Boston Terrier HEALTH
Bostons Terriers really are healthy, sturdy, and vigorous as a breed. That said, all
breeds, even "designer dogs" and mutts, carry genes for defects ranging from mild to
severe. The defects or imperfections may either show (dominant or expressed) or be
hidden (recessive or masked), but the genes are there whether you can see their effect
or not. It's uncommon for breeders to speak much about problems in their breed,
especially with potential buyers. Every breed has fanciers claiming that breed to be
perfect for your next family pet. When the matter of breed defects or difficulties arises
some breeders either try to stick their heads in the sand.. or yours(!); others openly
want the puppy buyer to be well-informed and avoid unpleasant surprises.
The "natural" canine is a wolf type. People have bred progressively more extreme
deviations from wolf appearance over hundreds of years, one theory says in part to
avoid risk of confusion between dog and wolf (in the days when wolves were more of a
threat). An unwanted effect of these changes were certain health problems directly
related to our incredibly creative "remodeling".
The adorable smushy-faced breeds that we find irresistable, have varying degrees of
restricted airflow through their nasal passages and throat, resulting in impaired ability
to cool the body or in rare cases, even difficulty in getting enough oxygen.. This is true
for all short nosed breeds (brachycephalics). Smushy-faced dogs need special
consideration due to these altered airways.. Respiratory difficulty of any kind requires
immediate attention. For unusually compromised breathing, there are surgeries to
open pinched nostrils (stenotic nares) and to minimize throat blockage from excess
soft tissue in the back of the mouth (elongated soft palate) giving more freedom of
breath. This is thankfully not often required.. Due to low heat tolerance, these dogs
must be watched carefully in hot weather. Finally, it is important to find a vet familiar
with the brachycephalic breed issues, also special care must be given when
anaesthetizing and intubating short nosed dogs.
Bostons Terriers, like many short-nosed breeds can be prone to skin allergies,
particularly in humid climates. Fleas are the most common culprit. Avoid oral or
injectable steroid treatments (topical is OK) for allergies if at all possible, since harmful
side effects come with prolonged use. Benedryl-type antihistamines can be helpful if
started at first signs of itching and anti-inflamatories.
Always be prepared for insect bites. When any breed of dog gets an insect sting,
allergic swelling on the face or mouth may become life-threatening, airways can
become blocked. A bee sting kit or Benedryl-type antihistamine on hand, (since severe
swelling may develop in just minutes), may save your dogs life, even while on the way
to the vet.
Sometimes skin problems appear to be an allergy, but may actually be mange, or
mange plus allergic response. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to dogs and
people, extremely itchy, and has no hereditary aspects. Demodex, mostly
non-contagious (but can be), is also called "hereditary" mange. Mange mites are not
genetic but usually come from the mother's skin. This type tends to not itch. It is most
common in pups under a year when their immune system is not fully developed, but
can occur in adults with other disease or stress . It appears as missing or thinning
patch(es) of hair. Skin becomes reddened and feet can swell slightly. These mites are
present in the skin of most dogs (and many people), but cause no trouble until the
dog's body defenses become unbalanced from various possible causes. Skin
scrapings may turn up a few mites even on perfectly healthy dogs, or may even not be
found on an affected dog until multiple scrapings are done. If demodex is localized (in
small spots, not large areas) it is minor and tends to resolve without treatment,
especially in pups as they reach maturity. Diet, vaccines, parasites, and emotional
stress can be contributing causes, so must be first line of defense in treatment. There
are differences of opinion about whether localized demodex is an ordinary event during
puppy development, or is a result of vaccinosis (vaccine-caused damage to immune
system). Grain based diet is implicated also, a raw, mostly meat diet supposedly can
cure demodex. It also can be an indication of an immune weakness due to genetics.
Generalized demodex is extremely serious and does usually have genetic involve
ment. This form involves large areas of the body, usually with a mousey odor, crusts,
sores, thickening skin and thinning hair, it indicates a weakness in the immune
system which may be from genetically poor health, underlying major illness such as
cancer or thyroid/hormone imbalance, extreme stress or all combined. Treatment is
typically Ivermectin, millbicyn, and/or amitraz (mitaban) dips for the mites, and
antibiotics/antifungals for the bacteria and fungus that invade the mite-damaged skin.
