Pit bulls have a reputation as tough canines. As far as their health is concerned, the same holds true. Pit bulls usually have strong constitutions and don't suffer from many hereditary medical problems. As with any breed, they are predisposed to certain maladies, including hip dysplasia and eye troubles.
Pit bulls can inherit a brain disease, cerebellar degeneration, that kills off cells within the animal's cerebellum. That's the part of the brain responsible for motor skills. Signs of cerebellar degeneration include an odd gait or posture, muscle tremors, coordination loss, head tilt and swaying. Your vet diagnoses cerebellar degeneration via magnetic resonance imaging. While there is no cure for the condition, a pit bull with milder forms of the disease can have a good quality of life through careful management. That includes restricting your dog's access to places where he could hurt himself, such as stairs.
Pit bulls can suffer from hip dysplasia, a deformity requiring surgical correction. The femur head is supposed to fit firmly into the hip socket. With hip dysplasia, some aspect of this ball-and-socket configuration is deformed. Even with an expensive surgery to correct the condition, your pit bull is at risk of developing arthritis in the joint. If you purchase your pit bull puppy from a breeder, ask for documentation from either the University of Pennsylvania or the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals certifying that the parents do not suffer from hip dysplasia.
Pit bulls are vulnerable to eye issues. In older dogs, cataracts are common. That's just one reason annual veterinary visits are important. Your vet will examine your pittie's eyes. If she sees evidence of cataract formation, she can refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist. It's possible cataract surgery can save your pit bull's vision. Progressive retinal atrophy, another genetic eye disease, doesn't have such a good outcome. Progressive retinal atrophy starts with night blindness, progressing into complete blindness over time. If your pit bull loses his vision, he still can live a happy life. You'll have to make certain adjustments, such as keeping traffic patterns in your house clear, but a blind dog generally learns to cope.
Most dogs have a few demodectic mange mites living on their bodies, with no ill effect. Pit bulls are vulnerable to developing actual demodectic mange. If you notice bald patches around your pittie's mouth and eyes, or larger patches on his body or front legs, he could be suffering from demodectic mange. Untreated, he can develop boil-like eruptions on the bald areas, a condition known as pustular demodicosis. Not only are these swellings infected, they also give off a bad smell. Take your pit bull to the vet at the first sign of any skin issues. If your vet confirms a diagnosis of demodectic mange through skin scrapings, she'll likely prescribe medications to kill the mites, including dips or shampoos, along with antibiotics to treat any infection.
- Embrace Pet Insurance: Pit Bulls
- Vetstreet: What You Need To Know About American Staffordshire Terrier / American Pit Bull Terrier Health
- VCA Animal Hospitals: American Staffordshire Terrier (Pit Bull)
- University of Florida: Mange in Companion Animals
- PetMD: Degeneration of the Cerebellum of the Brain in Dogs
- Whole Dog Journal: Helping Dogs With Hip Dysplasia
- American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.