Big Dogs: Big Mobility Problems

How does genetics play a role in mobility for large dogs?
Dogs running and playing

The study of canine genetics dates back to the early 20th century, but it gained significant traction with advancements in molecular biology and genomics. Initially, breeders used a basic understanding of heredity to selectively breed dogs for specific traits. The mapping of the canine genome in 2005 was a game-changer, opening the door for more nuanced studies and applications in veterinary medicine, behavior, and breed-specific health issues.

How Genetics Affect a Dog's Behavior and Health

Genetics play a critical role in shaping a dog's behavior and overall health. Traits such as temperament, intelligence, and even susceptibility to certain diseases are influenced by a dog's genetic makeup. For example, some breeds are more prone to hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia, while others may have a genetic predisposition to certain behavioral traits like aggression or anxiety.

Importance for Big Dog Breeds

When it comes to large dog breeds, understanding genetics is crucial for several reasons. First, big dogs are often more susceptible to specific health issues such as joint problems and cardiovascular diseases. These issues are not merely a result of their size but are often genetically predetermined. Second, certain behavioral traits, like territoriality, can be more pronounced in big dogs, making it important for owners to understand the genetic factors that contribute to such behaviors. Lastly, large dog breeds often have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds, making early intervention critical for mitigating genetically influenced health issues.

By gaining a solid understanding of behavioral genetics, owners of big dogs can make informed decisions about their pets' health and well-being, from choosing the right diet and exercise regimen to opting for preventive medical measures. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it's the power to provide a better life for your big dog.

The Issue of Mobility in Big Dogs

Common Mobility Issues Faced by Big Dogs

Large dog breeds are often susceptible to a variety of mobility issues that can severely impact their quality of life. Some of the most common mobility challenges include:

  1. Hip Dysplasia: A malformation of the hip joint that can lead to arthritis and pain.
  2. Osteoarthritis: Degenerative joint disease often affecting the knees, hips, and elbows.
  3. Degenerative Myelopathy: A spinal cord disease leading to progressive loss of limb function.
  4. Elbow Dysplasia: A condition affecting the elbow joint, causing pain and lameness.
  5. Ligament Tears: Particularly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is crucial for knee stability.

How Genetics Play a Role in These Issues

The susceptibility to these mobility issues is often rooted in a dog's genetic makeup. For example:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Certain breeds like German Shepherds and Labradors have a genetic predisposition to develop hip dysplasia.
  • Osteoarthritis: The likelihood of developing this condition is higher in breeds genetically prone to joint issues, such as Rottweilers and Great Danes.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy: This condition has a known genetic marker and is more common in specific breeds like Boxers and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

Genetic testing can help identify the risk factors for these conditions, allowing for early intervention and management. Understanding the role of genetics in your big dog's mobility issues is not just about knowing what could go wrong; it's about being empowered to take preventive steps to ensure a happier, healthier life for your pet.

Mitigation Strategies

Facing mobility issues can be a challenging experience for both dogs and their owners. However, there are several proactive measures that can mitigate the impact of these issues or even prevent them altogether.

Orthopedic Dog Beds

An orthopedic dog bed like the ones made by Big Barker, makers of the only clinically proven dog bed, provide better support for your dog's spine and joints, thereby alleviating pain and discomfort. These beds are designed with orthopedic foam that conform to your dog's body shape, offering relief from pressure points.

Proper Diet and Exercise

Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of maintaining good health in dogs, especially large breeds. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients can promote joint health and reduce inflammation. Exercise, particularly low-impact activities like swimming, can strengthen muscles and improve joint stability. Consult your vet to tailor a diet and exercise plan suitable for your dog's specific needs.

Early Training Techniques

Training your dog to move correctly from a young age can help prevent mobility issues later in life. Techniques such as controlled leash walking and specific movement exercises can teach your dog how to move without putting undue stress on their joints. Consult a professional dog trainer who specializes in mobility to get the most out of these training sessions.

Types of Assistive Devices

There are various assistive devices designed to aid dogs with mobility issues. These include:

  1. Ramps: Useful for helping dogs get into cars or climb stairs, reducing strain on the joints.
  2. Braces: These provide added support to weakened joints and can be custom-fitted for your dog.
  3. Wheelchairs: For severe mobility issues, dog wheelchairs can allow your pet to move around freely.
  4. Slings and Harnesses: These can aid in lifting and moving your dog, particularly useful for post-surgical recovery or severe arthritis.

By adopting these mitigation strategies, you can significantly improve the quality of life for your big dog, helping them lead a more comfortable and active life.


In summary, mobility issues are a common challenge faced by owners of big dogs, often with a genetic component at play. However, these challenges are far from insurmountable. By adopting a series of mitigation strategies—ranging from a balanced diet and regular exercise to the use of orthopedic beds and assistive devices—you can make a meaningful difference in your dog's life.

The key to successful management of mobility issues lies in early mitigation. Recognizing the signs and understanding the genetic factors allows you to take preemptive action, reducing the severity of these issues and potentially preventing them altogether. Consultation with veterinary professionals for diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan is crucial.

By being proactive, you not only enhance the quality of life for your beloved pet but also ensure that their golden years are as golden as they can be. Your big dog doesn't have to suffer in silence; armed with knowledge and the right strategies, you can pave the way for a happier, healthier life for your canine companion.


Diversity of Canine Traits Attributed to Simple Genetic Architecture