Editor’s note: This article has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. Dr. Ochoa is a graduate of St. George’s University with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine.
If you’re considering adding an American Pit Bull Terrier to your family, it’s important to be aware of the potential health concerns. Pit Bulls are a healthy breed overall, but like all dogs, they can develop health problems.
Like with any dog, you should be aware of potential health problems before making the decision to adopt a Pit Bull.
In this article, I’ll go over some of the most common health problems seen in American Pit Bull Terriers. Knowing what to watch for can help you keep your dog healthy and happy for years to come!
- Hip Dysplasia
- Cardiomyopathy and Congenital Heart Defects
- Torn Cranial Cruciate Ligament
- Hyperuricosuria (HU) and Bladder Stones
- Dental Disease
- Cerebellar Ataxia
- Chronic Ear Infections
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Cleft Lip
Allergies are common in all breeds of dogs, but Pit Bulls may be more prone to them due to their short coats and close proximity to the ground where allergens like pollen and dust mites can accumulate. In Pit Bulls, allergies can cause a variety of symptoms including itching, excessive licking, hot spots, hair loss, and ear infections.
The good news is that there are many ways to manage allergies in Pit Bulls with the help of a veterinarian. Common treatments for dog allergies include antihistamines and special shampoos. In severe cases, some dogs may require allergy shots or even a change in diet.
2. Hip Dysplasia
The American Pit Bull Terrier is prone to a condition called hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the hip joint does not form properly, causing pain and lameness. While hip dysplasia can occur in any breed of dog, it is more common in American Pit Bull Terriers than average.
Fortunately, there are steps that owners can take to help prevent it. First, it’s important to feed your dog a nutritious diet and make sure they get plenty of exercise. Second, avoid letting your dog jump or run on hard surfaces, as this can put strain on their hips. Finally, have your dog’s hips checked by a veterinarian regularly, so that any problems can be detected early and treated accordingly.
3. Cardiomyopathy and Congenital Heart Defects
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure, and it is believed to be hereditary in American Pit Bull Terriers. Congenital heart defects are abnormalities of the heart that are present at birth, and they can also be hereditary. Both conditions can be serious and even life-threatening, so it is important for owners of Pit Bulls to be aware of the risks.
Some defects are minor and require no treatment, while others can be life-threatening. While there are treatments available, dogs with congenital heart defects often require lifelong medical care.
Pit Bulls are also prone to a condition called dermatosis, which causes the development of scaly patches on the skin. In severe cases, dermatosis can lead to hair loss and painful lesions. While the exact cause of dermatosis is unknown, it is thought to be genetic in nature.
Treatment for dermatosis typically involves a combination of topical medications and dietary supplements. With proper care, most dogs with dermatosis can enjoy a good quality of life. However, the condition can be difficult to manage, and it may require lifelong treatment.
Mange is a skin condition that is caused by mites. It is a very contagious condition that can affect all canines, but it is particularly common in American Pit Bull Terriers. The symptoms of mange include itching, hair loss, and red, inflamed skin.
If left untreated, mange can cause serious health problems, including secondary infections. However, there are treatments available that can help to control the mites and relieve the symptoms of mange. With prompt treatment, most dogs make a full recovery.
6. Torn Cranial Cruciate Ligament
Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) injury is a common orthopedic problem in American Pit Bull Terriers. The CCL (equivalent to a human ACL) is a strong band of connective tissue that stabilizes the knee joint. When the CCL is damaged, the knee joint becomes unstable and can cause pain, lameness, and instability.
A torn CCL can happen due to acute trauma or simple wear and tear over time. If left untreated, the condition can lead to arthritis and other complications. Surgery is often necessary to repair the ligament and improve the dog’s quality of life. Thankfully, after recovering from surgery, most dogs return to their normal life.
My own Labrabull (Labrador Retriever Pit Bull mix) underwent surgery to fix her CCL. Surgery and recovery weren’t fun, but 3 months later she was running around better than before.
