March 1, 2011
Go Nuts for Mutts!
By: Ashley Owen Hill, guest columnist
THE MERIDIAN STAR
Have you ever seen a very unique looking ‘mutt,’ and thought to yourself, ‘What the heck kind of dog is that?!’ Is he a Lab? A Chihuahua? Maybe a Boxer? Or a Pomeranian? It’s true that most mutts come from an unknown lineage, and they usually don’t have DNA test results strapped to their behinds for our clarification.
But what does this mixed origin really mean?
I often hear the misconception that purebred dogs are somehow ‘better than’ or ‘healthier than’ mixed breeds. This belief is completely inaccurate. In fact, mixed breed dogs often benefit from ‘hybrid vigor,’ the increased function in biologic quality derived from the mating of dissimilar breeds. Thus, mixed breeds generally live longer and healthier lives based on their genetic diversity. In addition, mutts do not develop many of the diseases and disorders seen in their purebred counterparts.
Why do purebred dogs tend to have so many medical conditions? When dogs are intentionally bred to produce a certain appearance over several generations, many genetic ailments are passed down to their offspring. This is especially true when the breeder dogs are closely related, also known as inbreeding. Inbreeding causes genetic deficiencies that can lead to many health problems, high vet bills, and a short lifespan for your pet. So it turns out that inbreeding is not only a problem for people, but for our pets as well…
Some people worry that their purebred dog will be infected with a deadly disease from any contact with a mixed breed dog. Again—false. Let me put it to you straight: A fully-vaccinated, healthy, mixed breed dog is no different than a fully-vaccinated, healthy, purebred dog. This is not my opinion; this is based in fact. Just because a dog is a ‘mutt,’ does not mean that he or she is a filthy, contagious animal.
When looking for a pet, many people select a breed based solely on appearance. It’s true that purebred dogs may have the physical characteristics of the ‘breed standard.’ However, many breeds possess certain personality traits that may be a poor fit for your lifestyle. Always research any breed before making a pet decision. But while we’re on the subject of looks, mutts often have a very unique appearance based on their diverse gene pool, making them one-of-a-kind and very special!
Lastly, let’s talk price. When buying a dog from a breeder or pet shop, you will spend hundreds of dollars for the dog. Then, you’ll pay for initial vet costs, with the potential for high vet bills down the road due to genetic issues. Conversely, when you adopt a dog, initial vet costs are usually included in the adoption fee. Important note: there are breed-specific rescues for almost every breed. Consider adopting a dog from a breed rescue! Save money—save a life!
When making a pet decision, do your homework! Remember that there are many amazing mixed and purebred dogs in shelters that need homes. And never judge a mutt by his cover. If you do, you’ll have to answer to me!
Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. Email her at Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com.