Leading veterinary hospital busts leading pet insurer myth-buster

Several weeks ago, America’s second leading pet insurer Trupanion posted several statements across its social media platforms which angered purebred dog enthusiasts and left other dog lovers barking mad. Without naming names, an elite veterinary teaching hospital appears to be weighing in on the issue at the center of the controversy.

In a blog post published October 5, just days after TCR’s story , New York City’s renowned Animal Medical Center appears to be throwing shade on Trupanion’s assertion that mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebred dogs, the genesis of much of the firestorm:

Veterinarians hear the question all the time: are mixed breed dogs healthier than purebred dogs? And of course, it is our business to know. Because there is much contradictory, and unreferenced, information on the internet [emphasis TCR’s], I’m going to offer my stance backed by peer-reviewed research in this blogpost. I would argue that neither group is healthier; the two groups are simply prone to developing different diseases.

Hundreds of comments flooded Trupanion’s Facebook page following a social media event focused on myth busting, including these zingers:

Lindsey Condra wrote: “I love how “passionate discourse” is the new phrase for “pissed off all the AKC, preservation, and purebred community”. Run an actual study before you put lies out. Also congrats on loosing likely hundreds of thousands of dollars as the purebred community ….” 

Deborah Westmoreland wrote, “Well that’s a really ignorant comment. I’ll tell my four-year-old dog who was born with a genetic heart defect and had surgery twice as a puppy that I’ll change his food and all will be better. Seriously??” You realize a ‘good healthy diet’ does not fix a tick bite that causes Immune Thrombocytopenia? Nor does it fix Genetic related issues like Hypothyroidism or Epilepsy? Diet is NOT a cure all.”

Sammi Vaught wrote, “You did such harm to the WELL BRED purebred community.  There is a difference between purebred and well bred, and there will NEVER be a situation where I would consider an unknown mixed breed with no testing, no genetic profile, and no lineage information “more likely to be healthy” than a well bred purebred. More likely to be healthier than the multitude of backyard bred “purebreds”? Yes. But than purebred dogs in general? That’s just painting every purebred with the same damaging brush. Generalizations are DAMAGING to all parties involved. Please be more informative and specific with your data.”

Delenn Hollander wrote, “I have 2 purebreds and 1 shelter dog. My purebred came with a medical history going back 8 generations and a health guarantee. Never had an issue. My shelter “mutt” on the other hand has cost me over 10k in medical bills over the last 7 years.”

Tracy Smith wrote, “Actually the science shows that mixed breed dogs are far more likely to have harmful recessive mutations but purebred dogs are more likely to have recessive mutations doubled up. However, the studies don’t differentiate poorly bred puppy mill or backyard bred dogs…”

Ali Cofresi wrote, “The whole post was so unnecessary. Can anyone actually name a breed club that claims that their breed has NO health problems? Who at all was saying that purebred dogs were healthier than mixed breed dogs? Because I have only ever heard the opposite claim repeated ad nauseum all my life. You did a wonderful job of pointlessly alienating a large part of your consumer base. And for what? Just to put out the same misleading message everyone hears all the time from the Humane Society? Hope it feels worth it.”

Demi Flowers wrote, “As someone apart of your breeder support program that just sat with ALL of my new puppies owners to make sure they signed up before they left, wow am I disappointed. The parents pedigrees of my litter have been health tested since health testing became available decades ago. The sire’s breeder and my girl’s breeder have spent so much time and resources to ensure they produced healthy dogs, and I did the same. The lack of nuance and hard numbers is deafening.”

Conrad Juta wrote, “I really question your capacity to handle fundamental statistical methods after this blatantly misleading example. For the record I had a mixed breed die age 6 from congenital heart failure, easily avoided by a good breeder who would know the lineage and issues with the parents.”

Amy Angela wrote, “Violence” isn’t really a term we use in dogs. Many dogs can be genetically human aggressive, or animal/dog aggressive, and some both. They aren’t “violent”, they are acting out drives such as prey drive.”

Cheri Schmidt Taylor wrote, “Violence by its definition is an improper choice of words for such a statement and just fuels dangerous misconceptions.”

Kat J. Bella wrote, “Yes, many dogs can be taught things they’re not necessarily bred for. That doesn’t mean genetics can be ignored. My Ridgeback will not fetch. He hates it. My brother’s lab won’t stop fetching.”

Mariah Underwood wrote, “Another tone deaf “myth busting”. How can purebred genetics work to amplify health issues, which cause them to “file insurance claims more frequently than mixed breeds”…but genetics play zero role in temperament or instinct. Amazing. And confounding.”

Abby Wetmore wrote, “Ahh yes my border collie doesn’t actually know how to herd because genetics mean nothing.”

Erica Jenkins wrote, “Genetics don’t matter so I’m going to choose a basset hound to herd my herd of 300 sheep. Will work just fine.”

Trupanion CEO Darryl Rawlings and president Margi Tooth did not return requests for comment.