7. Hyperuricosuria (HU) and Bladder Stones
American Pit Bull Terriers are susceptible to a condition called hyperuricosuria, which causes an excessive amount of uric acid to be produced in the urine. This can lead to bladder stones and other health problems.
The good news is that hyperuricosuria can be controlled through diet and medication. Most dogs with hyperuricosuria can live normal, healthy lives. If you think your dog may have this condition, talk to your veterinarian about the best course of treatment.
Although hypothyroidism is a relatively common condition in dogs, it is often underdiagnosed. The condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. American Pit Bull Terriers are particularly prone to the condition, which can cause a wide range of symptoms, including weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, and reproductive problems.
Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for managing the condition and maintaining the dog’s quality of life. Fortunately, there are now a few effective treatment options available, so if you think your Pit Bull may be affected, be sure to talk to your veterinarian.
9. Dental Disease
Dental disease is a common problem in American Pit Bull Terriers. The build-up of plaque and tartar on their teeth can lead to gum inflammation, tooth loss, and other health problems.
There are steps that owners can take to help prevent dental disease in their dogs. First, it is important to brush their teeth on a regular basis. This will help to remove plaque and prevent it from hardening into tartar.
Secondly, owners should provide their dogs with chew toys and bones that help to keep their teeth clean and healthy. Finally, regular dental check-ups by a veterinarian can help to identify any problems early on and keep them from becoming more serious.
10. Cerebellar Ataxia
Some American Pit Bull Terriers are affected by a condition called cerebellar ataxia. This condition is caused by a degeneration of the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for coordination and balance. Affected dogs often have difficulty walking and may appear to be unsteady on their feet. In some cases, they may also have trouble with basic tasks such as eating and drinking.
While there is no cure for cerebellar ataxia, affected dogs can live long and happy lives with proper care and management. With regular exercise and a healthy diet, they can maintain their strength and coordination.
11. Chronic Ear Infections
Chronic ear infections are one of the most common health problems seen in American Pit Bull Terriers. If left untreated, ear infections can lead to serious health problems, including deafness.
Treatment for chronic ear infections typically includes a combination of medications, such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove infected tissue from the ear canal. With prompt and proper treatment, most dogs with chronic ear infections can enjoy a good quality of life.
Ichthyosis is a dry, scaly skin condition that can be found in a variety of dog breeds, including American Pit Bull Terriers. The condition is caused by an overproduction of keratin, the protein that makes up the outermost layer of skin.
There is no cure for Ichthyosis, but affected dogs can be treated with special shampoos and moisturizers. In severe cases, oral medication may also be necessary.
13. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
American Pit Bull Terriers are affected by Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a condition that leads to blindness, more than most other dog breeds. PRA occurs when the cells in the retina slowly degenerate, causing the dog to lose its sight.
There is no cure for PRA, but there are treatments available that can help to delay the onset of blindness and extend the dog’s life. If you have a Pit Bull, it is important to be aware of the risks of PRA and to talk to your veterinarian about treatment options.
14. Cleft Lip
American Pit Bull Terriers are more likely to be born with a cleft lip than other dogs. This congenital defect occurs when the sides of the lip fail to fuse together properly during development, resulting in an opening in the upper lip. While cleft lip is considered a cosmetic defect, it can cause problems with eating and drinking, and may also lead to respiratory infections.
Luckily, there are treatment options available to dogs with cleft lip. Surgery is the most common option, and can often close the opening in the lip. If surgery is not performed, many dogs with cleft lip will require lifelong care, including regular cleaning of the affected area and special diets.
American Pit Bull Terrier Health Concerns Final Thoughts
While Pit Bulls often get a bad name, they can actually make great family pets. If you are thinking about adopting an American Pit Bull Terrier, don’t let the above health concerns stop you. Just be aware of them, so you can communicate with the veterinarian if any health problems do pop up.