Thinking of getting a Pitbull or just bringing home a pup or a rescue? You’ll want to know about the most common Pitbull health issues.
Read on to find out what types of dogs are classed as Pitbulls, and what you can do to avoid Pitbull health problems.
We’ll talk about some of the things that can go wrong with your dog’s health, how to keep your Pitbull healthy for as long as possible, and when you should consult a veterinarian.
Before you get intimidated by the list of ills that are commonest in Pitbulls, do remember that your dog may suffer from none of these issues, or only develop them as he begins to reach the end of his life.
On the whole, Pitbulls are quite healthy compared to some breeds, but it’s hard to generalize because Pitbulls include several breeds and crossbreeds. Let’s look at that next.
What Is A Pitbull?
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no single breed of dog that “owns” the name “Pitbull.” Most people will think of the American Pitbull, but that’s only one of the types of dogs that fall under the umbrella term.
American Staffordshire Terriers or AmStaffs are also seen as Pitbulls, and so is the American Bully. Some people also see the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a Pitbull, and even the American Bulldog is sometimes seen as a “Pitbull.”
To top it off, there are various hybrids and mutts that people will class as Pitbulls because they have one or more of these breeds in their lineage.
That makes it a little difficult to pinpoint common Pitbull health issues because so many different dogs can be seen as Pitbulls.
To address this problem, we’ll specify which physical characteristics might make your Pitbull more prone to certain of the health issues under discussion.
Most Common Pitbull Health Issues
1. Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a common condition in big, heavy dogs. The bigger and heavier your Pitbull is, the greater the chance of it occurring.
The condition is determined by genes, but it is also influenced by the growth rate of your puppy, its diet, exercise, musculature and even its hormones.
Hip dysplasia occurs because the hip joint becomes deformed. If the ball at the head of the femur and the pelvic socket it fits into don’t grow at equal rates, the joint becomes loose.
Over time, the layer of cartilage that protects the bones wears down and that causes osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.
As this gets progressively worse, the dog shows signs of lameness, tends to drag its hindquarters, and experiences a great deal of pain.
If you’re getting a puppy from a breeder, they will be aware of the potential for this Pitbull health problem. You can ask for the results of screening that’s done to spot hip abnormalities.
They will usually already have begun to show up in puppies that are old enough to leave their mothers.
If you just happened to get a Pitbull by chance, consider having this screening done so that you know what to expect and can get advice from your veterinarian.
Limit the chances for, and effects of, possible hip dysplasia by not allowing your Pitbull puppy or dog to overeat. This means measuring out his meals and having set mealtimes.
Hip dysplasia is not curable. In young dogs, it may be worth considering a hip replacement, although that’s a very expensive option.
In older dogs, veterinarians usually just prescribe supplements that are believed to help ease arthritis as well as pain-killers to make your Pitbull’s life more bearable. Some dog owners even get special wheeled harnesses to help their Pitbulls maintain mobility.
2. Heart Disease In Pitbulls
In Pitbulls, heart disease can be inherited, be caused by heartworm, or it can develop over time. Usually, it only becomes a problem as your dog begins to age.
Unfortunately, you might not notice any symptoms by yourself. However, you should take your Pitbull for booster vaccinations every year, and your veterinarian will always listen to his heart as part of the checkup.
You can help by making sure you’re dosing your dog against heartworm.
If there’s a serious heart issue, your veterinarian will prescribe medications and may even recommend surgery.
You can help to take care of your Pitbull’s heart health in much the same way you’d protect yourself from heart problems.
A healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight will all go a long way towards maintaining your Pitbull’s heart health.
3. Pitbull Skin Problems
There are several different types of skin issues that your Pitbull may pick up. Pitbulls are rather more prone to skin problems than other dogs because of their short coats which lack any protective undercoat.
Look out for skin abnormalities including inflamed-looking skin, very dry looking skin, or excessively oily skin.
