Health is a topic you need to address first when considering buying a Stafordshire Bull Terrier. Many are not even aware of the possible problems, to be honest – we were not either when buying our first Stafford. But we were lucky to get healthy dogs and later meet the right people who steered us in the right direction. Today, all our dogs are fully health tested, with a good result of locomotor tests and negative results for breed specific genetic diseases.
Stafford Bull Terriers are, in general, healthy dogs with a long lifespan (15 years, more or less), but compared to some other terriers (Jack Russells for example), they can be described as a slightly more sensitive breed.
The disorders described herein are possible, but are NOT COMMON in the breed.
Two absolutely mandatory tests are genetic tests – L2HGA and HC. Most surely you wish to have your dog for many many years, and you wish him health in his life. If so, make sure your dog is clear of these disorders.
L-2-HYDROXYGLUTARIC ACID / L2HGA is an inherited neurometabolic disorder caused by deficiencies in the breakdown of L-2-hydroxyglutaric acid, elevated levels of which are found in urine, plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder.
Dogs that get sick often have to be euthanized at an early age, and even those mildly affected will never behave like a “normal dog.” It is now known that L-2-HGA is transmitted by an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. A simple DNA test, using a small sample of dog saliva or blood, is now sufficient to identify carriers, unaffected, and diseased dogs. .
The carrier dog has one copy of the mutated gene, but it does not in itself show signs of disease. A sick dog has two mutated copies of the gene and develops L2HGA, while an uninfected or healthy dog has two normal genes. A sick dog, if bred with a carrier dog, will produce an average of one diseased puppy, two disease carriers, and one healthy puppy in a litter of four puppies.
Today, with a simple DNA test, breeders can test their dogs for breeding, and according to the results, breed them correctly.
Some research has observed that, on average (late 2006), about 15% of Stafford in the United States are carriers of L2HGA, so it is of great importance that all breeders do a DNA test of breeding dogs on this genetic mutation.
HEREDITARY CATARACT (HC): is a clouding of the lens of the eye caused by the breakdown of tissue in the eyes. This condition generally results in the inability of the dog to see clearly and can cause complete blindness.
In dogs, cataracts are often genetically caused; this type is known as hereditary cataract. A mutation in the HSF4 gene causes this type of cataract in several breeds of dogs. In this case, the dog becomes ill and both eyes are affected by cataracts. Cataracts associated with HSF4 can also occur in the back of the eye lens. It usually begins as a small blur that grows progressively, although the growth rate is highly variable. Some barbells will grow so slowly that the dog’s vision remains relatively clear, while others will develop so that the dog goes blind quickly. Corrective surgery is possible, although it is expensive and not always effective. As with L2HGA, a dog can be healthy (not a carrier), a carrier or affected (sick), tests are also available and extremely important for the breed.
More information about HC can be found here.
The mode of inheritance of PHPV is not entirely clear, but it is known that it is a congenital condition (present at birth) and that the disease is not progressive. This means that if a puppy is born with PHPV, it can be detected by an ophthalmologic examination at 6 weeks of age and if affected, regardless of the condition of the problem at that stage, it will not change during the life of the dog.
HIP DYPLASIA is an abnormal formation of the hip head which, in its more severe form, can cause lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. The cause is a genetic (polygenic) predisposition that is influenced by environmental factors. It is common in many breeds of dogs, especially larger ones, and is the most common unique cause of arthritis in the hips. Hip dysplasia can be caused by a lower leg that does not enter the pelvic groove properly, or poorly developed muscles in the pelvic area. Large and giant breeds are most susceptible to hip dysplasia (perhaps due to the body mass index (BMI) of an individual animal), although many other breeds may suffer from it.
According to the latest statistics from the American Kennel Club (2006), of the 379 Staffords assessed using hip X-rays, 16.2% were rated as unsatisfactory (dysplastic), and 80.2% were rated as normal. The causes of hip dysplasia are considered hereditary, but new research convincingly suggests that the environment also plays a role. How much is genetic causation and how much environmental impact is the topic of current debate. However, if both parents have normal hips, there is a reduced chance that one or more puppies in the litter will later show dysplasia.
More information on hip dysplasia can be found here.
Elbow dysplasia in dogs (ED) is a condition that involves several disorders in the development of the elbow joint. The elbow joint is a complex joint composed of 3 bones (radius, ulna, and humerus) (Figure 1). If the 3 bones do not fit perfectly due to growth abnormalities, abnormal weight distributions occur in the joint areas causing pain, lameness, and the development of arthritis. Elbow dysplasia is a disease that encompasses several conditions grouped into medial septal disease (fragmented coronoid process (FCP), osteochondrosis (OCD), joint problems, and cartilage anomalies) and other abnormalities (UAP). The cause of ED in dogs remains unclear. There are a number of theories about the exact cause of the disease that include genetics, deficiencies in cartilage growth, trauma, diet, and so on. It is most often suspected that it is a multifactorial disease caused by growth disorders. According to AKC (2006) statistics, of the 105 X-rays taken by Stafford, 14.3% of the total had elbow dysplasia, while 84.8% were rated as completely healthy.
More information here.
A patellar dislocation is a condition in which the knee joint is located outside the femoral groove when the knee is bent. Luxation can be characterized as medial or lateral, depending on whether the knees move on the inner or on the outer aspect.
Patella luxation is one of the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs, and affects primarily small dogs. According to the latest OFA (2006) statistics, of the 21 Staffords taken (using X-rays), 100% were rated as “normal”. However, these statistics may be considered insufficient, as the exact cause of luxation remains unclear in most dogs, but is probably multifactorial.
More information here.