Breed-related disease: Bull Terrier

John K. Rosembert

Descended from the extinct old English bulldog and Manchester terrier, the bull terrier was originally bred to help control vermin and to fight in the blood sports of bull and bear baiting. Today’s iteration looks as different as he behaves. With the most recognizable feature is its head, described as ‘egg-shaped head’, when viewed from the front; the top of the skull is almost flat. The profile curves gently downwards from the top of the skull to the tip of the nose, which is black and bent downwards at the tip, with well-developed nostrils. The lower jaw is deep and strong. The unique triangular eyes are small, dark, and deep-set, it is a very recognizable breed.

The Bull Terrier is a people dog, plain and simple. He’s happiest when he’s with his family so he’s a terrible choice for an outdoor dog. However, that isn’t to say he wants to lie adoringly at your feet. He’d much rather you got up and came outside with him, and went on a short stroll of, say, 10 miles.

Those excursions might be a lot more fun if he weren’t an infamous leash-tugger with a tendency to go chasing after every dog, cat and squirrel he sees. Be prepared to train him to listen to you – something he’ll have a hard time seeing the value of much of the time.

Training isn’t optional with this breed, unless the idea of a dog weighing between 45 and 80 pounds dragging you all over the neighborhood and ignoring every word you say in your own house appeals to you. Train your Bull Terrier from puppyhood on, with an emphasis on consistency, and you’ll have a well-behaved, well-socialized canine family member.

Bull terriers can be protective, especially if they think their family is in danger, so be sure to socialize them around strangers and don’t encourage aggressive or guarding behavior. They can also be protective of their own space, toys, and food. This behavior must be caught early and corrected consistently, as it can lead to serious behavior problems.

Common Bull Terrier Diseases & Conditions

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Patella luxation.  Affects Bull Terriers quite often and is simply a disorder that causes the dislocation of the kneecap.

Heart Defects and Heart Disease.  Heart defects in Bull Terriers are also quite common and can include cardiac valves that leak or valves that are too narrow to transport blood in the required amount. These defects can result in heart murmurs or irregular heartbeats. Symptoms to look out for include: coughing, lethargic behavior, excessive weight loss or weight gain and distressed breathing. See a vet for assistance if you are observing any of these signs.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).  PKD affects both the Bull Terrier and the Miniature Bull Terrier. It’s a condition that is inherited and symptoms can start to show at a young age. Polycystic Kidney Disease causes cysts of fluid to form in the kidneys, obstructing them from functioning properly. Look for symptoms like: poor appetite, vomiting, drinking excessively, dry or pale gums and lethargic behavior.

Deafness, like any breed, occurs in Bull Terriers and can be detected from as early as four weeks of age. If you believe your Bull Terrier is suffering from a loss of hearing, your vet can perform some tests to determine the situation.

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