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Top 10 Healthiest Dog Breeds

By Edited Apr 8, 2016 13 33


No other animal has aided humanity's rise to preeminence on this planet more than the canine.

Domesticated thousands of years ago, dogs (initially from wolf stock) insured survival of the human organism.  Recent scholarship points up that Cro-Magnons' eventual supremacy over the Neanderthals (with whom they shared the wilds of Europe around 40,000 years ago) was not because of greater brain capacity or technology (the two groups were roughly equal in that sense with Neanderthal having a slight edge).

No, it was because of the domestication of canines that Cro-Magnon supplanted his stockier and (perhaps) more evolutionarily favored neighbors, the Neanderthals (who had no furry friends by the fireside).

Dogs led to an increase of 56% in successful hunting (as retrievers and "weapons").  This "extra" food meant Cro-Magnon had an advantage over Neanderthals (who tended to view the gnarly canine as a food source and not an ally).  They also provided protection from "outsiders" (whether man or beast) and much-needed warmth on colder Ice Age nights when fire alone wasn't enough.

Dogs are resourceful, and of all the animals on the planet, they are perhaps the most interlaced with humanity's development from cave-dwelling creatures into the settled tribes seen today.

Their history is one of continual genetic refinement.  Humans have cross-bred and inbred animals over the millennia to achieve perceived perfection of form or to enhance desirable traits, such as longer hair or better herding capabilities.  Unfortunately, if left unchecked, this inbreeding results in poorer animals because inbreeding increases the likelihood of mutations and other recessive defects becoming dominant in any given breed.

The quest for the "healthiest" is a fallacious one in the sense that there is almost no single breed that is the "healthiest" of all.  Inbreeding for show purposes has seen to that.  In the past, what were typified as "working" dogs (herders, such as collies; or "sporting" dogs, such as retrievers) were healthier than other breeds.  Although this is no longer generally true, there are still some whose overall health is better than most, despite inbreeding

Those noted here have some of the fewest overall health issues, and all have better than average life spans (ranging on average from ten to sixteen years).   An interesting correlative as a health indicator: the larger the animal, the more physical problems it is susceptible to.  Size is the one trait that has a rather linear correlation with lifespan.  Bigger canines have shorter life spans and suffer more often from crippling arthritis and hip dysplasia.  At the other end of the scale, extremely small dogs (inbred to continually reduce their size) may suffer more disorders than their standard-sized counterparts (kidney and other organ failures).

Obesity, as with humans, is a growing problem with dogs as well.  Obesity is the owner's fault, not the dog's.  Overfeeding and improper exercise combine to shorten any pet's life.  Proper diet is important.  However, obesity in some breeds is a clear sign of Cushing's disease (a glandular problem).

All the dogs mentioned here are wonderful animals; all have their fans and proud owners.  Each has its special traits that make it desirable for whatever reason.

This is not a "favorite" list.  This is a practical recitation of popular breeds comparatively—these breeds overall exhibit fewer health issues than many others, and they are ranked accordingly.  Thus, the number ten dog is subject to more potential physical problems than the number two dog.

Every one on this list, however, is far and away healthier and less costly in vet visits than many other popular breeds.

My wife and our poodle pup, Harpo Barx

Top 10 Healthiest Dog Breeds

#10—Border Collie

Border Collie(75201)
This dog, despite being number ten on this top ten healthiest dogs list, is regarded as the most intelligent almost universally.  The Border Collie is an older breed of work dog, and is the most widespread of the Collie breeds.  It was developed along the Anglo-Scottish frontier for livestock herding, especially sheep.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of watching one of these dogs in action herding a flock of sheep is amazed at the energy and genuine intuition the dog brings to the task.  These dogs are almost prescient, and one Border Collie in early 2011 was discovered to have a vocabulary understanding of over 1,000 words of human speech. 

Hip dysplasia and epilepsy are common along with a breed-specific eye condition called "Collie Eye Anomaly" (affects the retina and sclera of the dog's eyes, leading to impaired vision).  Also, many succumb to cancer.   

#9—Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute(75202)

This beautiful animal, known by many as the typical "Eskimo" sled dog, is a real workhorse of a canine.  They are often confused with Siberian Huskies.

