Pitbulls may look tough and invincible, but these pooches are also prone to various health problems. As medium dogs, their gait makes them susceptible to hip and other orthopedic issues. These Pitbull health problems can be lethal if not addressed early on. So if you, like me, also own a Pitbull, it’s best to acknowledge some of the common health problems our pets may face.
Yes, Pitbulls are muscular, but this characteristic also brings a host of medical concerns. And although they have excellent skeletal formation, they aren’t immune to common conditions other breeds experience. Here’s what you need to know:
An overview of Pitbulls’ health
Pitbulls are active breeds. They are energetic, playful, and sometimes clownish. This behavior can sometimes be destructive for their surroundings and their bodies. A Pitbull that zooms in fast can have a broken knee or a displaced back leg. Since they can get really bored, it’s imperative for owners to satisfy their physical activity requirements to prevent any untoward incident.
However, it’s important to note here that some conditions are inheritable.
Some Pitbulls inherit orthopedic problems from their parents. This is why you should only get a puppy from an accredited breeder who has proper certifications and clearances for each litter.
Pitbulls have the incessant need to chew and run outdoors. This fact also leads them to acquire various health conditions. Some breeds get allergic to grass and other outdoor elements. They are also hearty eaters which makes them prone to obesity. Pitbulls are welcoming to table scraps, but as the owner, refrain from feeding them anything aside from their scheduled meals.
Exercise and dietary needs
With a high risk to diseases, it’s surprising that Pitbulls have a long lifespan of up to 16 years. And to dodge health problems Pitbulls normally have, you have to fulfill both their dietary and exercise needs.
Pitties are active breeds. You have to take them on long walks every day together with a lot of physical play.
It’s best to expose them to places where other dogs hang out. Early socialization is important for this breed together with intensive obedience training.
As for their diet, Pitbulls require high protein content to sustain their muscular build. But again, keep an eye on the portions since this breed is a hefty eater.
Things to watch out for
Like any dog, Pitbulls will exhibit minor health issues. Once you observe any of these, it’s best to seek the help of a vet.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. No matter how trite this saying is, it never gets wrong.
First, watch out for leg stiffness. If your Pitty starts to do bunny hops and is reluctant to use the stairs or run, there might be something going on with the extremities. It could be a muscle issue or the onset of orthopedic Pitbull health problems.
Also, keep an eye on excessive licking, chewing, rubbing, drooling, and scaling. This could be red flags for allergies. Vomiting, pain while urinating, lethargy, and hair loss are serious conditions that could be signs of the following health problems:
Health problems Pitbulls normally have
1. Hip dysplasia
Most of the time, hip dysplasia is an inherited condition. The hip forms improperly which leads to arthritis and chronic pain. Usually, Pitbulls with hip dysplasia will have lameness on their hind legs or difficulty running or climbing the stairs. Prolonged limping is also a tell-tale sign.
Hip dysplasia can be a tricky condition. Some owners think of the symptoms as pain caused by a bad fall or too much exercise. However, hip dysplasia can be life-limiting if not cured early. Some Pitties get tied to dog wheelchairs for life which prevents them from playing or moving normally.
Usually, this condition is treated via a surgical operation that may cost around $2,000.
It’s best to get your Pitty treated as soon as the condition is diagnosed. As the canine grows bigger, the strain on the hind legs grows more unbearable.
2. Thyroid disease
Hypothyroidism is another illness Pitbulls are prone to. When the thyroid glands fail to produce enough thyroid hormones, the Pitty will start to gain excessive weight and develop skin diseases. Aside from the physical manifestation, hypothyroidism can also induce fearful aggression and other drastic behavioral changes.
Thyroid diseases are diagnosed through a blood screening test on the vet’s lab. Most cases of hypothyroidism can be managed through the administration of synthetic thyroid hormones called thyroxine. However, to counteract the disease, your Pitbull will need lifetime doses of thyroxine.
Hypothyroidism usually occurs in middle-aged Pitties.
It’s important to suppress the possible effects of hypothyroidism as it can lead to other conditions like obesity and gastric torsion. Anyway, the consolation here is that this condition isn’t life-threatening. Still, proper treatment is necessary to prevent the occurrence of behavioral problems.
3. Knee problems
Pitbulls love zooming in real quick to catch a ball or to chase with their owners. However, this impulsive move can pop their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) – a counterpart of humans’ ACL. This is a thin connective tissue on a Pitbull’s knee that runs from the femur to the tibia. Since Pitties love running and moving around, the CCL is always bearing a heavy load.
Usually, CCL tears will start with a partial tear that can manifest as mild limping or pain. But if the physical activity continues, it can pop completely. In most cases, a surgery is necessary to repair the torn ligament. If not treated, it can cause other Pitbull health problems.
Take note, though, that about 60% of dogs who suffer from a torn CCL may likely hurt the other knee as well.
Since the injured leg is dysfunctional, the other leg bears the brunt. It’s important to use a leg brace here to balance the strain.
