well-being and that of their offspring.

People have been inter-breeding animals to enhance their traits or appearances and improve their health. Artificial breeding methods can accelerate the spreading of genetic defects.

People should do more research on genetic disorders. This helps in minimizing the adverse effects of inter-breeding on animals.

When managing genetic defects, we should be aware of how to identify affected animals and unaffected carriers. This allows breeders to control the dissemination of defective genes by ensuring informed breeding.

Below are some of the most common genetic disorders in dogs.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This is a neurological condition that progresses slowly. The decline of nerve fibers and myelin sheath inside the spinal cord causes this condition.

When the signal transmission within the mid to lower spinal cord fails, it results in:

  • Weakness of the hind legs
  • Dragging of the hind feet
  • Inability to stand
  • Wobbliness of the hind legs
  • Paralysis

These symptoms usually develop when a dog is middle-aged or very old. Degenerative myelopathy doesn’t have a cure and has devastating effects. You can help the affected dogs by using a cart or harness.


Hypothyroidism is an inherited genetic disorder in animals attributable to autoimmune thyroiditis. When a dog has it, its thyroid gland is destroyed by autoantibodies.

Affected dogs usually start producing thyroid antibodies between one and three years old. When this happens, the thyroid hormones fail to regulate the dog’s metabolism, causing it to slow.

This, in turn, leads to random weight gain, behavioral changes, coat problems, and reduced energy.


This is a rare genetic disorder in animals. It prevents dogs from swallowing food normally. It happens due to their esophagus lacking the muscular tone required to move food and water.

Megaesophagus in dogs is the most common reason for them regurgitating. This is because their esophagus widens, and food backs up.

This condition is inheritable and present in breeds like Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and Great Danes.

Hereditary Epilepsy

Hereditary epilepsy affects many breeds and includes a wide group of recurring seizure disorders. The beginning of this genetic defect mostly happens when the dog is a year and above.

Dogs usually stiffen, fall, salivate, and convulse during a severe seizure. These signs occur when the brain cells get too excited and surpass the “seizure threshold.”

Genetic Disorders in Animals

There are particular genetic disorders associated with purebred dogs. Other medical issues are linked to multiple breeds that have similar conformations.

When thinking about purchasing or adopting a dog, do lots of research about the breed and the breeder. Some dog breeds are healthier than others due to their predisposition to fewer diseases.

We should be aware of these genetic disorders in dogs to take care of our animals better.

If you enjoyed reading this piece, browse this page for more insights into genetic disorders in animals.

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