These dogs live and labor in some of the coldest climates on earth—consequently, an obvious problem for them and other trans-Siberian animals is extreme heat.  Though they live many years, hip dysplasia can occur, and they also have a predisposition to hereditary cataracts. 

#8—Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

Another herding dog, these little cuties (also known as "Shelties") are great favorites among small children (in a group of toddlers, Shelties have been observed attempting to "herd" them, an entertaining sight). 

Like all herding breeds they are energetic, but later in life are prone to arthritis and hereditary cataracts.  

#7—German Shepherd

German Shepherd(75204)
Sometimes called the Alsatian, the German Shepherd ranks third in intelligence (behind the poodle).  It is one of the newest breeds of herding dogs, originating in 1899. 

A major dog health problem relating to spinal curvature has been noted more often in recent years, especially in the Americanized version of the breed (European German Shepherds, not subject to such draconian inbreeding, do not suffer this anomaly as often).

As in larger dogs, they are subject to hip dysplasia.  Also, German Shepherds can exhibit a neurological disorder called myelopathy.  Overall, though, these dogs are durable, and they have served as watch dogs and rescue animals for decades.

Because of these mobility issues they are no longer always the preferred dog for working areas such as in police, military, and search and rescue operations.

#6—Pembroke Welsh Corgi
This stumpy canine with the radar antennae ears is one of the smallest breeds of herding dogs, and yes, it originated in Wales. 

This dog has been a favorite of the British Royal family for over 70 years, and Queen Elizabeth II owns several of them.  It is number eleven in intelligence. 

Most of the health problems these animals develop are related to aging: Von Willebrand's disease (which affects blood platelets), hip dysplasia, and myelopathy are common.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi(75205)

#5—Labrador Retriever

Yellow Labrador Retriever

These are very popular dogs for families with children; the dogs are gentle and patient.

The Labrador Retriever is also very active and playful.  And, as its name clearly states, it loves to play fetch.  They were bred as retrievers of waterfowl; the undercoat is wiry and water-resistant.

Labradors have webbed paws for swimmingits original function was retrieving fishing nets!  By official registration numbers the Labrador is the most popular dog in Canada, the UK, and in the US (since 1991).  They have relatively few health problems; two common ones are hereditary (myelopathy and retinal atrophy). 

#4—Siberian Husky

Siberian Husky
This stunning dog was bred in the north of Siberia, and it is a member of the Spitz family of dogs.  Its best-known feature is its ice-blue eyes, but these dogs can also have amber or brown eyes, or even eyes of two different colors.  They have the thick musculature of the Alaskan Malamute, and are similarly strong work dogs. They were bred to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. 

During Alaska's Nome Gold Rush (1899-1909) they were imported from Asia as sled dogs; they later spread into Canada and the US.  These dogs have few issues of poor healththe two most common are hereditary (eye defects and seizures).  This dog is one of the few to be nearly free of incidence of hip dysplasia (less than 2% incidence rate).


Whippet (white saddled)

Despite its fragile appearance this racing dog is surprisingly hale.  Its lightweight structure, considering it is in the larger breeds of dogs, assures it of no hip dysplasia problems.  Whippets also live an average of 13 years.   They are not subject to any of the common problems of dogs. 

Undescended testicles in the breed are common, however.  Another problem in some animals is called "athletic heart syndrome".  These dogs were bred to racetheir hearts are very large and at rest beat very slowly.  Sometimes, the heartbeat may be arrhythmic or intermittent. 



This lovable lug was developed as a herding dog in Germany.  They were called "Rottweil butcher's dogs" because they herded livestock and pulled carts loaded with butchered meats for market.

Rottweilers are now used in search and rescue, as guide dogs for the blind, and as guard or police dogs.  These dogs have almost no health problems, but because of their larger size they can (rarely) develop hip dysplasia.  Overall, they are extremely low maintenance. 

#1—Heinz 57

Dawg (mutt or mongrel)
It may seem as if a cheat has been perpetrated, but the mutt or mongrel is the overall healthiest dog breed on the planet.  This canine, which is just plain "dawg" through and through, has a richly diverse genetic background in his or her makeup and that diversity is what keeps the mutt healthy. 

