Astounding Ways of Knowing Your Bull Terriers (Fast)
HEALTH, WELFARE AND NUTRITION
So much energy!
The aim of all responsible Stafford owners must be to ensure soundness, good health and a long and happy life for their dogs. This aim should be the same for all Staffords, whether young or old, dog or bitch. This chapter will consider various aspects of health, welfare and nutrition.
When you take your puppy to the vet for the first time, there are four areas that should be discussed: vaccinations; microchipping (if not already done by the breeder); worming; and flea and tick treatments.
Various diseases, some of them with potentially very serious consequences, can affect your puppy so it is vital that you have him vaccinated as soon as possible after collection from the breeder. The first injections may already have been given by the breeder’s own vet, especially if you have bought a slightly older puppy, in which case you will be given an inoculation certificate to be handed to your own vet. A puppy must be fully immunized before being allowed out to make contact with other dogs outside the home. He must not be taken out for walks or allowed to sniff or play anywhere where other dogs have access until the vaccinations have been given time to take effect. This is usually a week or two after the second injection. After that time your puppy will be free to mix with other dogs and can be taken anywhere with you.
For the older dog, much depends on the information and any documentation that came with him. Your vet will determine any vaccinations that are necessary at the initial health appointment.
The initial vaccinations consist of modified forms of infection that do not cause illness in a dog but activate his immune system and stimulate the formation of antibodies. In this way they protect your Stafford against various lethal and debilitating contagious conditions, some of which are described below:
Visit to the vet for a health check.
Canine distemper is a contagious and highly infectious serious illness that affects the dog’s respiratory and nervous systems. There is no known cure but it is preventable by vaccination.
Canine hepatitis is a rapid-onset and potentially fatal liver infection. Dogs that recover from hepatitis can pass on the infection in their urine for many months afterwards.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that often affects the liver and kidneys. It is acquired through contact with urine passed by infected rats, foxes and other forms of wildlife. It can also be passed from dog to dog through infected urine.
Canine parvovirus is an acute and highly contagious viral infection that can be spread from dog to dog and results in a life-threatening illness. Much more common in puppies than in adult dogs, it can cause vomiting, abdominal pain and blood-flecked diarrhoea. Affected dogs quickly become thin, weak and dehydrated. This disease can kill a dog within twenty-four hours of infection.
Parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious respiratory condition associated with kennel cough – an unpleasant condition resulting in coughing and sneezing. Affected dogs should be kept well away from show grounds or any other public places until completely free of the condition. Initial vaccinations may now include protection against parainfluenza.
Vaccinations are essential for your Stafford. Some of the diseases they are vaccinated against are potentially life-threatening. Even if the dog survives, there may be irreparable damage to his vital organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys, and this may require long-term medical treatment. Whatever else you do, make sure you get your Stafford vaccinated! Your vet will be able to advise you about the frequency of booster vaccinations. Be aware that adverse effects may result from over-vaccination of your Stafford, so keep a record. This will also be useful if you need to place him in boarding kennels for whatever reason, as a current vaccination certificate will be required.
From April 2016 it will be compulsory for all puppies to be microchipped. It is absolutely essential that you have your Stafford microchipped, and your vet can do this for you if it has not already been done. Often it is done at the same time as the initial vaccinations. Always ensure you keep the microchip records safely filed.
The insertion of a single and permanent microchip implant into the fold of loose skin between the shoulder blades of the puppy is a simple process. The implant is about the size of a grain of rice, and the insertion is normally completed in a moment with the puppy remaining largely unaware of it. The microchip is designed to last for the dog’s lifetime and should remain permanently at the point of insertion. Each microchip has a unique identification number that can be read using detectors designed for the purpose; appropriate authorities and veterinary practices in all areas have such a reader. This will enable the owner of a lost dog to be quickly contacted.
On your initial health visit with your Stafford, take on board the advice of your veterinarian regarding a lifetime worming plan. All dogs have worms, with puppies being most at risk. Responsible breeders will have started worming their puppies at two weeks of age, with regular treatments being given until the puppies are sold. Worming should continue throughout the lifetime of your Stafford, whether puppy or older dog. Breeding bitches may have special requirements.
Roundworms are intestinal parasites and are common in dogs. They can grow very long and live on nutrients absorbed from the dog’s food. If infected, your dog will not thrive. Puppies can be infected with the larvae while still in their mother’s uterus, and can also take in larvae from their mother’s milk.
