Genetic Predispositions for American Pitbull Terriers

Please remember that just because there is a predisposition it does not mean your Pitbull will get some or any of these conditions.  This blog is to serve as an educational guide.

Image result for hip dysplasia in pitbulls

Hip Dysplasia

An inherited disease that causes the hip joints to form improperly and leads to arthritis. You may notice lameness in the hind legs or difficulty getting up from lying down.  Radiograph are necessary to diagnose the condition and has the best results when treated early.   Most cases are managed medically, surgery is sometimes considered in severe and life-limiting cases.

Knee Problems

Patella luxation occurs when your kneecap (patella) slips out of place. You might notice your pittie runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then they will kicks their leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, they may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.

Thyroid ProblemsImage result for hypothyroid in pitbulls

Pitbulls are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes.  Treatment is usually simple, thyroid replacement hormone.


In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy.  Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.

MangeImage result for demodex in pitbulls

Demodex is a microscopic mite that lives in the hair follicles of all dogs. Normally a dog’s immune system keeps the mites in check, but some breeds, like the Pitbull, develop an overabundance of these mites. In mild cases, pet owners may notice a few dry, irritated, hairless lesions. These often occur on the face or feet and may or may not be itchy. Secondary skin infections may occur. Prompt veterinary care is important to keep the disease from getting out of hand. Many pets seem to outgrow the problem, while others require lifelong management.

Skin Infections

Your Pitbull is prone to a form of skin infection called zinc-responsive dermatosis, in which they either aren’t getting enough zinc in their diet or don’t absorb it properly. Signs include red, hairless, crusting, scaling, or oozing skin around the mouth, chin, eyes, and ears or lesions on the foot pads and nose.


Dry, flaky, itchy skin is a common problem for many dogs, but Pits in particular are prone to a severe flaking skin condition called ichthyosis. Named for the large dry flakes that resemble fish scales, this problem usually arises very early in life, with most affected puppies born with abnormal skin. Several palliative treatment options like special shampoos and fish oils give variable levels of relief, but there is no definitive cure for this inherited disease.

Nerve Disease

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, shortened to NCL, is a progressive neurologic disease found in several breeds, including your American Pitbull Terrier. Clinical signs usually appear in younger dogs, between around one to three years of age. In the early stages, rear leg weakness and imbalance can occur. It can progress to weakness involving all four legs, and some dogs also lose vision. There is currently no effective treatment for this disease.

Balance Problems

The cerebellum is the part of the brain that gives balance and coordination. Cerebellar Abiotrophy is a genetic neurologic disease that affects certain breeds of dogs, including Pits. The problem starts in early puppyhood, with affected dogs usually beginning to show symptoms between 6 and 16 weeks of age. This condition causes affected dogs to lose the sense of space and distance, and become uncoordinated. It is not a painful condition, but the exact cause is not known, and there is no effective treatment.

Bladder Stones

If your Pitbull has an inherited condition called Hyperuricosuria (HU), they will have more uric acid in their urine. Uric acid acts like fertilizer for bladder stones and sometimes kidney stone development.

Cleft Lip or PalateImage result for cleft palate in pitbulls

Your Pitbull is more likely than other breeds to be born with a cleft lip or palate, which is an opening in the lip or the roof of the mouth. Mild cases may not require any treatment, but more serious defects require surgical repair to prevent complications.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease in which the eyes are genetically programmed to go blind. Unfortunately, American Pitbull Terriers are a bit more likely than other dogs to have this condition. PRA is not painful, but also not curable. In dogs with the bad gene, early symptoms such as night blindness or dilated pupils generally begin around three to five years of age.


Image result for parvo in pitbulls

Parvo is an infection caused by a virus, and it leads to deadly illness, especially in younger puppies. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever and dehydration are some of the symptoms. Older dogs don’t usually feel as sick, but bloody diarrhea and fever are common and affected dogs shed the virus in their stools for weeks afterwards. Several breeds, including your Pitbull, do not develop good, strong immunity against parvovirus from vaccination; they tend to have a weaker and later response.   Regular  vaccinations  to  booster  immunity  are  essential.

If you have any questions about your Pitbull and their genetic predispositions please contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008 or visit us at

By |April 30th, 2019|

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