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Dog Hereditary and Congenital Conditions

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Many hereditary and congenital conditions in dogs can be similar to those people are commonly diagnosed with, including kidney disease, heart disease, and epilepsy. As a dog parent, you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the signs of common hereditary and congenital conditions.

After all, it is incredibly easy to get these terms switched around, and many people will accidentally use them interchangeably.

Hereditary vs. Congenital vs. Inherited Disorders in Dogs

Understanding the difference between these terms can be a great place to start when treating and taking care of your dog, who may have a hereditary or congenital condition.

Hereditary disorders are passed from a parent to their offspring through their genes. Because a dog inherits this condition, inherited disorders are simply another name for hereditary disorders. Some people also refer to these as genetic disorders.

Congenital disorders involve your dog developing a health condition in utero. Depending on the condition, it can be months or even years before any symptoms appear. Either way, congenital disorders are present at the time of birth.

Is Renal Dysplasia in Dogs Congenital?

Renal dysplasia is a disease that causes either one or both kidneys to develop abnormally. This condition is hereditary. Though it is often diagnosed in young puppies, it may take months for any symptoms to appear.

Common signs of renal dysplasia include increased thirst, increased urination, and stunted growth. Certain breeds such as Alaskan Malamutes, Cocker Spaniels, and Poodles can be more likely to develop this condition, though any dog breed could be susceptible.

With kidney disease in dogs, life expectancy is not always impacted—it depends on your pup’s condition and overall health. Plus, there are many different ways their kidneys can become affected. However, for some canines, their life expectancy could be limited to seven years.

Are Hernias in Dogs Hereditary?

A hernia in dogs is much like it is in humans. This condition occurs when part of a dog’s abdomen pushes through a weak spot or tear in the surrounding muscle. Most dog hernias are considered to be congenital, as many puppies are already born with this condition. However, dogs can also develop a hernia through trauma.

There are many signs of hernias, some of which include,

  • Unsettled stomach
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Numbness in limbs

If you suspect your dog has a hernia, it’s essential that you seek out medical treatment immediately. The good news is that hernias are relatively common and treatment can help completely resolve the issue.

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Is a Heart Murmur in Dogs Hereditary?

A heart murmur in a dog is when an abnormal sound occurs during blood flow. Heart murmurs are often considered to be congenital, but that isn’t the case 100% of the time.

The same is true for heart disease. Some breeds are more likely to get diagnosed with congenital heart disease, meaning this condition will be present at birth. Other dogs may develop this issue over time.

With congenital heart disease in dogs, life expectancy can vary based on your dog’s condition. With proper treatment, some pups can live a happy, healthy, and long life.

Is Epilepsy in Dogs Hereditary?

In many cases, epilepsy in dogs is inherited. Dogs can also be diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, which is when the cause is unknown. Epilepsy is a relatively common health condition for canines, as are other seizure disorders.

Signs your dog is having a seizure include:

  • Tripping or falling over
  • Stiffened limbs
  • Shaking
  • Loss of bladder control

Seizures can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes in length. Post-seizure, it is common for dogs to seem a little disoriented or sleepy. This is only a temporary symptom.

When diagnosing epilepsy, veterinarians often try to rule out any other health issue that could be causing the seizures. Treatment for epilepsy typically involves giving your pup anti-seizure medicine. Most dogs react well to these medications, but it is crucial that you do not skip doses or give them at irregular times.

Is Addison’s Disease in Dogs Hereditary?

Addison’s disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is when a canine has decreased hormone levels due to an issue with their adrenal glands. Addison’s disease is an inherited condition.

Some dog breeds have an increased risk of developing Addison’s disease. These can include Portuguese Water Dogs, Great Danes, and Labrador Retrievers.

This condition can be a little tricky to catch, as the signs are common symptoms your pup could show when they just aren’t feeling their best. Nevertheless, lethargy, unsettled stomach, increased potty breaks, or unexplained weight loss could be indicators. Keep an eye out for these symptoms and if they continue, contact your veterinarian.

In order to officially diagnose your pup with this condition, your veterinarian will consider their medical history, their current health and symptoms, and any medications they may be taking. Your veterinarian will also run some blood and urine tests to check for certain levels and if there are any imbalances.

The good news is that treatment for Addison’s disease is available, and dogs can often continue to live a healthy life.

chihuahua dog being held by a woman in a red sweater

Congenital Liver Disease in Dogs

Liver disease in dogs can be congenital or inherited, and there are many causes, such as liver cancer, an infection, trauma, or ingestion of a toxic substance. Some breeds, like Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds, are more likely to have copper build-up in their liver, which can damage the organ.

Liver disease can be a tricky condition to catch early on. Some signs to look out for:

  • Increased thirst and potty breaks
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Unsettled stomach or digestive system
  • Changes in behavior

If untreated, as liver disease progresses, it can cause more severe issues. These can include jaundice, swelling in the abdomen, seizures, and sight issues.

Is Diabetes Hereditary in Dogs?

Diabetes can be hereditary, as genetics can play a role in dogs developing this condition. However, there are many other causes of diabetes in canines, such as obesity, pancreatitis, and Cushing’s disease. Some breeds, including the Beagle, Dachshund, and Miniature Schnauzer, can also be predisposed to developing diabetes.

If your canine friend receives this diagnosis, your veterinarian will create a treatment and lifestyle plan for your dog. There is no cure for dog diabetes, so it’s essential that dog parents help their best pals manage their condition. By following their treatment plan, you can provide your dog with a healthier life.

No one knows your dog better than you. If you believe your dog is acting differently than usual or is experiencing unusual symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

There are many dog breeds that are predisposed to developing specific health issues. For example, short-nosed (brachycephalic breeds) have breathing difficulties, many German Shepherds can get hip dysplasia, and breeds with deep chests are at a higher risk of experiencing bloat. If you have been considering one dog breed, in particular, that you would like, it’s recommended to research ahead of time the health issues they are more likely to develop. However, there is no guarantee your pup will ever be diagnosed with them.

Many mixed breeds can have a lower chance of developing certain health conditions, while others may inherit particular ailments from both of their parents—each dog is different.

Since every dog’s health is unique, it’s crucial to begin scheduling your dog’s veterinary visits the very week you bring them home. Starting from a young age and continuing for their entire life, you should take your pup in for annual veterinary check-ups. These are crucial to keeping your canine friend as happy and healthy as possible.

Not to mention, there’s no telling when your pal could begin showing signs of a new health condition. With regular examinations, you should have an increased chance of catching the issue early, which also means you’ll be able to start treatment sooner—hopefully, this means a more successful outcome.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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