Staffies are sturdy by their nature. These muscular dogs are considered to be healthy and robust, but even the toughest dogs can have health problems. Like other dog breeds, Staffies have their own common health problems, and even some hereditary problems that can develop. You should always be aware of the most common Staffy health problems, whether you already own a Staffie or are just considering getting one.
The good news is that Staffordshire Bull Terriers have relatively few hereditary problems. Today we’ll be looking at some of the most common Staffy health problems and how to help your dog when they appear.
Staffy Health problems
So lets take a quick look at some of the main Staffy health issues and their symptoms.
Canine Hip Dysplasia
Canine hip dysplasia, or just “CHD”, is a health problem that affects the hip joint of your dog. The problem develops as a malformation of the ball at the top of their leg and the hip socket.
Basically, the ball and socket joint in the dog don’t align properly. This leads to grinding and rubbing inside of the hip joint. This grinding builds up over time and could lead to permanent damage and impaired movement.
The symptoms of CHD can vary and they may disappear and reappear, making them difficult to track. Here are some signs to look for;
- Abnormal walking style
- Difficulty standing up
- Muscle loss in the hind legs – caused by under-use
- Muscle gains in the front legs – caused by over-use
- Grinding/clicking from the dog’s hips when they move
The best way to prevent CHD is to take good care of your dog when they are a puppy. This is a vital stage of their development, so don’t subject them to heavy exercises during this time. Don’t let them jump around too much, stand on their hind legs, or jump up to – and down from – heights.
8% of Staffies carry the gene that causes hereditary cataracts. Puppies are born with cataracts if both of their parents have the gene responsible. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to see the condition at birth. It will generally manifest after around eight weeks. Cataracts are a progressive disorder, so if you don’t get the problem treated early your dog can go blind within 2 – 4 years.
The symptoms of cataracts include vision problems (such as being unable to properly judge distances and constantly bumping into things) and a film over your Staffy’s eyes that cause cloudy-looking pupils.
Given that cataracts are a hereditary condition, it should be prevented during the breeding stage. The good news is that it’s not difficult. All you have to do is ensure that you don’t breed two dogs that have the gene responsible for cataracts. A quick and simple DNA test can reveal if the breeding dogs have these genes or not.
Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV)
Another genetic eye problem that Staffies are genetically predisposed to is PHPV. The good news is that the condition isn’t progressive. It doesn’t get worse over time like cataracts do. Even so, PHPV can still cause a lot of discomfort for your furry friend depending on how serious the case is.
The symptoms of PHPV are unfortunately difficult to spot, especially with a puppy. The main symptom is impaired vision, which presents as bumping into things or being unable to judge distances
Consider getting your puppy screened by a veterinarian when they reach four weeks old to test for PHPV. If your dog has the condition, the vet will be able to determine the right course of treatment. Given that PHPV doesn’t get worse, it may be fine to leave it untreated.
Follicular Dysplasia of the Coat
A follicular dysplasia is basically caused by abnormalities in the structure of your dog’s hair. The issue is considered to be a hereditary problem. Staffies in particular seem to be genetically predisposed to cyclic follicular dysplasia, which is a seasonal variation of the disorder.
As the name suggests, there will be times of the year where their hair will appear thinner than usual. Seasonal dysplasia sets in around early spring, causing thin hair along the dog’s flanks. The hair generally grows back in around six months, but treatments can be used to speed up this regrowth.
The good news is that follicular dysplasia is primarily an aesthetic issue. It doesn’t really cause any discomfort for your dog. It can become a problem however if their lack of hair causes sunburns or infections. Keep a close eye on your Staffy to make sure they aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk.
L-2 Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria (L-2HGA)
L-2HGA is a neurometabolic disorder that can affect the nervous system of your Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As with cataracts, a puppy will only develop this condition if both of their parents carry the gene responsible for L-2HGA.
The condition causes seizures, tremors, and muscle stiffness during exercise and other activities that excite dogs and stimulate them.
The symptoms of L-2HGA include;
- Dizziness and disorientation
These symptoms commonly present within six months to a year but they could develop later in life.
As with most genetic conditions, L-2 Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria can only be prevented by testing breeding dogs. Breeders have to ensure that both their dogs are tested before they are bred together.
If you believe your Staffy might have the condition, you can have a DNA test done to confirm these suspicions. If your dog does indeed have L-2HGA, you can take the necessary measures to give them the best possible quality of life.
When it comes to common health problems for Staffordshire Bull Terriers, the main culprits are genetic disorders like cataracts and L-2GHA. These conditions are best prevented during the breeding stage through simple DNA testing.
If you have any problems with your Staffy or are worried about their health, don’t hesitate to get them checked out by a vet. It’s much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to health, especially pet health.