Tapeworms are large and very unpleasant. Sections of them can sometimes be detected in the faeces of infected dogs. They require an intermediate host such as raw meat or fleas to complete their life circle.
There should be no doubt of the seriousness of a worm infestation in your Stafford. Preventative treatment should be a top priority. Both roundworms and tapeworms must be catered for in any worming programme and an effective, safe, combined treatment will be available from your vet.
Pipette of flea/worming treatment.
FLEA AND TICK TREATMENTS
Most dogs will suffer from flea infestations at some times during their life. Fleas can be brought into your premises by your Stafford from just about anywhere and at any time of year. So flea treatment should go on all year round. Fleas and flea dirt can easily be detected in the short coat of a Stafford by parting areas of the fur and looking on the skin. There are many forms of treatment available to deal with the problem.
Ticks are most unpleasant and more seasonal than fleas. They can be picked up in long grass in parks and gardens. To help protect your dog, during hot weather try to avoid woodland areas or moorland where sheep or cattle have been grazed. Ticks anchor themselves to the skin and use their mouthparts to suck blood, eventually swelling up to the size of a pea. If you find a tick on your dog, do not attempt to pull it off. There are special tick removers that will remove them safely, but seek expert advice if you are not sure how to go about it.
There are certain spot-on preparations that will kill both fleas and ticks. Your vet will be able to advise you on their use at your initial appointment.
Fit, healthy and happy.
Observing and adopting all these recommendations will ensure an excellent start on the road to establishing a good and healthy relationship with a newly acquired Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but there is much more to consider. It is advisable to adopt a regular daily routine, adapting it to suit either an elderly dog or a young puppy at appropriate times. This will help to ensure that he thrives and remains sound and healthy. Your routine should cover the following points:
Appearance and behaviour. Check that your Stafford looks to be in sound and healthy condition. He should always be eager to play games and join in family activities and walks. Check for any obvious cause if he does not enthusiastically respond in the way you expect from him.
‘Look at my lovely teeth’. A young puppy.
Coat. Regularly observe the state of your Stafford’s coat. All dogs shed their coats and the Stafford is no exception. Such shedding should not be excessive, however, and there should be no evident signs of scurf. There will be a ‘doggy’ smell about his coat, but this is normal and in no way unpleasant. Certainly there should be no evidence of excessive irritation or scratching, which would require careful attention. A quick daily brushing with either a special brush or a glove designed for the purpose should be included in your routine. The coat of a Stafford should ‘gleam’ with health, and a good diet and correct exercise will help with this. Check for evidence of parasites such as fleas and treat as necessary.
Teeth. In a puppy, the transition from baby to adult or permanent teeth should be completed by the age of nine months. Adult teeth should be brushed and checked daily and any signs of plaque or tartar promptly dealt with. Left unchecked, tartar will build up on the teeth and will eventually lead to tooth decay, resulting in bad breath and discomfort for your dog. The teeth will become discoloured if not brushed regularly. Regular brushing will greatly help in maintaining your Stafford’s mouth in a healthy state throughout his whole life. It is not an easy task to get him to accept his teeth being brushed, but making it fun, with lots of praise and small rewards, will do much to help. Special brushes and dog toothpastes are available for the purpose. Persistence will pay off in helping to prevent unsightly and unhealthy mouth conditions. Dental chews are also available that will help with teeth cleaning. Cleaning the teeth is an important aspect of care and must not be neglected. Patience and regularity are the keys to success.
An older Stafford showing clean dentition.
Ears. Regular inspection of your Stafford’s ears is advised. The presence of a brown or smelly discharge should be dealt with promptly with a trip to the vet. Constant shaking of the head and scratching of the ears can indicate irritation that needs to be attended to. A daily check will help immensely.
Eyes should be bright and shiny.
Eyes and nose. A quick daily check is all that is necessary to see that the eyes are bright, clear and alert. Any weeping should be looked into to determine the cause of the problem. The nose should always be moist, cold and shiny. A warm dry nose often indicates illness.
Claws. The claws should not be broken, nor too long. Your Stafford should not suffer from over-long claws if he is regularly exercised over hard surfaces. The shorter the claws, the better for him, and ideally they should end at ground level. Should they need trimming, either through lack of correct exercise or ill health, be sure to use good-quality nail clippers. Your Stafford, with patience, will become used to regular trimming. Little and often is the recommendation, and only the very tip of each claw should be removed each time. The blood vessel to each claw runs through the nail, and if accidentally cut, it will bleed profusely and cause much pain. As the claw gets shorter, so the blood supply will recede and a little more can be cut. It may be a tedious procedure perhaps, but it is necessary if the claws have grown too long. The alternative is to ask your veterinary surgeon to do the job for you. Although it may be expensive, at least the job will be done properly.
