I love mutts, which might come as a surprise to you if you’ve seen the picture of me and Apollo, my handsome boxer. His "pure" breeding is definitely the exception rather than the rule when it comes to the dogs with whom I’ve shared my life. And I have to say that as lovely (both physically and personality-wise) as Apollo is, he represents much of what I warn potential owners about when they are considering purchasing or adopting a purebred dog.

Apollo entered my life when, at nine months old, his previous caregivers had decided to euthanize him because of the expense of having to deal with his health problems. Thankfully, they were willing to sign him over to me instead, and I’ve gotten him more or less straightened out — as long as the stars are in perfect alignment and he eats absolutely nothing except an extremely expensive prescription dog food.

Right now, he looks a little rough though. I just got back from a short vacation and had to board him while I was gone. He tends not to eat when other, more exciting opportunities are readily available, and a kennel-full of dogs to play with definitely qualifies. To encourage his appetite, I left a little non-prescription canned food to be used if he went on a hunger strike. He did, but I guess my instructions weren’t clear enough and the kennel staff didn’t start him on the prednisone that I left with them or call for instructions. Soooooo, now I’ve got a disturbingly skinny, incredibly gassy boxer with diarrhea that I’m trying to get back on an even keel.

Makes me think fondly back to best dog in the entire universe (sorry everybody, but he really was the best, no matter what you say). I called Owen my dachshund-beagle-corgi. This was before the advent of the dog breed analysis tests that are now readily available, so who knows, he might really have been a basset-Chihuahua. But you get the idea … 25 pounds of short legs, long body, a fearless attitude, and love oozing out of every pore.

Owen had the constitution of an ox. Over the 17 ½ years that he lived, I probably spent less on his veterinary care than that which Apollo’s previous owners and I have put out in his short 19 months on Planet Earth. I know this is not always the case. I’ve had mixed-breed dogs that succumbed far too early (Annie, a terrier of questionable heritage, with oral melanoma) and purebreds that seemingly lived forever (a probable Lhasa Apso named Tangles that made it into his mid to late teens). However, in my years as a vet, more often than not it’s the Heinz-57s of the world that seem to be healthiest and happiest long into their golden years.

So, I tell my clients, by all means, get a purebred … I’ve got house payments to make. But, if you want to keep your money in your wallet instead of giving it to me, stack the deck in your favor and get a mutt.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Erik Lam / via Shutterstock