Mutts rarely develop the consistent genetic disorders some breeds are known for simply because those undesirable traits don't always get a chance to pass from generation to generation.  They are also highly resistant to parasitism and communicable diseases.  A mutt can be as great a companion as any registered breed, and most have high inherent intelligence. 

As with all dogs they are not resistant to accident, mistreatment, or obesityowners need to take as good care of their mongrel as they would the most pampered poodle (the dog breed with one of the highest rates of health problems, by the way).


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Dec 17, 2011 9:09pm
I loved this article. I learned stuff I did not know too! I have a collie-shepherd mix. She may be heinz 57 too for all I know. She was a rescue that I adopted on Christmas Eve 2003 cause a friend found her wondering the hills of Griffith Park. She is blind and was bumping into cars. She asked me to keep her til we figured out who she belonged to. She had been abandoned by a woman who had adopted her and then abandoned her after only one day. I had a paper trail from her microchip so that's how we learned her story. Sorry, I digressed. Fab article. Great pictures.
Dec 17, 2011 9:21pm
No, I like stories. Glad you liked the piece. Thanks for reading.
Dec 18, 2011 3:43pm
I've always got my dogs from a rescue centre, and they have all been crossbreeds. We have never had any health issues so far (touch wood!)
Dec 18, 2011 4:03pm
that's the beauty of genetic diversity -- your pooches will probably easily outlive their "purebred" counterparts (nothing against purebreds, I just wish people were more discriminating in breeding). Thanks for reading.
Dec 18, 2011 5:43pm
hahaha, mixed breeds are healthier! tell that to the average breed elitist! here in hawaii we call them "poi dogs" because you can usually get them from the pound (poi means to pound in hawaiian) or the humane society. fun read, as usual, vic!
Dec 18, 2011 6:59pm
Thanks (and now I know why the band, "Poi Dog Pondering" is called that -- they're saying they're mutts!!)
Dec 19, 2011 12:23am
Great article! I've had many Heinz 57 variety dogs in my lifetime and not a complaint about any of them. Most recently, I am blessed to have two Rottweiler companions and they are healthy as a horse -- with an appetite to match.
Dec 19, 2011 9:06am
Yeah, that's probably the biggest drawback to the "work" dog breeds -- their metabolism!! They can burn off so much energy, consuming mass quantities is critical. Thanks for reading.
Dec 30, 2011 9:10pm
Gorgeous dog breeds featured, but glad that the 'Heinz' gets the credit due to it!
Dec 30, 2011 11:53pm
I'm a firm believer in objective sceince -- yup, the mutt wins it! Thanks for reading.
Jan 14, 2012 9:08am
I absolutely love this article. The winner being the "dawg" just tops it off! It would be a great article for all adoption shelters to share with "shoppers" looking for the perfect pet!
Jan 14, 2012 10:35pm
I have an ex-girfriend actively involved in rescue animals, most of which are mutts, and she told me they place pretty well (she takes care of them while they find homes). Glad you liked it.
Jan 14, 2012 11:16pm
Wonderful article Vic! You just can't get any better than a "Heinz 57" dog. I am glad you recognized them. Good choice for a feature.
Jan 15, 2012 12:31am
I verily speak the truth.