For some reasons, Pitbulls are very prone to allergies than other breeds. It can range from grass, pollens, to fleas or ticks. They are also notorious to food allergies, especially to products with wheat or grain components. Usually, Pitbulls with allergies will lick, scratch, drool, and shed more than the usual. The problem here is that incessant scratching can lead to wounds and bleeding. If it’s not treated right away, skin infections may ensue.
Symptoms of allergy among Pitbulls will start to exhibit at a very young age of one. The signs grow worse as the doggo gets older.
On the flip side, this gives you the chance for early detection and treatment. And due to the frequent occurrence of this condition, there are many treatments available nowadays.
Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines, preventive exposure, and other methods depending on the type of allergy.
5. Skin infections
Since Pitbulls have very thin coats, they have a thinner shield against skin irritants. Usually, they fall victim to rashes, sunburn hotspots, and allergies. Pitbull breeds like the blue-nosed or cream-colored ones seem to be more susceptible to skin problems. It is said that the pigmentation level has something to do with the varying risk levels.
Various allergens cause health problems Pitbulls normally have. This may lead to scratching and production of self-inflicted wounds.
At this point, viruses and bacteria will have an easy gateway. If you don’t seek treatment for these open wounds, it will take a drastic turn into fully inflamed sores. Soon, your Pitty would be lethargic and aggressive.
Another thing is that Pitbulls are likely to have dry skin. Since they have very thin hair, their bare skin bears the brunt of the sun and other harsh outdoor elements.
6. Heart problems
Pitbulls can also inherit heart problems from the parents. One of these is aortic stenosis where the connection between the aorta and the left ventricle narrows abnormally. The daunting fact here is that this condition doesn’t always exhibit any physical symptoms. Some Pitties would be lethargic while others will have sudden deaths. It’s best to include a heart checkup on your dog’s regular visit to the vet to spot this problem early on.
Pitbulls may also have valve malformations that will impede circulation. In some cases, it could be a case of an irregular heart rhythm.
Some of these problems are minor and can be left untreated. But for serious Pitbull health problems like narrowing of the valve or malformations, surgeries are required.
Another common cardiovascular issue among dogs is congenital heart disease. If your Pitty is having labored breathing, coughing, pacing, and easily exhausted behavior, it’s time to consult the vet.
One thing that Pitbull owners should watch out for are eye problems. Pitbulls may develop cataracts earlier than other breeds. This breed has a high chance of experiencing this health issue, with a 50/50 chance no matter where you got your pup.
The overproduction of protein causes the lens of the eyes to get clouded. If you observe whitish buildup on the iris of your Pitty, it’s a guaranteed sign of a cataract.
It can both be a hereditary or developed condition. Also, cataracts can be a side effect of other health condition including dog diabetes, hypocalcemia, and uveitis.
Your vet will perform various tests to confirm the presence of a cataract. In mild cases, pharmaceutical treatments can help soothe the blindness. But if the condition has worsened, a surgery will be performed to remove the excess protein buildup.
Ichthyosis is the thickening of the skin’s outer layer and the Pitbull’s footpads. It’s usually compared to fish scales and human dandruff but in a more intense level. It’s usually inherited from the parent dog and common among terrier breeds.
This abnormal skin condition can cause discomfort to your pooch. What’s worse is that the scaling gets advanced as the Pitty ages. The layers of the skin will crack and peel consistently. Such an occurrence may result in open wounds and a host of skin infections.
The paws will look enlarged and it will feel painful for the pooch. Other health problems Pitbulls normally have may take place.
A skin biopsy will confirm the presence of this skin condition. Once your vet confirms the condition, the dog doctor will likely prescribe anti-seborrheic shampoos and moisturizers to ease the scales. This condition doesn’t have a specific cure and the only thing that dog owners can do is manage the symptoms.
9. Cerebellar Ataxia
Cerebellar Ataxia is a severe hereditary disease among Pitbulls. It’s characterized with the poor balance and muscle coordination due to the premature aging of neurons in the cerebellum.
About 1 in every 400 Pitbulls may have Cerebellar Ataxia.
Doggos with this condition will have a wobbly gait, tremors, incoordination, and in worst cases, inability to move.
About 40% of American Staffordshire Pitbulls are carriers of the genetic mutation that causes ataxia. With that, it’s only a matter of to which dog it will be dominant or recessive. Take note that a Pitbull pup can only be affected with ataxia if both its parents are carriers of the mutation. At some point, this is a preventable disease on the part of the breeders.
10. Gastric torsion
Unlike health problems Pitbulls normally have, gastric torsion is commonly dismissed as mere bloating. However, for breeds like Pitbulls, it could be a lethal condition in just a matter of hours. Since Pitties are hefty eaters, their tummies can be filled with too much food and gas. “Air eating” can be the cause as well as feeding your pup with fermentable food.
When this gas accumulates in their tummy, it will create an intense pressure. It can either press other organs or bore a hole on the Pitty’s stomach.
If you observe that your Pitbull is drooling and exhibiting signs of anxiety together with an enlarged tummy, head straight to the vet. The doctor will pass a tube to the stomach to decompress the air. If this isn’t possible, the vet will clip the skin to release the gas.
These Pitbull health problems can either be prevented or managed with the right diagnosis. As the hooman, it’s your responsibility to be on top of your pet’s health.