Astounding Ways of Knowing Your Bull Terriers (Fast)
ACCIDENTS, AILMENTS AND DISEASES
‘I’ve just got to put up with this until I’m better!’
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a very healthy dog. Properly fed, well exercised and carefully looked after, he can be expected to live a long and active life, largely free from ailments and diseases. Nevertheless, accidents do happen, and there may be times when your Stafford falls ill. Knowing how best to react is of great importance to any owner. It is not always necessary to seek expert assistance: in the case of minor illnesses and injuries your dog can be looked after at home simply by applying common-sense care. For this purpose you should have in your home a canine first aid kit. For anything more serious, go to your vet. A good vet can be an owner’s best friend in an emergency. It helps if you choose a surgery that has experience in treating Staffords, with their particularly high degree of pain tolerance. Always make sure the surgery’s telephone number is at hand, but don’t call out of normal practice hours unless it is an emergency.
FIRST AID KIT
An easily accessible first aid kit is an important item to have at home. It should contain the following items:
Antiseptic liquid or cream
Milk of magnesia
Ready cut gauze
Antibiotic skin ointment
First aid kits can be purchased from commercial pet suppliers. An additional kit kept in the family car is also worth considering.
Eye screening a puppy for PHPV/PPSC as per current guidelines.
When an accident happens, the aims of first responders must be to prevent unnecessary suffering, to prevent further injury and perhaps even simply to keep the victim alive. Try to keep calm. Panicking or rushing into inappropriate action will not help the situation at all. Contact a vet, and explain the problem as clearly as possible. They will tell you what to do and despatch professional help. It helps to know how to move or lift a badly injured dog.
A car accident didn’t stop this dog having a long and happy life!
All of the following situations can be life-threatening and should be classed as an emergency:
Excessive loss of blood
Severe burning or scalding
DISEASES AND AILMENTS
Abscess An abscess can occur on any part of the dog’s body. It shows as a shiny swelling under the skin, and is full of pus. In serious cases the dog’s temperature may be raised. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Acne Skin inflammation that shows up in an eruption of pimples usually on the bridge of the nose or on the under-belly. The pimples will eventually burst, discharging a sticky pus, and turn into scabs. The dog will constantly scratch at the area; it is not necessarily painful, but will be irritating. Veterinary attention should be sought
Anaemia If you suspect anaemia, contact your vet as soon as possible. The correct pigmentation of the nose, lips and tongue will be absent, and the dog’s appetite may deteriorate, with a noticeable loss of condition. He may also lose his enthusiasm for exercise or play. Your vet will take a blood sample for analysis, which will indicate the correct remedy.
Anal disorders Blocked anal glands will need to be squeezed out by a vet. Without proper attention, blocked glands can lead to painful anal abscesses. A dog that ‘scoots’ along the ground, or twists round on himself, may have blocked glands and veterinary attention should be sought.
Arthritis A very painful degenerative condition in which the joints suffer damage. The dog should be kept active and mobile, and his weight must be controlled. Anti-inflammatory medicines prescribed by a vet can do much to relieve the pain and discomfort.
Asthma This complaint is usually associated with older or obese Staffords. Signs are shortness of breath, wheezy breathing and short, dry coughing. The heart can be affected by this condition. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Aural haematoma A swelling of the ear flap caused by internal bleeding. An affected dog will continuously shake his head and kick at the affected ear with his back leg. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Bad breath This is unpleasant and needs to be dealt with. It may be caused by poor mouth hygiene or a stomach disorder. Poor care of the teeth and gums can cause bad breath. Teeth cleaning solutions are readily available and your vet can advise you.
Bee and wasp stings Bee stings can be very dangerous for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. They cause great pain and may even result in a state of shock. In severe cases urgent veterinary attention may be required. In the first instance treat with aspirin to help ease the pain and apply TCP or a similar solution (available from pharmacies) to the sting to assist in reducing the swelling.
Staffords tend to snap at wasps in flight during the summer months and can get badly stung on the mouth, tongue and nose. This can cause a lot of pain, and can be dangerous if swelling occurs. At the end of the summer it is not unusual for a Stafford to tread on a drowsy wasp on the ground and get stung on his feet. TCP should be immediately swabbed onto the sting to help reduce the swelling, or the affected foot can be immersed in a bowl containing the same liquid.
