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Hereditary Disorders in Pets

hereditary issues in dogs

5 of the Most Common Hereditary Issues in Animals

Pets suffer from inherited disorders, just like humans. These genetic disorders are caused by abnormalities in chromosomes or genes, and some pets are more susceptible than others. Research shows that one in six dogs have disease-predisposing genetic variants in their genome, but cats, birds, rodents, and other pets can also carry hereditary diseases. Here are some of the most common genetic conditions in pets.

#1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition that causes one or both of the hip joints to develop irregularly when a pet is growing. This condition can be extremely painful, and result in swelling and, eventually, arthritis.

Did you know… Most dogs inherit hip dysplasia from one parent and symptoms show while they still growing?

Though common in various pets, hip dysplasia can have a significant impact on dog breeds such as St. Bernards, Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. However, all dog breeds are susceptible to this condition. Some environmental factors can make the condition worse such as poor nutrition and excessive weight gain.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this condition because it’s usually inherited. However, pet owners can treat and manage the disease through healthy eating and joint supplements. In more severe cases, a pet might require a total hip replacement.

#2. Epilepsy

Like in humans, epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes pets to have sudden seizures or “fits.” Although head traumas and brain tumors can trigger epilepsy, scientists believe the condition is linked to genetics.

Pets will inhibit certain behaviors when they are having a seizure such as:

  • Glazed eyes
  • Dribbling
  • Tight jaw
  • Trembling or jerking

Typically, a pet will seem confused or nervous. It’s important to note that seizures aren’t always life-threatening, but pets will lose control over their body, which might seem frightening.

Did you know… Experts believe that epilepsy affects four in every 100 dogs?

Although epilepsy can seem scary, there are various treatments and management techniques that make it easier to manage seizures. These treatments include medication and avoiding hot environments.

“Epilepsy is typically managed with medication directed at controlling the seizures, although the majority of pets do not become seizure-free,” says NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. “In these cases, efforts are directed at maximizing seizure control while minimizing treatment-related side effects, so as to provide the best quality of life for the pet and the caregiver.”

#3. Heart Disease

Heart disease can have a detrimental impact on all kinds of pets. This condition is usually genetic; however, environmental factors can trigger some symptoms. Most heart conditions involve a reduction in the way the heart pumps blood around the body. In most cases, heart disease causes fluid to build up in the chest and abdomen.

Here are some of the symptoms associated with heart disease in pets:

  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Breathing difficulties/shortness of breath
  • Frequent coughing
  • Swelling in the abdomen area
  • Inability to exercise
  • Reduced appetite
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss

Early detection of heart disease in pets is important. If the condition gets worse, it could put the pet’s life at risk.

Research shows that nearly 8 million dogs in the United States have some form of heart disease – that’s around 10 percent of the entire dog population!

Although heart disease can pose a significant health risk for pets, there are various management techniques such as good nutrition, exercise and, in more severe cases, medication. Pet owners should work with their veterinarian to establish a good exercise and nutrition plan. Healthy eating and regular exercise might be enough to reduce the problems associated with heart disease significantly.

#4. Bladder and Kidney Stones

Bladder and kidney stones can affect all pets, but domesticated cats are particularly vulnerable. A common genetic condition, “stones” are masses of minerals that build up in the bladder or kidneys. Small stones might require no treatment; however larger stones might require medication or even surgery.

“Your veterinarian will need to do tests to figure out what type of stone or crystal is present because that will affect how it is treated (and how you can reduce the risk for having them happen again),” says Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. In some cases, stones must be surgically removed both to treat them and to determine the exact type of stone.”

Here are some of the symptoms associated with bladder and kidney stones in pets:

  • Urinary accidents
  • Frequent urination attempts without passing much urine
  • Discolored urine
  • Licking around the urinary opening
  • Painful to urinate

Did you know… Burmese, Himalayan, and Persian cats are the cat breeds most affected by bladder and kidney stones?

#5. Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic syndrome is a genetic condition that impacts certain types of pets, namely “short-nosed” dogs and cats. Pets who have this condition might find it difficult to breathe, but there are various treatment options for pet owners to relieve these symptoms, which range from mild to severe.

Some dog breeds who suffer from this condition include the English bulldog, Boston terrier, French bulldog, Pug, and Pekingeseaccording to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. These dogs have short muzzles and noses, which can sometimes impact the throat and breathing passages.

If dogs or cats with this condition experience any of the following symptoms, owners should seek medical advice:

  • Coughing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Gagging

Did you know… Some dogs with brachycephalic syndrome prefer to sleep on their backs? This provides them with relief from some of the symptoms.


These are just some of the most common genetic conditions for pets. Although there are various treatments and management techniques for the conditions on this list, visiting a vet can work out expensive, especially if pets require surgery or long-term medication.

Pet insurance can help owners save money on treatment and medication and provide them with a financial safeguard. Click here to find out the best pet insurance deals that save you money and provide peace of mind.

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