When Pitbulls have skin problems, they’ll often lick the worst spots until they form raw, painful sores.
When they have skin irritations, they may also tend to scratch a lot. Skin problems in Pitbulls can be caused by allergies (a very common Pitbull health problem), but your dog might even have mange. This is caused by an infestation of mites too small to see with the naked eye.
If your Pitbull shows signs of skin problems, it’s best to get a veterinarian’s advice.
The sooner you start tracking down the cause of the problem, and the sooner you take steps to help your dog, the easier it will be to get the problem under control.
Possible reasons for skin problems range from environmental allergies to food sensitivities, and from infections, to mange.
If your Pitbull has skin folds, be sure to check them frequently, since infections often begin inside the skin folds.
Flea allergies are sometimes to blame, so it’s always good to make sure your Pitbull’s anti tick and flea treatments are up to date.
Other possible causes of skin problems could be genetic or because of nutrient deficiencies.
With so many possible reasons for skin problems, getting expert advice will either pinpoint the problem or give you a good clue on where to begin your investigations.
Choosing a high-quality diet, not bathing your dog too often, and using only veterinarian-approved dog shampoos can help to stave off skin issues.
4. Eye Problems In Pitbulls
Pitbulls may have an inherited eye problem called Progressive Retinal Atrophy. It’s quite rare, but Pitbulls are a little more likely to get it than most other breeds.
In this disease, your dog’s genes have already determined that your dog will go blind. Unfortunately, there’s no cure.
Cataracts are also slightly more frequent in Pitbulls, but this time, it’s a problem that can easily be cured with surgery. Cataracts most often develop in older dogs, and you’ll notice a change in their eye color.
The way most Pitbulls’ heads are structured means that their eyes can more easily be injured. This can lead to an ulcerated cornea.
If your dog is pawing at his eyes, or has watery, inflamed-looking eyes get it checked out by a vet.
There are other possible eye problems to look out for, including “Cherry Eye” or Entropion. They can be corrected by surgery, and sooner is always better.
The best thing you can do for your Pitbull if you suspect eye problems is to get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
5. Pitbulls And Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is easy to treat, but can’t be cured. What it amounts to is that your dog’s thyroid gland becomes underactive.
Veterinarians prescribe hormone treatments, and this makes up for the hormonal imbalance, leaving you with a healthier Pitbull.
Most dogs recognize that hypothyroidism can occur in Pitbulls and will do some blood work as part of regular health screenings.
Be sure to ask about this specifically if your Pitbull is showing signs of Hypothyroidism. It may even seem like a skin problem because it makes the skin and coat dry out making them susceptible to other skin problems.
Unexpected weight gain goes with hypothyroidism, so if your dog is suddenly piling on the fat despite no changes to the usual routine, it could be a red flag.
The hormonal imbalance may also affect your Pitbull’s behavior, making him grumpy or easily spooked.
6. Patella Luxation
Patella luxation in Pitbulls doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog will become crippled or need surgery, but it should be checked out if you suspect it.
There is surgery that can be done to correct it, and it should be done before the problem starts causing serious arthritis.
You can easily spot the symptoms of patella luxation. It basically means that the kneecap pops temporarily out of joint.
One minute, your Pitbull will be running along on all four legs, and the next, he starts limping. Quite quickly, the problem seems to go away all by itself only for it to happen again some time later.
As we mentioned, your dog may not need surgery, but you should let a veterinarian check it out, especially if it happens fairly frequently. Sometimes, using a straightforward support for the joint does the trick.
How To Keep Your Pitbull Healthy
Keeping dogs, including Pitbulls, as healthy as possible is fairly straightforward commonsense, but let’s touch on the basic points you’ll want to take care of.
After all, if there are any Pitbull health issues you can help avoid, that’s a good thing for you and your dog.
Unless you have lots of time and money to prepare balanced raw or cooked meals for your Pitbull and can vary the diet to cover all the bases, using prepared wet and dry dog foods is the easiest option.