The dew claws, which are located on the inside of the front pasterns, are best left alone but sometimes they curve and grow inwards, and may even penetrate the skin. In this case, your veterinary surgeon can advise you.
Garden play is exercise too.
Stools and Urination. Check daily that your Stafford performs his regular toilet functions as normally as possible. Stools should be passed regularly, and a correct diet should ensure no evidence of diarrhoea or constipation problems. Any evidence of blood in the urine should be investigated immediately to determine the cause. Male Staffords urinate more frequently than bitches in order to mark their territories. This is normal.
Weight. A close eye should be kept on your Stafford’s weight. He should be in fit and hard condition throughout his lifetime. Too many owners allow their Staffords to gain weight. This does not do them any favours, no matter how contented they may appear. The key to weight control lies in a correct diet, restricted snacks and treats and the proper amount of exercise.
Exercise. Your Stafford requires daily exercise. He will feel the full benefit of it, and so will you! There should be no reason to worry about over-exercising him. A fit and healthy adult Stafford will cheerfully go as far as you can manage.
Feeding. Feed your Stafford at regular times every day. The bewildering array of foods available will be discussed in the next section.
A correct and nutritious diet, combined with regular exercise, will do more than anything else to determine your Stafford’s health, fitness and general appearance. He should appear lean and muscular, and carry no excess weight. When you run your hands along the sides of an adult Stafford, you should be able to feel his ribs; if not, then he is too fat. Deliberately starving a Stafford in the mistaken belief that this will make him look lean and fit is cruel and cannot possibly be recommended. His health will deteriorate badly from such treatment. In the old days dogs would have been stripped down immediately prior to a fight in order to minimize their weight but such practices have no place in today’s world.
Good quality food is important for all Staffords, young and old.
Generally, throughout his adult life, as long as your Stafford looks well and healthy, there is no reason to change the chosen diet. Do bear in mind, however, that the better the diet, the better the dog. Certainly this applies to his overall health and general condition. Sometimes, however, it is a matter of trial and error to find a food that suits the dog to his own and your satisfaction. Hopefully, all will go right for the dog from the start. Usually this is so, as the Stafford is a very healthy and rugged breed. As your puppy grows and develops into an adult, you must be prepared to change the formulation of his diet. Likewise, for the sake of his health you must be ready to make changes to his diet as he ages, if he is suffering from certain illnesses or conditions, or if he becomes fat and has a weight maintenance problem.
A rapidly growing puppy requires a very different diet from an adult or elderly Stafford. You do not necessarily have to change a diet that has proved ideal for the puppy, but simply move on to the adult or senior formulations of the same diet as appropriate. Just as with humans, dogs’ nutritional requirements change at different stages of their life. For example, a young puppy will require a diet that will support his rapid growth, but such a diet would not meet the needs of an elderly dog. As a rough guide, a Stafford up to eighteen months of age should be fed puppy food, from eighteen months to seven years adult food and from seven years onwards senior food.
Fresh water must always be accessible.
Again as a rough guide, a young puppy should be fed four times daily until he reaches three months of age, when it can be reduced to three meals a day. At six months of age he should be fed on two larger meals, and at twelve months he should be fed as an adult on one main meal daily. There are many excellent ranges of quality dog foods available, and the appropriate quantities to feed will be displayed on the packaging.
A good quality diet is essential for a puppy but resist any temptation to over-feed him. This will be of no benefit to him and may even cause abnormal growth patterns. Advances in the science and modern technology of dog food has led to a growing belief that a young puppy – from as early as four weeks of age – can be put straight onto a ‘growth formula diet’.
An older dog, from the age of nine or ten years and onwards, has different requirements. Do make sure that his food is rich in high fibre and is highly palatable. It should contain increased amounts of fatty acids and vitamins, and a reduced amount of protein. A low-calorie diet will aid the conversion of body fat into energy. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you in choosing a low-calorie diet for your elderly Stafford.
Enjoying a healthy diet.
Always ensure there is plenty of fresh water available, not just at meal times. Do not give milk to an adult dog as he will not be able to properly digest the lactose contained in it. The digestive system of a newly born puppy is designed to digest his mother’s milk but this will progressively change as the puppy grows older.