Bilious attacks The signs of a bilious attack are vomiting, nausea and general debility. If the dog’s temperature is lowered, then veterinary attention should be sought immediately. If the temperature is normal, the dog can be looked after at home. Withhold food, and keep him warm and quiet. As he recovers, change to a very light diet until he returns to normal health.
Bites A severely bitten dog should be taken to the vet without delay. Minor wounds can be treated with iodine or TCP solutions.
Bronchitis This tends to affect older dogs. A persistent irritation or infection causes a cough to develop, which will eventually become constant. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Burns and scalds In the event of a burn or scald, apply a cold compress and seek veterinary attention. Burns can be caused not only by fires and spillages of hot fat and so on, but also by chemical or electrical sources. All require immediate treatment by a vet.
Canker This condition affects the ears. It is painful and very irritating, and an affected dog will constantly shake his head. He may also hold his head to one side. Generally canker occurs when the ear channel becomes blocked with a dark brown waxy substance that may produce an obnoxious discharge. Ear drops can cure the problem, and the ear must be gently cleaned. This type of discharge may also be caused by ear mites. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Cataracts This problem mainly occurs in older Staffords and can affect one or both eyes. The eye appears opaque and greyish. Cataracts will eventually cause blindness, but surgery can be successful. See alsoHereditary cataracts.
Choking Choking can quickly result in death unless immediate action is taken to remove the offending article from the dog’s throat. If the article can be seen, try to hook it out with a finger. You may be bitten, but you may just save the dog’s life. As Staffords have such powerful jaws, pay close attention to what they are allowed to play with. Avoid giving them cheap, destructible toys, bones and large lumps of gristly meat, and try to keep children’s toys out of reach.
Cleft palate This is a congenital deformity (present at birth). Instead of being flat, the roof of the mouth (palate) is open (cleft). The puppy will be unable to form a vacuum in his mouth, and thus will not be able to suckle properly. Any milk he takes in will bubble out through his nostrils. Although surgery has been known to be successful, the best option is probably to have the puppy put to sleep to prevent further suffering. See alsoHare lip.
Collapse A collapsed dog must be laid gently on his right side and kept warm. Veterinary attention must be sought immediately. If the dog is unconscious, do not attempt to administer anything orally, but ensure his tongue is pulled gently forward and cannot fall to the back of his throat.
Conjunctivitis This is a disease affecting the eyes and is occasionally found in Staffordshire Bull Terriers. There is an irritating discharge and the whites of the eyes appear red and inflamed. Possible causes include viruses, bacteria, chemicals and foreign bodies. It is not necessarily a serious condition but it is always best to seek veterinary advice.
Constipation This can be very stressful for a dog and must be fully investigated to determine the cause. Incorrect diet is often the reason but there may be an internal obstruction. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Cystitis An inflammation of the bladder, more commonly found in bitches. Signs include increased frequency of urination, straining and even sometimes blood in the urine. Encourage the dog to drink as much as possible to help flush out the discomfort. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics.
Cysts Interdigital cysts are very painful, inflamed swellings which develop between the dog’s toes and can cause lameness. Such cysts may result from a deep bacterial infection, or from damage to the skin, either through a specific injury such as grass seed penetration or possibly even through walking on salt-covered roads in winter. Daily bathing of the affected paw in warm water containing a mild disinfectant may help to bring the cyst to a head and burst. If the condition persists, veterinary attention should be sought.
Dandruff Dogs occasionally produce dandruff due to the constant shedding of old skin. Regular daily grooming will eliminate the problem.
Demodectic mange This is caused by parasitic mites that are passed from a bitch to her newborn puppies and results in patches of hair loss. It can be difficult to treat in severe cases. Some Stafford puppies suffer from patchy hair loss while they are teething. This is sometimes misdiagnosed as demodectic mange, but it almost inevitably clears up completely once the adult teeth have come through.
Dental tartar Left untreated, plaque on the teeth may cause various unpleasant problems, such as gum irritation, gum recession, pain and bad breath, and can ultimately lead to loss of teeth. Regular tooth brushing and hard chews will help, as will a good healthy diet.
Dermatitis Inflammation and irritation of the skin, causing itching and pus-filled lesions. Veterinary attention should be sought. Treatment involves the application of antiseptic creams that must be prescribed by a vet.
