Why Your Vet Might Not Care About the Breeds in Your Mix

Ask your veterinarian what breeds are all mixed up in your mutt’s DNA and you’re likely to get a lukewarm answer that might sound a whole lot more like a dismissal than a proper reply. I'm not saying it's the best attitude ever ... but it happens. 

Here's why ...

Scottie-dachshund? Your guess is as good as mine.

Scottie-dachshund? Your guess is as good as mine.

It’s a common scenario: A new pound pup bounds into your life and your family’s first questions almost invariably steer towards the breed thing. She’s long-backed, low-ish to the ground and snub faced. So what is she? 

A Doxie-Boxer mix? A Pittie-Corgi cross? A Basset-Bulldog hybrid? 

Inquiring minds want to know. But does it matter? 

Though I can’t speak for all veterinarians, that’s probably where your veterinarian is coming from when he gives up a blank stare or a sigh at the very mention of breed origins. He’s probably one among many veterinarians who questions the utility of playing the breed origin guessing game. 

Not sure why? Here are a few things that might be going through his head:

#1 I really want this client to love her dog the way he is. He’s gorgeous and friendly! Why does his breed matter?

#2 I’ve just told this client his dog has knee problems but he seems more worried about knowing what breed she is. I sure wish people would care more about health than looks!

#3 The breed thing is all hype and marketing anyway. This obsession is bunk. All it does is fuel a cruel market for puppy mill purebreds. 

#4 I mean, is she planning on showing him or breeding him? She can’t possibly know what his parentage is, even if she learns his breed origins, so what does it matter? 

#5 Determining a dog’s breed origins based on his appearance isn’t usually doable. Dog mixes are so phenotypically diverse that you can mix a Beagle and a Bulldog and, out of a litter of ten, get at least five pups that look nothing like their parents. 

#6 I’d be lying if I claimed to have any more of an idea what breeds are in any given mix than my clients do. I hate being put on the spot like that. 

#7 Everyone thinks I’ll be able to determine what genetic diseases will afflict him or what his behavior will be like but that’s not realistic. While the concept has some merit, the reality is complicated. When a dog comes from more than one breed, you’d have to consider such a wide range of genetic issues and behavior traits that making any meaningful predictions would be very difficult.

#8 When they ask for my opinion, I explain it’s not likely to be helpful since my guess is as good as theirs. That’s when I offer them a simple $110 genetic test instead. Unfortunately, this seems to make them mad. Do they think I’m holding back on them because I want to make money on a test? How frustrating! 

Some of us wish we could put up a sign that says: “I don’t play the guessing game with your dog’s health so don’t ask me to play it with your dog’s breed.” 

But we can’t. Because if we did, we’d be accused of being great big purebreed-hating meanies. Which is not the case, of course. But it’s not easy to explain, you know?