Health Problems to Watch out for in Pit Bulls

Updated on May 24, 2018
kate stroud profile image

Kate is a former veterinarian's assistant of five years. She maintains a passion for training and caring for dogs of all types.

Few dog breeds are as beloved and popular as the American Pit Bull Terrier. These medium-sized dogs are extremely friendly and some sources even credit these canines as having once been considered "nanny pups". Though they can be aggressive with other dogs, early training and socialization can nip that in the bud and produce a great loyal family dog that plays safely with other dogs of all breeds.

Taking proper care of the American Pit Bull Terrier and pit bull breeds is actually pretty easy if you pay attention to a couple key factors. There are some common health problems specific to these breeds that any good owner should be aware of, and watch out for.

Cataracts

Cataracts in pit bulls aren't uncommon and they're also not usually a serious condition. To make sure that your pup's eyes are healthy, bring her in twice a year for a visit to her vet and make sure they check her eyes for any signs of cataracts.

Weight Issues

Pit bulls are highly muscular and active dogs, which means they love to eat. They especially like high protein and calorie diets, and will beg you for table scraps with a laser-like focus. Though it's tempting to give in and share your steak with that adorable face, you must resist. Chronic obesity in dogs can lead to weight-related conditions and diseases like:

  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Breathing problems
  • An increased risk of certain types of cancers

This laundry list of weight-related illnesses is as good a reason as any to get your pit bull out for a game of fetch or a walk around the block. Also, if this particular breed spends too much time noshing on people food and lazing on the couch, your pup runs a greater risk of running into thyroid problems.

If a pit bull winds up with a thyroid problem, the only solution is doggy medication, diet, and exercise, however, to keep your companion from turning into a chunky monkey from the start, keep them on a healthy diet and exercise regimen. This will also help to prevent heart problems down the road, something our sleek, little friends are also prone to.

What You Can Do to Help Your Pit Bull Maintain a Healthy Weight

Tip 1
Tip 2
Tip 3
Feed your pit bull a diet low in fat.
Ensure daily exercise.
Resist the urge to give your dog table scraps.
If your American Pit Bull is on the higher end of the weight charts, follow these three guidelines to help him get back on track.
Of course you want to share your yummy lunch with your favorite fuzzy friend! Instead stock up on healthy dog treats so that the next time you're tempted to indulge your pup you'll have a tasty and safe snack for them.
Of course you want to share your yummy lunch with your favorite fuzzy friend! Instead stock up on healthy dog treats so that the next time you're tempted to indulge your pup you'll have a tasty and safe snack for them.

Hip Dysplasia and Leg Problems

Like many other medium and large dogs breed dogs, pitties are very prone to hip dysplasia which is a genetic problem of the hip joint and hind leg. It can cause an uneven walking pattern and pain in the back legs.

While this condition is largely hereditary in these breeds and particularly affects older dogs, keeping your companion at a healthy weight will greatly reduce the chances of this condition. If your pit bull ends up getting hip and leg problems even though they are not overweight, there are medications to ease the pain of bad hips. Many of these are joint medications like glucosamine and chondroitin, which is what humans use to help their joints too. These medications help the joint build strength and lubrication. Before giving any type of medication to your pup, make sure to check in with your veterinarian first to see what she suggests.

If your pit bull is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, you can ease their pain by encouraging them not to climb stairs and steep inclines. Block off the stairs in your house or consider a doggy ramp in places where your companion commonly likes to go.

How to Prevent and Treat Hip Dysplasia

Tip 1
Tip 2
Tip 3
Acquire your puppy from a reputable breeder and ensure hip dysplasia is not in the dog’s bloodline.
Help your dog to avoid becoming overweight.
Avoid daily climbing of steep inclines or stairs.
Hip Dysplasia can cause pain and slow movement in your canine companion.

Skin Problems

Unfortunately, these breeds are naturally prone to a myriad of skin issues ranging from itchy allergies to tumors and skin cancer. Grooming your pit bull regularly and cleaning their ears will prevent a lot of allergies, but because they have such short hair, they can sometimes get sunburns, which is why good shade is an absolute must for this breed. Likewise, if your yard is pretty buggy, it's a good idea to pick up a dog-safe bug repellent for your companion.

If the itching from allergies and bugs is bad enough, your dog may scratch themselves until cuts and open sores develop, and the problem will be a lot worse. Prevention is key for healthy skin.

Skin cancer is a more serious issue that pit bulls can face. Watch out for lesions and open sores as well as tumors. Skin cancer is usually a medical issue that requires surgery, so consult a veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice something amiss on their skin.

Preventing and Treating Skin Problems

Tip 1
Tip 2
Tip 3
Groom your dog regularly including brushing and cleaning of the ears.
Keep your dog on an effective flea and tick medication.
Watch for lesions, open sores, and unusual growths (tumors).
Also remember to keep your pup in the shade when you're lounging outside - the short hair on your Pit Bull doesn't do a very good job of protecting her skin from harmful UV rays.
If your Pit Bull seems to be dealing with any of these health issues call up your vet for a visit to help you get down to the bottom of things.
If your Pit Bull seems to be dealing with any of these health issues call up your vet for a visit to help you get down to the bottom of things.

Mental and Social Health

Maintaining mental and social health is a very important part of any dog's life, and pit bulls are no exception. Part of their overall health includes good socialization and training.

In the first paragraph, I talked a little bit about how these breeds tend to be much more human-friendly than dog-friendly. They need to be around other dogs and people from a very early age to learn how to play in a non-aggressive and gentle way. They also need a strong pack leader to train them. When you're training your companion, be strong and commanding but also compassionate and loving.

These breeds tend to get a lot of bad press in the media as being aggressive and violent. This is due, in part, to horrible people who abuse their companions and train them to be more aggressive than they naturally are. It is also due to people seeing this activity and misunderstanding the true nature of the breeds.

For these reasons, it is extra important to train them to be friendly to humans and other dogs. Not only does it help them to avoid bad and unfair press, but it's good for your dog's health and well-being. If a pit bull is too dog-aggressive, she may not be able to have companions and will suffer from loneliness and depression. If a pit bull is human-aggressive, the situation is even worse because those kinds of dogs usually don't get to live long and happy lives. Responsible owners can do a great thing by reducing the bad reputation that these loving animals have unfairly attracted.

By knowing the most common health-related challenges a pit bull is likely to face, you as an owner can keep an eye on your pup and potentially catch some of these issues early on. Catching health issues early means a greater probability of successfully treating it and ensuring your dog live a long and happy life.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Kate Stroud

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