Diabetes The most common form of diabetes in dogs is sugar diabetes (diabetes mellitus). The pancreas manufactures insulin, which controls sugar levels. If insufficient insulin is produced, then sugar levels in blood and urine rise. Signs include increased thirst, weight loss, lethargy and the passing of large quantities of urine. Without treatment to regulate his sugar levels, a dog may go into a diabetic coma. Veterinary attention must be sought.
Diarrhoea Often caused by no more than a mild bowel infection, diarrhoea can also result from a change of diet imposed too rapidly. If the problem persists for more than two or three days, veterinary attention should be sought.
Distemper (hard-pad) A contagious and highly infectious serious illness with no known cure, it affects a dog’s respiratory and nervous systems. This killer disease has been brought under control with the use of vaccines. A puppy’s initial injections protect him from it.
Eclampsia Most at risk are bitches with large litters of puppies, and the condition results from the sudden deficiency of calcium in the blood due to heavy demands from the puppies for large amounts of milk. Signs include loss of balance on rising, a changed expression and increasing unsteadiness. If you suspect eclampsia, call the vet immediately. A large dose of calcium will soon have the bitch back on her feet, and after a rest she will be able to return to feeding her puppies. She may require a further dose a few hours later, and her condition during this period should be closely monitored. The puppies during this time will probably need a supplementary feed of lactol, as advised by the vet.
Electrocution If a dog chews through an electric cable and is electrocuted, DO NOT TOUCH HIM UNTIL THE POWER IS TURNED OFF. If he is not breathing, begin artificial respiration. Keep him warm and contact the vet for advice.
Entropion An inherited condition of the eye in which the edge of the eyelid rolls inwards so that the lashes rub against the surface of the eye. This will cause tears, irritation and soreness. Surgery will solve the problem.
Epilepsy An epileptic fit comes on suddenly and without warning. The affected dog will fall to the ground and thrash around uncontrollably. He may urinate and defecate. There is little that can be done to assist, other than to keep him as comfortable as possible and hold his tongue forward so that it doesn’t block his airway. Most dogs recover after a short time and return to normality without appearing to suffer any side-effects. There is no cure for epilepsy in dogs and further attacks are likely to occur in the future. Veterinary attention must be sought.
Flatulence This is almost always diet-related, and can be cured by adjusting the diet to one that is highly digestible and produces less waste. The addition of bran to the food will often help.
Foreign bodies Thorns, splinters and grass seeds can become lodged in the pad of a dog, causing lameness and pain. It is usually a fairly easy task to examine the pad and gently remove the offending object. Treat the entry point with antiseptic.
Gastro-enteritis Inflammation of the stomach is a most unpleasant and painful complaint, which can become very serious if left untreated. An affected dog will vomit up a great deal of thick mucus-like froth. Blood-flecked diarrhoea can also be expected, and there may be dark blood in the stools. Veterinary attention must be sought. The dog should be given a light milky diet to assist recovery.
Hare Lip This is a congenital fault occasionally seen in new-born puppies. Instead of the two halves of the upper lip being joined together, there is an open split which prevents effective suckling. Surgery is required to correct the deformity. See alsoCleft palate.
Heart diseases Any indications of heart problems, such as excessive panting and coughing, an intolerance of exercise and general weakness, should be investigated.
Heartworm disease This disease is spread by mosquitos and is currently far more prevalent in the United States than in Britain, but the increasing incidence of cases is causing concern. An affected dog will have the worms in the heart and the blood vessels of the lungs. Failure to treat the problem can result in a decline in health, leading to heart failure and death. Watch out for excessive tiredness, a lack of enthusiasm for exercise and deep coughing. A concerned owner should immediately consult a vet.
Heat stroke This should be regarded as an emergency and treated without delay. It occurs in hot weather, with the victim showing deep distress, excessive panting and possible collapse, leading in extreme cases to rapid death. Run cold water gently over his body or place him in a shallow cold bath until his temperature returns to normal. Offer him a drink of water containing salt (a teaspoon of salt to half a litre of water) and treat for shock if necessary.
Prevention is always better than cure! Use common sense and keep your Stafford out of the sun on hot days. Dogs can only perspire through the mouth and the pads of the paws. They cannot tolerate being left in a car on a hot day and if not rescued can quickly collapse and possibly die.
Hepatitis-Canine An infectious and acute liver infection that is potentially fatal. Dogs that recover from hepatitis can still pass on the infection in their urine for many months afterwards. The puppy’s initial vaccinations protect against this lethal and debilitating disease.