It’s also easier to get portion sizes just right because the products are standardized, and you can look for formulations to suit your Pitbull’s age and any health challenges they face.
For example, there are hypoallergenic dog foods that eliminate some of the most common ingredients dogs are allergic to.
Remember to control the diet well – set mealtimes, and don’t offer table scraps, no matter how much your Pitbull loves them!
And although dogs do love bones, they can cause issues, especially if your Pitbull tends to swallow large chunks of them or you’ve chosen the wrong type of bones. They’re not a must, so the safest bet is just to avoid them altogether.
That doesn’t mean your dog can’t have treats, but keep them small and make sure they’re actually good for dogs. Handy doggie chews are the easiest solution.
Watch your dog’s weight. You don’t actually have to weigh your Pitbull, but keep an eye on his figure. He should have a well-defined waist and you should be able to feel, but not see, the ribs under his coat.
Exercise is important for your dog, and he will give his best when you get involved.
Twice-daily walks, and some structured playtime with you builds the bond between you and your dog, helps to avoid behavioral problems, and helps to safeguard his overall health.
Vaccines, Parasite Prevention, Checkups
Just as you partner with your doctor to protect your own health, so your veterinarian will be important to your Pitbull’s health.
Make sure that vaccines are kept up to date. There are some very nasty doggie diseases that are completely preventable as long as your dog is vaccinated against them.
On vaccination dates, your veterinarian will also deworm and give your dog a basic health checkup. Be sure to tell them about any oddities or symptoms you may have spotted.
And, as previously mentioned, keep up your dog’s tick, flea, and heartworm protection.
When To Consult A Veterinarian
Since your Pitbull can’t tell you how he feels, you will have to be the judge of when to see a veterinarian.
Just skipping a meal might just mean a bit of indigestion, but if this continues, it could be something serious.
If he turns up his nose at his favorite doggie treats, you can be pretty sure something is the matter. Since it could be something serious, it’s worth getting it checked out.
Drinking also matters. Watch your dog so that you can make a mental note of when he drinks and potties.
If he isn’t drinking enough, doesn’t pee as often as normal, or starts drinking much more and peeing a lot, he could have digestive trouble, diabetes, or kidney issues.
Panting is usually a healthy response on hot days or after strenuous exercise, but if your Pitbull is panting for no reason you can figure out, it could be anything from allergies to heart trouble.
Vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation could be a sign of trouble but may not be cause for panic. Just one puke or sloshy poop doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is sick.
But if it continues, it and, since heart disease is among Pitbull health problems, it would be wise to see a vet.
If you see blood in the poo or puke, get there as soon as you possibly can because it’s a real emergency.
If your Pitbull is lethargic and doesn’t want to participate in activities he usually enjoys, it could be a bad sign.
If it’s combined with other symptoms, you should probably take your Pitbull to see a vet as soon as you can.
If there’s a possible explanation like a particularly hot day, give it a little time and see if his mood improves. If it’s a puppy, then take it as a serious symptom even if you don’t see anything else wrong.
Problems with balance and movement could be serious. If balance is a problem, something is very seriously wrong and you should treat it as an emergency.
If it’s a limp, see if you can figure out why. You might be able to treat a minor injury to a paw pad at home, for example.
As we already mentioned, anything weird about your Pitbull’s eyes means you need to take him to a vet, and although skin problems aren’t as much of an emergency, getting help from a veterinarian will help you to make your Pitbull comfortable sooner.
Lastly, if your dog is whimpering or whining, seems aggressive or frightened for no reason, or is pacing about restlessly, he could be in pain.
A change in behavior could be the only way he has to tell you he isn’t feeling well and needs help.
Remember, there are many canine health problems that aren’t specific Pitbull health issues but which your dog can, nevertheless get.
If you think something’s wrong with your dog, see a vet! It’s better to be too careful than it is to be too casual!