By Dr. Patty Khuly For Vetstreet:

“What breed do you think she is?”

Every veterinarian gets asked this question at least once a day. And it’s one that tends to elicit more of a bemused response than anything else. After all, guessing a pet’s breed is just that — a guess.

But people really want to know. I believe it’s because Americans love definition in our pets — especially when it comes to our canines. For the majority of U.S. dog owners, it’s essential that their pets emerge from specific bloodlines, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

Humans have always loved to classify and categorize animals to serve both form and function, but Americans, as a breed, enjoy putting their individuality on display. And what better way to signal who we are than through our choice in best friends?

Here's the problem with that line of thinking: Our demand for purebred friends is so great that we’re willing to overlook some pretty nasty things that come attached to their provenance.

Genetic Diseases

I’m willing to go on record and say that I generally observe at least one genetic disease in nine out of 10 purebred patients during their first examination with me.

It’s true that my mixed breed patients suffer relatively high rates of genetic disease, too, but it's usually as a result of their discernible purebred parentage. In fact, my Labradoodle patients (not to pick on this adorable mix) have a high rate of hip dysplasia and allergic skin disease, just like their parent breeds.

We can chalk a lot of this up to line breeding, the failure to adequately test parents for genetic diseases and the trend among show breeders toward increasingly exaggerated features. Case in point: The English Bulldog of the 1930s bears little resemblance to the flat-faced modern varietal.

Questionable Suppliers

Purebreds can’t all come from responsible breeders, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that they do.

And we're not just talking about puppy mills disguised as reputable breeders. An alarming percentage of my purebred patients come from overseas. They're often shipped as pups who are much too young to be away from their mothers or receive vaccines, much less travel internationally.

Although I repeat that there’s nothing inherently wrong with purebred pets, the reality is that a surprisingly tiny percentage of them are truly responsibly bred. This means that, as a culture, our demand for purebreds is fueling an industry that’s ultimately doing a great disservice to our dogs, especially if you consider the health care and animal welfare implications of “purebred lust.”

Adoption Is the Answer

So what’s the solution? We need to wean ourselves from the bosom of purebred addiction.

Instead of seeking out breeds that we believe are compatible with our tastes, identities and lifestyles via suppliers, it would seem to me that it’s only morally correct to adopt otherwise unwanted animals — be it purebreds or mixes.

I know it’s not a popular position to advocate against purebred ownership, but when you consider the genetic disease and animal welfare problems it raises, it makes sense for me to urge my clients to consider mixed breed dogs.

Also on Vetstreet:
Would You Date a Man Who Didn’t Like Pets?
Is There Really Such a Thing as a Humane Animal Slaughter?
3 Things That Pet Owners Do That Drive This Vet Crazy

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  • NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: Gibbs, a Golden Retriever puppy poses for pictures as the American Kennel Club Announces Most Popular Dogs in the U.S. on January 30, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for the American Kennel Club)

  • A view of a puppy at the North Shore Animal League America's Tour For Life Pet Adoption Event on April 26, 2012 in New York, United States. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

  • A Samoyed puppy waits with its owner in a park as Beijing enjoys a pollution free spring day on April 18, 2013. The breed which is originally from Siberia were used to herd reindeer and pull sleds and were able to survive the harsh winters with their thick coats. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON

  • Two Beagle puppies play as the American Kennel Club officials announce their annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S January 27, 2010 in New York. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Puppies watch on at a police dog training base September 16, 2005 in Beijing, China. The dogs are trained by a police squad to learn identifying, catching, tracking and other skills. According to the Ministry of Public Security, there is an estimate of over 10,000 working police dogs in China. These dogs are divided into 30 kinds according to international conventions and are widely used in police work, rescue and military missions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

  • A view of a puppy at the North Shore Animal League America's Tour For Life Pet Adoption Event on April 26, 2012 in New York, United States. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

  • A view of a puppy at the North Shore Animal League America's Tour For Life Pet Adoption Event on April 26, 2012 in New York, United States. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

  • NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: Dominique, a Bulldog puppy poses for pictures as the American Kennel Club Announces Most Popular Dogs in the U.S. on January 30, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for the American Kennel Club)

  • A wolf plays with a one-month-old puppy in its enclosure of Berlin's Zoo on May 31, 2013 in Berlin. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE

  • Puppies just born by a sniffer dog sleep at a police dog training base September 16, 2005 in Beijing, China. The dogs are trained by a police squad to learn identifying, catching, tracking and other skills. According to the Ministry of Public Security, there is an estimate of over 10,000 working police dogs in China. These dogs are divided into 30 kinds according to international conventions and are widely used in police work, rescue and military missions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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  • A three-day-old Labradoodle puppy is shown to the press at the Uri Bekman's 'World of Dogs' kennel in Pardesia, 30 kms north of Tel Aviv 07 December 2005. (YOAV LEMMER/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • Two-week-old Saint Bernard puppies play at the Barry Foundation breeding kennels in Martigny on June 4, 2009. The Saint Bernard dog was once the ubiquitous companion of monks at the monastery tucked 2,500m above sea level, guiding them through the Alps or helping them to rescue stranded or lost travellers in the snowy mountains. However, there are no longer any such dogs living permanently at the monastery these days. In fact, the monks decided five years ago to part ways with their pedigree breeding programme, as the work became too much for the four monks living permanently at the monastery to handle. The breeding kennels faced the risk of being shut permanently if not for a group of Swiss bankers and animal-lovers who set up the Barry Foundation to buy the breeding programme. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Two puppies play as American Kennel Club officials announce their annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S January 27, 2010 in New York. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • Nine Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies from a litter of 17 look out of their box in Nauen, 50 kilometers outside Berlin on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. On Sept 28, and 29, 4 year old Ridgeback Etana had 17 puppies. All of them survived. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

  • Seven Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies from a litter of 17 look out of their box in Nauen, 50 kilometers outside Berlin on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. On Sept 28, and 29, the 4 years old Ridgeback Etana had 17 puppies. All of them survived. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

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  • Six-month old Chihuahua puppies, Ellie, left, and Gulliver, right, nuzzle together at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in Methuen, Mass. Wednesday, June 15, 2011. The already adopted puppies, born without front legs, were fitted with wheels made by Eddie's Wheels of Shelburne, Mass. and are training to walk and run with them. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • Puppies run at a playground in the K9 school and hospital of the Middle East Kennel Cub at Nahr al-Kalb area, north of Beirut, on October 27, 2010. The Club, which is the largest in the Middle East, has more than 400 dogs and clients bring their pets to be trained, bred and hospitalized. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In this handout image provided by Pucchin Dog's, 'Love-Kun', a 3-day old chihuahua puppy with heart-shaped markings is presented to the media with his brothers at Pucchin Dog's on August 6, 2009 in Odate, Akita prefecture, Japan. The new puppy is the brother of 2-year old chihuahua 'Heart-Kun' who was also born with a perfect heart-shaped marking on his back from the same parents. (Photo by Pucchin Dog's via Getty Images)

  • This photo provided by the Chicago Zoological Society shows 10 African wild dog puppies, six males and four females, huddling with their mother, Kim, at Brookfield Zoo in Broofield, Ill. (AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz)

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  • Two adopted stray dogs play at an animal shelter on December 15, 2006 in the outskirts of Xian of Shaanxi Province, China. The animal shelter, established by Chinese animal lover Dai Shuqing, is located at an abandoned warehouse which houses some 100 dogs and costs over 2,000 yuan (about US $255) per month. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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  • Portuguese Podengo puppies are displayed for the media during the launch of the Crufts Dog Show Febuary 24, 2004 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)