Caring for Pit Bulls

Pit bull with pink kerchief on leashIn our blog series on pit bulls, we’ve discussed the history and temperament of this well-known type of dog, along with its place in popular culture. As previously mentioned, “pit bull” is not an AKC-recognized breed, but rather a term that has evolved to describe many terrier dogs with certain physical characteristics. Most often, it is used to refer to mixed breed dogs that typically have some type of bully breed as part of their genetic DNA.

This blog post is for the millions of households that already have pit bulls in their family — quite a large audience, since it’s estimated that 20% of the nation’s 90 million dogs are pit bulls. Caring for them is much the same as caring for any breed or type of dog, but it’s good to be aware of a few health issues and considerations that are common with bully breeds.

Obesity in Pit Bulls

Energetic, agile, and friendly, pit bull terriers need exercise to keep muscle tone and to prevent problems with weight gain. In fact, obesity is one of the most common health concerns for pit bulls. Plan to take long walks with your dog and make time for plenty of play sessions – it will be good for your health too!

Pit bull-type dogs are energetic eaters as well, so provide a high-quality, high-protein diet with plenty of nutrients and vitamins. While it might be tempting to share table scraps and human food, those morsels often contribute to canine obesity. It’s best to refrain.

Allergies in Pit Bulls

Despite their sturdy exterior, pit bull terriers can be susceptible to allergies.  Allergies can be food-related, or they may be associated with the outdoors.  Skin irritations, skin infections, and itching can be some of the most common signs.  If the allergy is food-related, you may also see signs of diarrhea, vomiting or even chronic ear infections.  Work with your veterinarian to determine the cause and treatment of any symptoms your dog is displaying. During your appointment, be prepared to let your veterinarian know of any recent diet changes or new environmental factors.

Hip Dysplasia in Pit Bulls

Larger dogs, including some pit bull-type dogs, are susceptible to hip dysplasia, which is a result of the hip joint not forming properly when the dog is young. Symptoms, sometimes subtle, can include difficulty rising from a sitting/laying position or a change in walking. Preventing obesity can help slow the progression of symptoms, and it’s one of the most important things you can do to take stress off of your dog’s joints.  If you notice any change in the way your dog is walking, visit your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Hypothyroidism in Pit Bulls

While several other breeds are more susceptible, hypothyroidism – a drop in hormones produced by the thyroid gland — can affect some pit bull-type dogs. Low energy, weight gain, and dull hair or hair loss are common warning signs. Your veterinarian can help identify and treat this condition, often with hormone replacement therapy.

Veterinary Exams and Vaccinations

The best way to identify and prevent health concerns for your pit bull terrier is to visit your veterinarian each year for a checkup.  For dogs seven and older, it’s recommended that you visit the vet twice a year.  As with every member of your family, vaccinations and booster shots are important, so make sure your pet gets the recommended vaccinations as a puppy and throughout his or her lifetime.

Pit bull-type dogs have an average lifespan of 11 to 13 years. Follow the tips listed above, and you’ll be well on the way to making those years healthy and happy for your precious pet!

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