Many of us consider our dogs a part of our family and like any of our loved ones, we hate to see them suffer in pain or struggle with health issues. Obviously, once a dog has joined your crew, you’ll do everything in your power to address any health issues they have. But if you want to try and decrease the likelihood of major health issues in the first place, you might want to consider focusing on breeds that tend to be healthier.
Parade spoke with veterinarians who shared the healthiest dog breeds and why these particular breeds were chosen. That being said, while some dog breeds may statistically tend to be healthier in general, it’s important to remember that any dog—regardless of breed—can have health issues.
“When selecting a breed of dog to bring into your home, it is critical to remember each pet is an individual and numerous factors go into the health of that dog,” says Kimberly Nelsen, DVM, IndeVets Area Medical Director (VA/WV). “Categorizing a breed as ‘healthier’ than another can create a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of the overall health of every member of that breed.”
Also, certain types of health issues or illnesses in dogs don’t have any kind of correlation to their breed. “While all dogs (purebred and mixed breeds) can and do get sick with issues such as cancer, arthritis and allergies, some breeds have less likelihood of getting certain diseases such as diabetes or even idiopathic epilepsy,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinarian at American Kennel Club (AKC).
Keeping Your Pup Healthy
Nelsen offers some advice to help dog owners lessen the financial impact of any future health issues their dogs may experience. “Another major point and something gaining much more publicity and popularity, is pet insurance,” she says. “It is important to evaluate your pet insurance needs and options before that pup even enters your care. Pet insurance is a safety net for the evitable accident or illness, even in the healthiest of dogs. You can review coverage options to include wellness, accident or illness and determine what is right for your family.”
11 Healthiest Dog Breeds
“Smaller breeds of dogs generally live longer than large and giant breeds,” says Klein, explaining that these petite breeds like Chihuahuas, Papillons and Toy Poodles “may appear dainty but are known to live long lives, though they may have certain orthopedic issues such as wobbly knees.”
“Papillons, in particular, are excellent athletes and are known to excel at certain sports such as obedience and agility—even into their later years,” Klein says.
Australian Cattle Dog (AKA Heeler)
Nelsen says this breed—which was historically bred to herd cattle—tends to be extremely hardy: “They are very athletic and, if well bred, have few commonly seen orthopedic concerns.” However, there are other things you need to keep in mind if you’re considering one of these dogs. “This breed does require lots of exercise and mental stimulation, they make excellent hiking buddies but can have some big opinions if not given appropriate outlets for their energy,” Nelsen explains.
Klein says Border Collies—and the Australian Cattle Dog, as Nelsen mentioned—tend to benefit from their history as herding dogs. “Members of the herding group of dogs are athletic and known to live long, relatively healthy lives,” Klein says. “These breeds are intelligent and excel at vigorous, intense activity and love canine sports such as rally and agility and require attentive owners.”
These dogs—known for their distinctive flowing locks—have evolved to be survivors over time. “Breeds that have been in existence for thousands of years were developed before veterinary medicine existed,” says Klein.
These dogs—often prized for their hunting skills—are another of the enduring breeds Klein cited. “Survival of fittest, so to speak,” he says.
You might not be super familiar with this kind of dog, which is another breed known for its tracking and hunting abilities—but Klein adds this to the list of ancient breeds that have developed hardy genes over time. “They are great coursers, fast and strong, and developed physical characteristics related to their geographical origin.”
Klein adds that this breed and the hounds mentioned above “are loyal to their own family but may be aloof and sensitive to strangers.”
Nelsen echoes Klein’s mention of the Chihuahua as a small but strong breed, noting “they often live well into their teens. Nelsen says health concerns in this breed “are often age-related and typically affect the eyes and heart (cataracts and mitral valve disease).” She notes that “these little ones can have trouble with sliding kneecaps (luxating patella) but this is often an easily managed condition that many times does not affect quality of life.”
This relatively small breed earns big marks for healthy tendencies, with PetMD noting they tend to have an average lifespan of 14 to 16 years.
PetMD says these beard-sporting dogs tend to have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years, although they can be prone to obesity so do need sufficient exercise and a smart diet.
“This ‘breed’ is more of a category, but most veterinarians will agree the mixed breed is one of the healthiest dogs out there!” Nelsen says, adding that a mixed breed will “often carry the good qualities of the parent breeds, and as veterinarians, we see statistically less disease in this cohort.”