636 – Study Shows Purebred Dogs Healthier Overall than Mixed Breeds

Study Shows Purebred Dogs Healthier Overall than Mixed Breeds

Dr. Kiersten Forsyth, DVM cardiology resident at Purdue and lead author of the recent paper from the Dog Aging Project discussing findings on health in our canine companions, joins host Laura Reeves with the details, which are not necessarily the same as what you might have heard.

“The Dog Aging Project is this really cool community science project,” Forsyth said. “Essentially, there are some researchers that are involved at a few different universities, but the main people that are involved in this project are the dog owners themselves. People can nominate their dog to participate.

“It is a longitudinal observational study, which basically means as a pet owner, once a year you fill out this really big survey that tells all about your dog, what their history is as far as their health, but also where they live, what kinds of things they do, the environment they’re in. And that information for one dog might not tell us a lot, but when we have tens of thousands of dogs participating, we can pull a lot of information from this.

“And so once a year, you get to refill out this survey, and we can follow these dogs throughout their lifetime to see what changes, what they’re exposed to and our real goal is to learn more about all of these dogs in the U.S., but also what makes some dogs live longer than other dogs and can we get more information about aging in these dogs?

“For the specific research part that I was involved in, we were looking at all of the dogs who were enrolled in the study during the year of 2020. We had 27,541 dogs included. So, a huge number.

“Of those, about 50 percent of them were mixed breed dogs and 50 percent of them were purebred dogs. We tried to look at what the 25 most common or popular dog breeds were that made up the dog aging project pack at that point in time and then really focused on those top 25 breeds to then say, ‘okay for these specific breeds, what are the most common medical conditions that their owners are reporting their dog to have experienced in their lifetime’.

“So, for each breed, we came up with a list of their 10 most commonly reported conditions, and then we looked to compare how those changed between different breeds and between the mixed breed population and the purebred population to see is there really a difference in the amount of medical conditions that a dog gets if they’re a purebred dog versus being a mixed breed dog.

“When we looked at it, one of the things we were wondering was, do purebred dogs have more disease than mixed breed dogs? And we found, no, that’s not the case. In fact, it might even be slightly suggested into the opposite, ’cause we looked at, of all of these dogs, how many of them did not have any health conditions reported?

“These are our healthy dogs. Nothing has been reported to be wrong with them. And we found that 22 percent of the purebred dogs had no reported medical conditions. And just under 21 percent of the mixed breed dogs had no medical conditions. So, there was really a 1.6 percent difference between the two of them, which is not a huge difference, but it was actually statistically significant that the purebred dogs were actually more likely to have no owner-reported medical conditions than our mixed breed dogs.

“It’s really not more likely to have disease in your purebred dogs.

“Now, specific breeds may be more likely to have specific conditions. And that goes along with, you know, I do a lot of stuff with the heart. I know that if we think of degenerative valve disease, Cavaliers come to the top of your mind, or if you think of dilated cardiomyopathy, Dobermans come to the top of your mind. And we’re not saying that certain breeds aren’t more prone to very specific diseases or medical conditions, but as a whole, being purebred doesn’t show a higher reporting of medical conditions compared to mixed breed.

“It’s turning out that common things happened commonly, where even though we’re looking at these purebred dogs, where you might think they’re prone to very specific diseases or medical conditions, it still is things like dental disease, dog bites from other dogs. Those are still some of the things that are showing up frequently across breeds, not just with one specific breed.”

261 – AKC Doubles Your Cancer Research Dollars with a Matching Grant

AKC Doubles Your Cancer Research Dollars

More than 50 percent of dogs over 10 years old will be diagnosed with cancer. Dr. Diane Brown from AKC Canine Health Foundation wants to change that statistic.

AKC has pledged $250,000 in matching funds this year toward research into prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of all cancers in dogs. This enables individuals and clubs who donate to the matching fund to literally double the impact of every dollar.

Age is not a disease

“Age is not a disease,” Brown said. “There are quality of life issues to consider, but I believe we can get to a point of treating older dogs.”

Since people and dogs are affected by the same types of cancers, much of the research being done can be applied in what Brown describes as comparative oncology.

Prevention and Detection

In the prevention category, some cancer vaccines are a reality today and more are being studied. A melanoma vaccine is on the market now, Brown said.

Early detection of cancer saves lives in dogs and in people. Current research is looking at markers circulating in the dog’s system identified in blood samples that indicate increased risk for a specific disease.

Investing in personalized medicine is the wave of the future, Brown said. Using immunotherapy that is individualized for each dog is a very real possibility. She added that within five years many of these options will be realistically available.

Visit the AKCCHF crew on the west coast at the Beverly Hills Dog Show March 2-3. Brown encouraged visitors to share their stories and their questions.