A raw knuckle bone is a great treat.
As an aid to digestion, it may be helpful to divide the adult Stafford’s daily meal into two portions and feed him one in the morning and the other in the evening. Do not make the mistake of feeding over-large portions if you choose to feed your Stafford this way.
Should it become necessary for you to change your Stafford’s diet, do not introduce the new food all at once. This will usually result in an upset to his system or even a complete refusal to eat the new food. Gradual change over a period of a few days is the best way. The following pattern of change is to be recommended:
Days 1–2: 75 per cent of original diet/25 per cent of new diet.
Days 3–4: 50 per cent of original diet/50 per cent of new diet.
Days 5–6: 25 per cent of original diet/75 per cent of new diet.
Day 7 onwards: 100 per cent of new diet.
It is unusual for a healthy Stafford to be a fussy eater. There are exceptions, however, and if he is reluctant to take the new food, try feeding it as a treat by hand with lots of praise until he gets used to it. If your Stafford has been used to eating wet food and you change to a dry kibble-type food, always moisten it with some warm water until he is used to the new texture.
Complete dry dog food.
Whatever diet you consider best for your Staffordshire Bull Terrier, it is important to ensure it includes the correct balance of ingredients required to sustain him in optimum health and condition. There is a bewildering choice of foodstuffs available from which you can make your choice. You may also wish to choose alternative diet. Dogs are omnivorous, but a suitable diet for a Stafford should include substantial amounts of good-quality animal proteins and fats as this will best suit his digestive system. Try to avoid any foods containing a large proportion of carbohydrates.
The fundamental ingredients of any dog food will be listed on the packaging. They include:
Proteins. These organic compounds are an essential part of a dog’s food: indeed, without the inclusion of protein in his diet, your Stafford would not survive. A dog’s ability to digest protein varies; for example, he can absorb proteins more easily from meat or fish products than he can from vegetable sources. Feeding too high a level of vegetable protein can cause bowel upsets. If you choose to feed a vegetarian diet, your dog will require supplements such as Vitamin D.
Carbohydrates. These are energy-producing compounds. They include starches, cellulose and sugars. Fresh meat and fish do not contain carbohydrates, so if you have chosen a meat- or fish-based diet, be sure to include additions such as potatoes or rice to provide the necessary proportion of carbohydrate.
Fats. Fats are the best sources of energy. In the form of fatty acids, they are an essential part of a dog’s diet and play a vital role in his wellbeing. A deficiency can be the cause of health problems such as nervousness and skin disorders. Nearly all of the fat content in a dog’s food will be digested. With the high level of energy produced, he will not need to digest so much protein, which reduces the strain on his kidneys and liver.
Fibre. Sufficient roughage in the diet aids digestion and helps to reduce bowel disorders such as flatulence and diarrhoea. It can also aid the absorption of toxins – poisonous by-products of digestion – and thus can ease the strain on the dog’s liver. There are other advantages. For example, increasing the amount of fibre in the diet of an overweight Stafford will help to satisfy his appetite without increasing his weight. Fibre absorbs glucose and thus can help dogs with a diabetic condition.
Energy. This is expressed in the form of calories. Your Stafford should be fed in accordance with the amount of energy required for his breed. Younger, more active dogs will possess a faster metabolic rate than older or less active dogs and will therefore require food possessing a higher energy content. Adjustments also need to be made for a lactating or pregnant bitch or a dog suffering from illness.
Vitamins and minerals. The correct balance of vitamins and minerals in the diet is of vital importance, not only for the proper functioning of the body, but also for prevention of disease. Particularly important are the correct proportions of calcium and phosphate, both of which are crucial to overall development, strong bone formation and healthy teeth.
A fat Stafford is not a fit one. Overfeeding should be avoided at any time. Follow the feeding charts included on the packaging of all ready-prepared dog foods, which contain all the elements listed above in the correct proportion. Should you decide to feed your Stafford fresh or home-made food, you will need to ensure you are providing enough vitamins and minerals.
A minced raw diet, supplied frozen.
TYPES OF FOOD
Long gone are the days when an average adult Stafford’s diet consisted of a pound of cooked or fresh raw meat mixed with a handful of biscuit meal, supplemented with a few vitamins and minerals. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, but today there is much greater selection to choose from. Most of these foods are scientifically produced and nutritionally well balanced, providing the correct proportions of all the vital ingredients required to sustain a healthy and fit Stafford. Some can be fed without any additions whatsoever to the dog’s food.