What I've also found interesting over the years is the mongrels seem to have the most "personality" as well (I have a male and female boxer/lab mutt mixes and they are both true "characters"). As Samual L. Jackson said in "Pulp Ficion": "A dog's got personality; personality counts for a lot".
Jan 15, 2012 5:48am
We had two collies as family dogs. Excellent companions and great with kids too. So, so clever
Jan 15, 2012 10:31pm
They are pretty smart. Thanks for reading.
Jan 21, 2012 4:37pm
I loved this article especially because of the "Heinz 57" breed, heh heh. My family had a heinz 57 pooch (German Shepard/Schnauzer/lab mix) and she was such a great companion and protector. Awesome article and love that you added in pictures!
Jan 21, 2012 11:39pm
Thanks for checking 'em out. And I'm kind of a mutt myself, so I appreciate them .
Jan 21, 2012 6:43pm
Nice article! You forgot to add number 11...Golden Retriever
Jan 21, 2012 11:41pm
Thanks for reading, but ten was plenty for me (research takes time, especially when digging into multiple subjects). The Goldies are huge favorites globally, though.
Jul 13, 2012 10:20pm
German Shepherds are often very smart. One of ours had full run of the yard around our busy factory. No issues with customers, employees, or strange truckers at all hours, but when a couple guys came to steal gas from trucks she went crazy! She also detected and alerted us to a break in at the office most of a block away. Smart girl.
Jul 14, 2012 11:08am
Yeah, someone needs to write the "smartest do g breeds" article (not me, though, I have other stuff to do).
Oct 26, 2012 9:34pm
Just wanted to say we had a Golden Labrador pure breed, his name was Harley, he was an amazing dog. He passed away 10/17/2012 at 7 years old due to Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) It is a fast and almost always deadly disease, it was from a tick bite. I say this because we always, only used advantage on him for fleas as we are not in a tick area..So, be sure to use flea & Tick for your dogs no matter what, as ticks carry many disease's and are extremely dangerous to our pets :(
Oct 31, 2012 3:54pm
As you pointed out, no dogs can be completely healthy without proper care. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Apr 24, 2014 3:34am
Great article and well worth being on the top 100. Although I reckon my Mum and Dads Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle dog) should be in there. He has run 4k's behind a four wheel drive without a problem. (not their choice) a friend at the time made him do it.

They never hesitate to do anything and his one and only pace is flat out, I don't know how he does it. Although not as healthy these days as getting long in the tooth. But if he think he is going for a walk the adrenalin kicks in and he's off like a rocket. although he suffers after now. But still very intelligent and protective.
I am amazed that this breed of dog does not get into top 10 of anything. thumbs up though.
Apr 24, 2014 5:42pm
What I tried to do here was provide information in a general sense about the healthiest breeds based on their health issues.

Every breed may have a "super dog" within its ranks (we had a poodle who lived a very long time when I was a kid, never had any health issues, but poodles, in general, are plagued by myriad health problems and are one of the unhealthiest breeds on the planet). The blue heeler your dad has sounds like quite a dog--keep 'im healthy, mate! And thanks for reading.
Apr 25, 2014 1:25am
Brilliant article! I would say it's no coincidence that a lot of the healthiest dog breeds are also listed in my article on the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds!
However I am surprised at the inclusion of the Alaskan Malamute, my parents have one and, as undeniably beautiful as she is, it is very difficult to keep her from becoming overweight. I'd say this is due to the fact they are very efficient at storing energy. So efficient in fact that, despite her being twice the size of our Springer Spaniel, she gets about half the amount of food as him and still doesn't lose weight even with twice daily walks.
Apr 25, 2014 7:40am
Overweight dogs, as I clearly noted in the introduction of this article, are the owners' faults, not that of the dog and is not an inherent health issue with the animal. Malamutes are truly gorgeous animals, and they are healthy as a breed in a general sense--specific animal may have individual problems, such as obesity, but overall they're good ones. Thanks for reading!
Jun 11, 2014 6:04am
I've had Heinz 57 and pure breeds during my life and have to agree that the Heinze were the healthiest and lived the longest compared to our pure breeds. In my experience, the temperament of the mutts were far superior than that of the pure breed which somewhat had effect on how long they were a part of our family. However, I have always been fond of the Corgi and Whippet and would love to have one in my life one day. I can hear myself singing, "Whippet, whippet good". Great article! Pinned and Liked.
Jun 11, 2014 6:51am
Every breed, I think, has its distinct "personality" for want of a better word. I "inherited" a miniature pinscher along with 3 Chihuahuas when I got married recently--the min pin, despite her being 8 years old (1) is the most manic critter I've ever seen. The three Cha-hoo-a-hoo-as I refer to collectively as "The Mexican Mafia". Thanks for reading.
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  1. "Dog health." en.wikipedia.org. 17/12/2011 <Web >
  2. "Cushing's disease." en.wikipedia.org. 17/12/2011 <Web >
  3. "List of dog diseases." en.wikipedia.org. 17/12/2011 <Web >
  4. Zac Eckstein "5 Insane Ways Animals Changed the Course of Humanity." cracked.com. 18/03/2014. 18/03/2014 <Web >
  5. Katie Finlay "The 10 Most Expensive Dog Breeds to Own." iheartdogs.com. 25/11/2015 <Web >

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