Visit the AKCCHF website to learn more. And listen to past episodes with Brown to hear details on some of the research studies being conducted, particularly regarding epigenetics and hemangiosarcoma

244 – CHF Hemangiosarcoma Initiative and Matching Funds

Hemangiosarcoma Strikes Quickly and With No Warning

Canine Health Foundation (CHF) CEO Dr. Diane Brown talks with me about the most current research into hemangiosarcoma. CHF is funding a major initiative dedicated to moving the needle on this deadly disease.

Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive, silent killer, Brown said. This particular cancer is specific to dogs and originates in blood vessels. Primary sites in which hemangio will present are the spleen and heart, Brown noted, owing to the abundance of blood vessels in those organs.

“These cancers grow quickly and quietly,” Brown said. “Once people know the dog has hemangio, generally the tumor has ruptured and the dogs bleed internally.”

No definitive genetic connection

Removing the cancer doesn’t cure the disease, Brown said. She added that all of the treatments tried over time have not improved overall survival time. Hemangio is a cancer seen often in large breed dogs, but Brown noted veterinarians are seeing it more and more frequently in all sizes and mixed breed dogs as well.

“There are higher risk breeds,” Brown said “but there is no direct, definitive genetic connection.” She added that research has so far not been able to identify a “hemangiosarcoma gene.”

“What we really need is a way to do an earlier diagnosis,” Brown noted.

To that end, CHF is spending resources investigating early diagnosis options — whether a blood test, liquid biopsy, genetic test. They are trying to find a way to diagnose the disease when it is at a “low cellularity.”

A major matching grant from AKC for $250,000 last year has been met with additional funds from the Golden Retriever Foundation, Flat Coated Retriever Foundation, American German Shepherd Dog Charitable Foundation and more.

Study participation opportunities

Owners and breeders who are interested in participating in various CHF studies are encouraged to visit the website and peruse the active studies currently seeking participation.

Join CHF in supporting these important research initiatives by attending Canines and Cocktails Thursday, 12/13 at the Rosen Center hotel in Orlando, FL. Tickets are available at the CHF booth at the dog show.

Listen to previous episodes with Dr. Brown on epilepsy, tick borne diseases and theriogenology residencies

231 – Researching Connections Between Ticks and Cancer, Other Disease

Research shows growing problem with ticks

Ticks are creepy crawly creatures we all love to hate. But they are also dangerous disease vectors transmitting deadly organisms. Dr. Diane Brown, CEO of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, shared incredibly

Dr. Diane Brown, CEO, AKC Canine Health Foundation.

valuable information about what her organization is doing to lead the fight against these diseases.

CHF funded research has identified a class of tick-borne organisms, called Bartonella. Bartonella invades the host’s blood vessels and can cause inflammation in the heart.

“What if that (bartonella infection) is the early trigger that leads to chronic inflammation in the blood vessels,” Brown posits, “potentially leading to the development of cancer.”

Current CHF funded research is looking at bartonella in association with hemangiosarcoma, literally cancer of the blood vessels.

“It’s a little controversial,” Brown said “but there’s a lot of impetus driving the research in this direction.”

Tick-borne organisms associated with deadly disease

The Foundation’s research also has shown immune mediated hemolytic anemia can be associated with tick borne disease.

“It’s critical to test these dogs for an underlying tick borne infection before treating them with steroids that can just exacerbate the problem,” Brown said.

The CHF initiatives are working on broad spectrum of vectors that impact the health of dogs, Brown noted. She added that new tick species and diseases are discovered every year.

“Tick preventives are key to keeping your dog healthy,” Brown said. With the rising number of “co-infections” she noted that testing for more than one disease is imperative.

CHF has a three-prong approach to this burgeoning crisis. The non-profit funds research focused on diagnosis, new therapies for treatment and prevention.

Hear more on this topic with CHF Board Member Susan Hamil:


Additional Resources from CHF:

CHF Tick-Borne Disease Research Initiative landing page; includes grants, research publications, webinars, podcasts, news, and other resources


White paper:


Lyme Disease Fact Sheet:


Ticks and Zoonotic Disease Webinar with Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt:


Diane Brown, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVP, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer for the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF). She joined CHF in August 2015, and oversees operations and scientific programs from its Raleigh, NC headquarters. Her role is to cultivate and execute the Foundation’s research and education strategy in collaboration with its Board of Directors, Scientific Review Committee, external collaborators, principal investigators and staff to ensure strategic, responsible, and innovative application of donor funds to uphold the Foundation’s Mission to advance canine health.

Dr. Brown is a board-certified veterinary clinical pathologist who holds a DVM and PhD in pathology from Colorado State University. As an independent investigator and comparative pathologist, Dr. Brown served as a member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School, as director of the Comparative Clinical Pathology Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, and as consulting pathologist at the University of Colorado. She previously served as Chief Scientific Officer for Morris Animal Foundation, and currently holds an affiliate faculty position in the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She has held prior affiliate faculty appointments in the veterinary schools at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Colorado State University and Purdue University.