Hereditary cataracts (HC) This is an inherited gene mutation that causes progressive blindness in both eyes of a puppy soon after birth. The eyes of an affected puppy will appear normal when they open 10 to 12 days after birth. The cataracts will start to appear some weeks or even months later, and progressive deterioration to total blindness will occur during the next few years.
A puppy can only be affected if both parents are carriers of the disease, even if they themselves show no abnormality in their eyes. Thanks to the work of the Animal Health Trust in New-market, England, there is now a DNA test for hereditary cataracts. Each puppy tested will be categorized as ‘clear’, ‘carrier’ or ‘affected’. All results are recorded by the Kennel Club. In a litter born from ‘clear’ parents all the puppies will be ‘hereditary clear’ and will not require testing for the disease. A litter from one ‘clear’ parent and one ‘carrier’ will probably consist of some ‘clear’ puppies and some ‘carriers’. The whole litter will need to be tested. A decision will need to be made whether to breed from known ‘carriers’. Breeding from only ‘clear’ dogs is the most sensible way forward.
Hip dysplasia A condition affecting many breeds of dogs that results in pain, lameness and eventual arthritis. It is not common in Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but it does occasionally occur. Anyone thinking of buying a puppy is advised to check on the hip status of both parents. X-rays show the extent of any problem, and a resulting score is awarded by a specialist. Responsible breeders will be able to tell you the hip scores of their dogs.
Indigestion A minor problem often caused by over-eating or by eating unsuitable foods. Do not feed the affected dog for a few hours, and then offer light, suitable meals until the problem is resolved.
Kennel cough A highly contagious disease that is spread by droplets and usually affects dogs housed together, as in boarding kennels and at dog shows. An affected dog will produce a dry and hacking cough, often accompanied by an unpleasant discharge from nose and eyes. An incubation period of seven days is usual. Rest and antibiotics are usually prescribed to clear up the disease.
L2HGA (Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria) This is a most uncommon disease in Staffordshire Bull Terriers but it has been linked with certain blood-lines. It is recessively inherited (both parents must be carriers of the recessive gene to produce affected puppies). The symptoms are alarming. An affected dog will display serious behavioural changes. Seizures, dementia, unsteady gait, anxiety attacks, muscular stiffness and tremors can all affect a sufferer. Fortunately, as with hereditary cataracts, a genetic test has been determined that can identify carriers of the faulty gene. No responsible breeder should breed from parents which have not been tested and identified as ‘clear’, unless they are registered as ‘hereditary clear’ in Kennel Club documentation.
Leptospirosis A bacterial disease that affects the liver and kidneys. It can be passed on via urine from an infected animal, and living in an environment inhabited by rats, foxes and other forms of wildlife can promote the possibility of infection. The initial puppy vaccinations include the necessary protection from this disease.
Lumps and bumps Most dogs will suffer from lumps and bumps developing on the surface of the skin at some time. Any cysts, abscesses or raised protrusions should be closely watched. If they persist or grow larger, surgery may become necessary to remove them. In the older dog it is probably best to leave them alone unless they are causing obvious illness or discomfort.
Mastitis An infection of the mammary glands that sometimes occurs in lactating bitches. The glands swell up and become hard and painful. Veterinary attention should be sought. In older unspayed bitches usually benign tumours may form. Because of the danger of malignancy, any lump should be considered for surgical removal to avoid the possibility of spreading to other organs.
Mouth tumours Tumours in the mouth can be malignant and rapidly spread to other organs. Signs may include difficulty in eating, bleeding from the mouth and bad breath. Veterinary attention should be sought.
Nose bleeds Bleeding from the nose can be caused by an impact with something, by violent sneezing or by ulceration of the linings within the nose. An ice pack applied to the nose is usually sufficient to stop the bleeding but if the problem persists you should consult a vet.
Obesity A Stafford should never be allowed to become overweight. The Kennel Club Breed Standard calls for an adult dog to weigh 28–38lb (13–17kg) and an adult bitch to weigh 24–34lb (11–15.4kg). The heavier the dog, the further he moves away from the concept of a ‘muscular, active and agile’ Stafford. Extra weight also places an extra burden upon the general well-being and health of the dog. Feeding the correct diet and taking sufficient exercise is the best action to take.
