Pitbulls are generally very healthy and sturdy dogs that are known for their immense loyalty, tenacity and ready affection. However, some individual Pitbulls can be genetically predisposed to certain illnesses and health problems. Common Pitbull disorders include hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, deafness, congenital heart defects, bloat and cataracts.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic hip deformity that can be passed from one generation of Pitbulls to the next. It can affect one or both hips and can be painful and debilitating to the point that it limits the dog’s mobility. Surgery for this condition is very expensive, and hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis later in a dog’s life. Pitbulls are also prone to get elbow dysplasia which has similar repercussions.
SEE ALSO: How To Train Pit Bull Puppies
One of the more common genetic health issues for pitbulls is allergies including seasonal allergies, grass and dust allergies and sometimes even an allergy to fleas. This can result in itchy, bumpy skin rashes and can cause the dog to scratch so vigorously that it results in serious skin infections. Feeding the Pitbull a high quality diet and using skin moisturizers will often help. Medication can be taken for more severe allergies.
Deafness is another genetic predisposition of Pitbulls. Some of these dogs are born deaf, and many become deaf after a serious ear infection which can also be common in Pitbulls. Oftentimes, when owners don’t know their dog is deaf, they assume it’s misbehaving or ignoring their commands, often resulting in Pitbull abuse. It’s important for owners to have their Pitbull tested if they have any inclination that their dog might be deaf.
Some Pitbulls are afflicted with congenital heart disease which is present from birth. When this is present, the dog is born with a very narrow connection between the heart and the aorta which can cause symptoms as mild as a heart murmur and as severe as sudden death. This abnormality can be detected with a simple x-ray or electrocardiogram. Dogs with a mild abnormality can live a normal and healthy life, but those with more severe defects will probably require surgery. If the congenital heart disease is serious enough, often dogs do not live past the first year.
Another disorder common to Pitbulls is stomach bloat and torsion. This can strike very quickly and requires immediate surgery. The stomach actually twists in on itself and cuts off blood flow, causing severe pain and sometimes death. Because it can happen without warning, Pitbull owners are encouraged to watch for general signs of pain, dry heaving, drooling and pale lips and gums. The dog may also pace and become overly restless. Once a Pitbull experiences this stomach torsion, it is highly likely to occur again. Therefore, during surgery, the dog’s stomach is often tacked to prevent recurrence. Stomach tacking is sometimes done as a preventative measure even in Pitbulls that have not experienced bloat and torsion.
Lastly, Pitbulls are prone to congenital cataracts which are similar to cataracts in humans. The eyes become cloudy and unable to translate light to the retina efficiently. Most often, Pitbulls do not advance to blindness, and their cataracts are easily treated with surgery.
In general, Pitbulls are incredibly healthy dogs. Like other breeds, they do have some diseases and health issues passed down genetically. Many of these health problems can be tested for before or shortly after birth, and the likelihood of treatment and cure is high.