All breeds suffer from some genetic diseases and Bull Terriers are no exception. Diseases that affect the Bull Terrier breed are:
- Deafness (Unilateral & Bilateral)
- Heart Disease
- Kidney Disease (hereditary and PKD)
- Luxating Patella
All the responsible breeders must test their animals before breeding and all the responsible owners to be must ask for these tests before taking a puppy. This is the road to a healthier bull terrier breed !!!
From the first days of the breed Bull Terriers has been recognized to have deafness issues. For many years it was believed that only the white animals could be deaf but this is not true because nowadays we know that there are also some coloured animals that was found deaf! Breeders had stopped breeding from animals that were deaf in order to face this problem but there were still some puppies born deaf and the reason for that is that until recently it wasn’t possible to accurately identify animals which are partially deaf, and that breeders may have inadvertently been breeding from animals with less than perfect hearing. Nowadays it is possible to test Bull Terriers electronically, to identify exactly how well the animal can hear. This test, known as the B.A.E.R. (Brain Auditory Evoked Response) Test, can carried out from about 5 weeks old and it’s a quite simple and easy process. There are three deafness classifications:
- Normal bilateral hearing
- Unilateral deaf (deaf in one ear)
- Bilaterally deafness (deaf in both ears)
Only the animals with normal bilateral hearing should be bred, to try and eradicate this gene from the breeding stock.
Bull Terriers are affected mostly by Mitral Dysplasia and Subaortic Stenosis. The affected animals can suffer from heart attacks whilst other sign may be lack of activity or shortness of breath. A veterinary cardiologist can detect heart murmurs that come with those diseases with stethoscope auscultation. There are also some tests you can do in order to check heart’s health which include x-ray of the chest, electrocardiograph to measure the heart’s electrical activity and a color Doppler test.
There seem to be two types of kidney diseases in Bull Terriers. The first one is Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and the second one is hereditary Nephritis.
Typical signs of kidney failure include the following:
- poor appetite
- dullness or lethargy
- weight loss or stunted growth
- poor hair coat
- foul breath and mouth ulcers
- muscle twitching and convulsions
- drinking excess water and passing too much urine
- pale gums (anemia)
- dehydration (sticky dry gums)
In order to diagnose these diseases you can do a kidney ultrasound or a biopsy but the most common and easy way is a blood test to determine the Urine Protein Creatinine ratio (UP/C). In most breeds a reading of up 1.0 is normal however the recommendation for the Bull Terrier is that must not be /higher than 0.3.
The patella is a small bone sliding in a groove in the stifle joint — equivalent to the kneecap in the human knee. If the groove is too shallow the patella may slip sideways out of the groove, causing the dog to limp, until it slips back — often seen as a limp, a skip and hop followed by normal movement. The patella may slip out of its groove easily or only occasionally. In a badly affected dog the joint is painful and becomes arthritic. The mode of inheritance is polygenic (controlled by several or many genes) and can only be combated by breeding from unaffected parents. A veterinary surgeon can test the joint by feeling how firmly seated the patella is in its groove and by a simple x-ray.
It is wise to limit your puppy/adolescent Bull Terrier’s activity (i.e. don’t allow them to jump from heights, etc.) to help reduce undue strain on young joints, for the first six months. It is advisable that all breeding stock should be tested for this inherited problem and any dog found to have the disease, should be removed from any breeding program.
!The above diseases are officially the main category of genetic diseases of the Bull Terrier breed. But there are some others, such as Lethal Acrodermatitis, known as LAD, a deadly skin disease first described in 1986. It has found that dogs diagnosed with acrodermatitis have been found to have low levels of zinc. In human intestinal acrodermatitis, taking zinc helps a lot but unfortunately this does not happen in dogs. This condition is manifested by skin lesions on the legs and muzzle (mainly), diarrhea, bronchopneumonia, growth retardation and immunodeficiency. The first signs of the disease appear in the first weeks of the puppy’s life. Puppies with acrodermatitis have a characteristic cachectic look from the beginning of their life. As the disease progresses, hyperkeratosis of the feet and deformity of the nails are observed. Due to immunodeficiency, dogs often suffer from skin infections such as Malassezia or Candida. Other symptoms include severe thinning of the hair and hard palate, to which food debris sticks, causing health issue and bad breath. Puppies with acrodermatitis can’t live more than 7 months. Dogs that can survive a little longer suffer from serious health problems. Luckily, in recent years a way has been found to examine the animals before put them in breeding with a DNA test, in order to avoid breeding affected puppies. It is obvious that some dogs may be carriers of the disease without ever having manifested it, but they can carry it to their offspring. The MKLN1 gene test is the way to know if a dog is a carrier of the disease or not.
With love and passion for breeding trying to protect the health,
Labrini Maniati — Kostas Lentoudis
IMMORTAL SPIRITS KENNEL