Parvovirus An acute and highly contagious viral infection that produces life-threatening illness. It is much more common in puppies than in adults. It causes vomiting, abdominal pain and blood-flecked diarrhoea, resulting in thin, weak and dehydrated puppies. It can kill within twenty-four hours of infection, so any affected dogs must be isolated from all other dogs to help prevent the spread of infection. Medication and fluids to replace losses are essential and must be given as soon as possible. Vaccination is essential. Protection for young puppies is included in their initial vaccinations.
Patella dislocation The patella is a small bone situated in front of the stifle and is the equivalent of a knee-cap in humans. A patella that slips in and out of place will cause a dog to hop and limp painfully. It is not a serious problem in Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but it is more likely to occur in a dog with straight stifles than in one with well bent stifles. It may occur in young Stafford puppies, but lessens in severity as they mature and build up muscles in the legs, and may disappear entirely as they become adult. A persistent progressive slipping of the patella that does not improve may require corrective surgery.
Perverted appetite Some dogs tend to eat their own stools or those of other dogs. Often they grow out of the habit but prevention is the best solution. Whenever possible, keep the offending dog away from areas that other dogs have utilized for their toilet, and always clean up after your own dog immediately. It may be provoked by a dietary deficiency.
PHPV (Persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous) This is a progressive congenital disease that is present at birth. It can be detected by ophthalmic screening from the age of six weeks. The condition will not improve, and in severe cases can result in blindness. This is rare in Staffords.
Pneumonia An infection of the lungs most often caused by viruses and bacteria. The signs include laboured or rapid breathing, a raised temperature, coughing and a nasal discharge. Pneumonia is always dangerous and needs to be treated by a vet.
Poisoning Dogs can be poisoned by many substances. It is vital to contact a vet immediately with all the information you can find. Prompt action can save a dog’s life. Always follow the instructions given to you. Collect samples of any suspected materials or liquids for identification or analysis by the vet. If possible, retain a sample of any expelled vomit for analysis by the vet.
Pyometra This is a disease that affects the uterus of a bitch. Generally it occurs in older bitches but it can be found in younger bitches, whether or not they have had puppies. The cause is a hormone imbalance. In a bitch affected by pyometra, fluid and mucus will accumulate and build up. If bacteria then invade the uterus, this may lead to acute illness: the onset of pyometra. There are two types. In ‘open pyometra’ a bloodstained discharge is ejected that can be mistaken for a bitch coming into season unexpectedly. In ‘closed pyometra’ no discharge is present and the bitch is obviously ill. Pyometra can be fatal. Medical treatment is available but the recommendation is to have a hysterectomy, especially if a bitch is no longer breeding.
Rabies A viral disease sometimes known as hydrophobia. It is an acute infectious disease that can affect any warm-blooded animal, including humans. It is transferred by saliva, and can only be passed on by an infected animal’s bite. On entering the bloodstream, the virus attacks the victim’s nervous system and brain. Inflammation of the brain follows, bringing on horrendous symptoms which will eventually lead to death. There is no cure but vaccinations are available to prevent the disease.
Fortunately, due to stringent quarantine laws, the United Kingdom has been free of rabies for many years. The pet passport scheme now allows pets and show animals to move between Europe and the UK, with strict controls in place to ensure that all the required regulations – including rabies vaccinations – are fully complied with.
Ringworm A fungal infection of the hairs and skin that causes bald patches. Fortunately it is rare in Staffordshire Bull Terriers. If it is discovered in a dog, contact a vet immediately as it is easily transferable to people and especially children.
Snake bites The adder is only venomous snake to be found in the British Isles. Left untreated, the venom can prove fatal. The bite is particularly painful and a lot of swelling can be produced. A dog, especially if bitten on the head, will require immediate veterinary attention. Owners of Staffords living in country and heathland areas need to be aware that their dogs may be at risk of getting bitten when sniffing out an adder in undergrowth, or if they disturb one found basking on pathways.
Ticks Ticks can be picked up in parks, gardens and long grass, and during hot weather it is advisable to avoid woodland areas or moorland where sheep or cattle have been grazed. Ticks anchor themselves to the skin of a dog and use their mouthparts to suck blood, eventually swelling up to the size of a pea. If you find one on your dog, do not attempt to pull it off as you may not be able to remove the whole tick. Always seek expert advice regarding removal. Certain spot-on flea treatments will also kill ticks. Your vet will be able to advise you.