Staffordshire Bull Terriers are hardy dogs with few known health problems when acquired from a responsible, reputable breeder. Hip dysplasia, cataracts and luxating patellas are seen in the breed. The inherited eye condition PHPV (Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitroeus) is also a known health issue in Staffordshire Bull Terriers. A hereditary neurological condition, L-2 hydroxyglutaric Aciduria is also present in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed. Prospective owners should choose Staffordshire Bull Terriers bred to the American Kennel Club breed standard, which tend to be healthier than the "giant" Staffordshire Bull Terriers that have become popular in some areas.
The two common eye problems in Staffordshire Bull Terriers are Hereditary Cataracts (HC) and Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitroeus (PHPV). HC is inherited through a recessive gene, meaning both parents must be carriers in order for a puppy to be affected. Genetic testing has given breeders the ability to eliminate the HC gene from their lines. PHPV, however, has a more complex pattern of inheritance. It is known to be present at birth and is not progressive. It can be detected with an eye exam at six weeks of age. Both HC and PHPV can be surgically corrected.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers may suffer from hip dysplasia or luxating patellas. Both are hereditary conditions. Dogs suffering from either condition should not be used for breeding. Luxating patellas occur when the ridges that hold the patella (like a human kneecap) in place are not prominent enough, allowing the patella to slide sideways. This is momentarily painful and may lock the dog's leg off the ground for several minutes until the quadriceps muscle releases and allows the patella to slip back into place. Severe luxating patellas can be treated surgically, though dogs whose patellas only occasionally luxate may not need surgery. Hip dysplasia involves the abnormal development of soft tissue in the hip causing subluxation, or separation of the bones of the hip. It is painful and can be completely debilitating. Some dogs with mild hip dysplasia can live normal lives without surgical correction. More severe cases require invasive surgical treatment, up to and including total hip replacement.
L-2 hydroxyglutaric Aciduria
L-2 hydroxyglutaric Aciduria is a neuro-metabolic disorder in which the substance L-2 builds up in the dog's plasma, urine and cerebrospinal fluid. This substance is usually metabolised, but when L-2 hydroxyglutaric Aciduria is present, it will instead remain in the body, with alarming results. Symptoms may include behavioural changes, seizures, tremors and muscle stiffness.
Brachycephalic syndrome is present in all breeds with a shortened upper jaw giving a "squished" look to the dog's face, including Pugs, Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, among others. This is not a single disease or condition. Rather, it is a grouping of conditions and symptoms that are commonly seen in certain breeds. These conditions include elongated soft palate, stenotic nares and everted laryngeal saccules. A collapsing trachea may also be seen in dogs with brachycephalic syndrome. Symptoms include difficulty breathing and white, foamy vomit after eating. Surgery can correct brachycephalic syndrome in most cases.
Avoiding Health Problems
Owners considering purchasing or adopting a Staffordshire Bull Terrier can avoid acquiring a dog with these problems by choosing a dog produced by a reputable, responsible breeder. Before committing to a purchase or adoption, prospective owners should insist on a veterinary examination. Some problems common in the breed can only be diagnosed through X-rays and other more complex diagnostic procedures, but a simple eye exam can rule out cataracts and PHPV. If purchasing a puppy from a breeder, look for parents whose hips and shoulders are OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified. The parents should also be free of the gene for hereditary cataracts. If a breeder is unwilling to show proof of either of these health clearances, choose a different breeder.