There is a new and promising topical "spot-on" made by Bayer, "Advocate" claiming to
cure demodex. Promeris is also potentially useful but has more side effects. This is a
major, possibly life-saving breakthrough. Many dogs are euthanized due to generalized
demodex. Improve health, nutrition (high meat diet), reduce stress, and boost immune
system and that will get even faster results. Natural "alternative medicine" treatments
sometimes are useful too. Dogs with the generalized form, the consensus is, should
not be bred.
Note: It is my opinion that Boston puppies, as well as puppies of many other breeds,
(Min Pins, Dachsunds, Pugs, Pits, all "Bully" breeds to name a few ) are highly prone to
the localized form and simply outgrow it, often without the owner or breeder ever
noticing. I am inclined to believe from reviewing evidence, that vaccinosis (vaccine
induced immune system damage) and possibly diet, are prime contributing causes of
demodex in many breeds. Fans of RAW feeding claim demodex clears up on raw meat
diet but no research has been done yet. Another alternative is treating with
homeopathic sulfur which has had some success.
Kneecaps (patellas) tend to be a weakness in all small breeds. The knee cap can slip
in and out if the groove is too shallow to keep the knee in place, OR if the ligament that
holds the knee is torn. Though very common, luxating patellas can go unnoticed if there
is no pain or apparent handicap. The family may not notice anything abnormal until the
vet finds the looseness or dislocation on a routine exam, or the dog hops or skips,
yelps and holds a leg up now and then. Permanently dislocated knees often give the
rear-end a distinctly unnatural bowlegged look. It can occur in degrees from mild to
severe, grade 1, 2 or 3. Mild forms may never cause any trouble and rarely need
surgery. In more problematic cases the knee may suddenly go out causing the dog to
refuse to put any weight on the leg. If it does not slip back into its groove it requires
immediate surgery. However, vets are often over-eager to do expensive stifle repair
when it is only the mild form with no handicap or pain. The surgery often needs to be
repeated and the added weight on the other leg while recuperating may cause the other
knee to dislocate. It is a good idea to get a second or third opinion prior to deciding to
Boston Terriers are one of the short nosed breeds which have rather large eyes. This
combination of lacking the nose length for protection and the large eyes, predisposes
Bostons and similar breeds (Peke, Shih-Tzu, Pug etc.) to eye injury. The Boston
Terrier's family needs to take this into account and protect their pet's eyes from injury as
much as possible. Hereditary "Juvenile" Cataracts can appear even in young puppies
(in contrast to old age cataracts) and are in the Bostons gene pool , but there is now a
test for the gene which gives breeders a tremendous advantage.
Deafness is usually genetic. It is more common than we know since owners may not
notice anything wrong with dogs with only one deaf ear. There is a test to determine
normal hearing. Baer testing is simple and not too pricey. It isn't available in some
areas. There are antibiotics: gentamycin, lincomycin, as well as certain ear drops/
ointments which can cause deafness but it is a less likely cause than genetics..
Short nose breeds often have a malformation of one or more vertebrae, called
hemivertebrae. This has recently even been found in wolves. As with many
abnormalities, it can cause no problems and go unnoticed unless spinal x-rays are
done for some other reason. It can however be a problem if there are too many
malformations or they are in a bad location on the spine.
Short-nosed breeds with large heads have more whelping difficulties than "normal"
headed breeds. C-sections are not uncommon resulting in higher puppy losses.
Sections are very pricey, ranging from $500-$3000. These two facts of course results in
higher puppy prices.
A bright red, swollen protrusion of tear duct tissue from the eyelid which tends to be
around pea size, but size can vary a bit. Short nosed breeds are prone to it, perhaps
due to larger eyes, shape of head and the short nose. It rarely bothers the dog, tends to
bother the owner more. Cherry eye may go away on its own, and may come and go
with allergies, dust, etc. Treatment, when needed, is topical ointment. Persistent ones
if they bother the dog or get infected may require a very simple surgical removal of the
tear gland. "Tacking" the gland may be ineffectual.
Health issues seen in many breeds are varying causes of blindness, heart defect,
bleeding disorder (von wildebrand), liver shunt, epilepsy, and hip dysplasia. These
illnesses and conditions can sometimes affect Bostons too.
YOUR PUPPY'S HEALTH,
selecting a veterinarian
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