Purebreds: Pro’s and Ponderings

Many families consider purebred animals when adding a new addition to their home.  Perhaps they have fond memories attached to a specific breed they had when they were young, or just like the look of a particular dog/cat.   Owning a purebred can be a lifelong joy, but before taking the plunge here are some points to ponder.

So what’s a purebred?  A purebred is developed by selective breeding which means certain genes are bred into the pet carrying with it specific heritable physical and behavioral traits.  Physical traits include things like color, size, and coat.  They speak to the visual appearance and are unchangeable; a benefit which affords certainty of how the pet will look when he/she is an adult.  Behavioral traits deal with temperament and predict what behaviors a particular breed will excel at; examples include guarding, hunting and herding.  When looking for a purebred keep in mind that these behavioral traits are hardwired in the animals’ genetics so, although one can modify them to an extent by training they are generally difficult to change.

These built-in characteristics of purebreds are helpful guides in making decisions to choose the appropriate pet for your family.  For instance, we know a Labrador is a large, powerful breed that requires exercise and space.   This breed is more suited to a home with a large backyard and a family who has time to exercise the pet.  Or, take the Persian cat.   Their long coat requires extensive grooming so if you aren’t one for brushing this may not be the breed for you.

The genetics of purebreds also bring about serious concerns for heritable medical conditions.  Things like blood disorders, heart disease, orthopedic disorders, endocrine disease, skin disease and eye disease can be passed from parent to offspring.  Before the purchase of any animal make sure and do your research on possible heritable conditions and screen the breeder asking for medical history as well as visiting the dam/sire to see how they interact with the breeder and other pets in the home.  Responsible breeders take pride in perpetuating desirable genetic traits and will happily answer questions when asked.

Beyond breeders there are numerous purebred rescue groups as well as purebreds in shelters that have waiting lists if you are searching for a particular breed.  If these venues come up empty consider mixed breeds which have less chance of inheriting medical disease.  With good research you can find the pet that suits your family!

By Tamara Borland V.M.D.