Your Guide to the L.A.D. Bull Terrier Puppy

Updated on July 7, 2019
Jana Louise Smit profile image

As an animal welfare worker, Jana worked with Bull Terriers. She had a boarding home for the breed and currently owns a perky specimen.


When You Choose Life

Nobody enjoys the thought of euthanizing a puppy. From years of experience, many breeders, owners and vets recommend euthanasia once the condition is diagnosed, but nobody can force you to make that decision if you do not want to. Lethal Acrodermatitis can and does slip under the radar of breeders and buyers. By the time an animal is diagnosed, he or she could already have been a part of your family for weeks. Hearing your beloved bullie has L.A.D. will bring up a lot of questions. What is the prognosis? What will my pet's quality of life be like and what kind of limitations can I expect?

When you read the answers here, be strong and stay hopeful. If you choose life for your afflicted puppy, be prepared to deal with a handicapped pet and the sorrows and expenses that come with it. That being said, thanks to their perky personality and love of life, Bull Terriers bring joy to their owners' lives, and the L.A.D. Bull Terrier is no different.

What We Will Talk About

  • What causes L.A.D.
  • Early symptoms
  • Life expectancy and limitations
  • How and what to feed your pet
  • Why the experience can be worth it

L.A.D. Is a Rare Genetic Disease

For Lethal Acrodermatitis to occur, both parents must pass on a recessive gene linked to the disease. The condition appears to prevent the absorption of zinc and also causes skin issues and physical deformities. Puppies are born with varying grades of L.A.D., ranging from the invisible to the severe. The latter is usually spotted at birth by experienced breeders. Those who don't carry obvious symptoms become the ones that are unwittingly sold as pets.

Puppies That Feel Slimy to the Touch

There are early signs, even with the ones that pass (at first) for normal. Those afflicted might be mistaken as the runt of the litter because it is the smallest puppy, appears frail or seems to struggle. A dead giveaway is how a L.A.D. puppy feels: they are slimy to the touch. As the litter grows, it will fall behind with its physical development and often stay smaller than the rest. They also risk slow starvation if a breeder is not vigilant. Many such pups appear to suckle without a problem, but are not actually feeding. One of L.A.D.'s deformities concerns the mouth, which will be discussed a bit later.

Another early symptom is behavior abnormalities. It's been observed that some puppies with the condition will show more aggression. If left untreated, the puppy's activity will also slow down to the point where the animal fails to respond to stimulus and often gaze at something for a long time. If particularly badly affected, the puppy will also sleep too much.

Life Expectancy and Limitations

Here's the bad news: Unfortunately, L.A.D. Bull Terriers have short lives. The average life expectancy is under two years of age. How long they live depends on the severity of their case, what treatment is involved and if infections can be prevented effectively. The disease compromises the immune system and because of this, the main cause of death is respiratory infections. Besides infections, most are put down due to physical wasting and disfiguring lesions on the paw pads, which make walking painful. The good news is that researchers are hard at work trying to come up with treatments that will lengthen the lives of these special ones or even find a cure. There are promising cases of Bull Terriers living past two years with a daily regimen of steroids.

Bull Terriers are known for their powerful bodies but L.A.D. dogs, also called zincers, have a pronounced frailty. They may not be as robust and strong, need specially prepared meals and some have deformed bones in the legs and have knees that dislocate; however, the latter can happen in normal Bull Terriers, too. Most will develop splayed feet, weak front legs and facial lesions. Despite their limitations, zincers can and do experience good times.

Eating Difficulties

The mouth of a healthy Bull Terrier. A zincer's palate is often too high and interferes with swallowing.
The mouth of a healthy Bull Terrier. A zincer's palate is often too high and interferes with swallowing. | Source

The L.A.D.-Adapted Menu

Your bullie needs a mouth-friendly diet. Mismatched jaws or a high palate can make chewing and swallowing difficult. Any dog needs good, quality food, but a L.A.D. Bull Terrier's meals also need to be soft enough to consume and, if necessary, the owner must assist them. For example, dogs with hollow palates struggle with food clogging the roof of the mouth, but you can gently dislodge it with a spoon. It takes patience and adjustment until you find what works for your bullie. Each one is different. Young pups need a bottle with a long teat, and older ones might successfully swallow if food is placed deep in their mouths (watch out for choking). Others manage on their own.

They Make Worthy Pets

After reading this, you may be wondering if it's worth it. The short answer is yes. Some people will disagree, but that is a matter of preference. If you find yourself with a zincer, you are definitely not alone. There are entire online communities dedicated to these brave dogs. These communities help newly-informed owners deal with shock and sadness, and give advice about the finer details of living with a handicapped bullie. Every milestone and bit of progress your dog makes will be celebrated with you.

Make sure your vet is also supportive. Yes, L.A.D. Bull Terriers got a bad deal, but that does not mean they need dismissive or offhanded treatment at the hands of a professional. Unfortunately, this does happen, however, there are splendid vets out there who will go the extra mile. Just keep looking.

Finally, whether it's a zincer, blind or three-legged dog, special-needs pets are simply amazing. If you have previously owned a special-needs animal, you already know the bond you share is very special, despite the emotional pain. If this is your first time, ask around and listen to people who have gone through this bitter-sweet experience. Some will admit their hearts broke so cleanly, they'll never do it again, but most will say it was worth it, shattered heart and all. In this case, you'll also be rewarded with the Bull Terrier's legendary affection for its owner.

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jana Louise Smit


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      • Jana Louise Smit profile imageAUTHOR

        Jana Louise Smit 

        2 years ago from South Africa

        Hi Diane, as I understand it the first LAD test became available at the beginning of this year, so it's a big step forward in diagnosis and treatement. I'm not sure if all vets around the world can do the test yet. Will have to ask yours if you need to test your puppy. Before the test there were signature symptoms that identified LAD.

      • profile image

        Diane Dorn 

        2 years ago

        How does the Bull Terrier puppy get diagnosed with LAD? Is there a

        Specific test that can be done?


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