‘Is it nearly dinner time?’
Complete dry foods in the form of kibbles. These are commercially produced and are the most popular choice for Staffords. They generally contain meat or fish, plus grains and vegetables. Supplied in convenient packaging, they do not smell offensive, are easy to store and are generally relatively economical. Purchase prices vary according to the quality of the ingredients. These are complete foods and do not require any additions. A good-quality complete dry food provides all the protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and trace elements a dog needs in a highly digestible form. Precise feeding charts are available for each stage of the dog’s lifetime. Many of these foods contain no artificial colouring, preservatives or flavourings, and no wheat, gluten or soya is included in their formulation.
Canned or wet foods. Another excellent choice, canned foods contain all the necessary nutritional requirements, including vitamins, minerals and trace elements, for a healthy Stafford. They are mainly meat-based, often combined with vegetables or corn products. They do contain a high percentage of water and once a can is opened, the contents need to be consumed before they lose their freshness. They are usually high-quality foods and tend to be more expensive than kibbles over a period of time. Dry dog biscuits are usually mixed with canned foods, and can assist in keeping a dog’s teeth clean.
All-meat canned foods need to be fed in large amounts to provide the necessary energy required. Without the addition of fortified mixers, they will result in an unbalanced and unhealthy diet.
Semi-moist foods. These are a popular method of feeding. They are highly concentrated and contain only a relatively low percentage of water, allowing for economical quantities to be fed at each meal. They are usually packaged in individual servings. Highly digestible and very palatable, these foods contain meat or fish, vegetables, cereals, fats, vitamins and minerals and provide everything necessary for a healthy and well balanced diet. They are gently cooked, which helps to retain natural vitamins.
Home prepared diets. For those with a sound knowledge of the requirements for a healthy diet, it is possible to formulate a healthy diet utilizing fresh ingredients to suit your dog. Provided the correct dietary requirements for a healthy Stafford are fully taken into consideration, there can be advantages to processing and cooking your own dog’s food. It is vital to ensure the required levels of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and trace elements are present to avoid any risk of your dog being deprived of some of the important nutrients. This is especially important for puppies, where any dietary deficiency can result in abnormal growth and can have a significant adverse impact on the puppy’s optimum development.
Unless prepared expertly, many homemade diets lack the necessary elements, often because the owners do not fully appreciate the correct balance of ingredients required. If you choose to make your own, it is recommended that you follow the expert advice given in the various recipe books available on the subject.
An increasingly popular example of a raw food diet is the ‘Barf’ diet, 60–80 per cent of which is made up of raw meaty bones containing about 50 per cent of the meat from, for example, chicken neck, back and wings. The remainder is made up from offal, meat, eggs, dairy foods, fruit and vegetables. As with any form of diet, there are arguments for and against diets such as ‘Barf’. Much depends on the dog’s acceptance or otherwise of the diet, although given that dogs evolved over countless years on a natural raw diet, it seems logical that such a diet is an available option.
Frozen. Packaged in loaf form, these contain a very high percentage of meat ingredients. They are most palatable but do need to be supplemented with good-quality dog mixer biscuits to ensure a well balanced diet.
Leftovers. Leftover food from the dinner table has no place in the feeding of your Stafford, particularly not for developing puppies. It can cause a nutritional imbalance, potential development issues and a tendency towards unwanted weight gain. If you give your young Stafford titbits he will soon learn to be present whenever food is about. Resist his appeals!
Raw meat and biscuit. This was a popular type of diet in the days before the availability of modern scientifically prepared foods, but it required additives and supplements to provide all the elements of a balanced diet. If you choose to adopt such a diet, take care not to give your dog too many vitamins as this can cause damage to his bones and joints.
Organic diets. Some dog food manufacturers now supply organic foods. Mostly in dry form, they contain organically raised meat and organically grown maize, vegetables and rice. All organic dog food must carry a label of certification on the packaging.
Bones. A good meaty bone will give your Stafford many hours of enjoyment and provide a great way to exercise his jaws and clean his teeth. Avoid chicken bones and any cooked bones that may splinter in his powerful jaws. If bone splinters are swallowed they can cause severe internal damage, often resulting in an expensive operation. The best choices are large knuckles or marrow bones. The latter will also provide your dog with vitamins and calcium from the marrow.
Finally, do not be tempted to continuously change the diet of your Staffordshire Bull Terrier in a determined quest to ensure you are giving him the best. If he is strong, healthy and happy with his diet, then just leave him alone to enjoy it.