People who are thinking of bringing a pit bull into their homes will want to know more about the health problems these dogs are at a higher risk of, and what kind of dog they can expect. Those who already have pit bulls may, meanwhile, want to prepare for possible health problems or learn more about dealing with existing health problems.
What's A Pit Bull?
A pit bull is not, in fact, a specific breed of dog. Rather, the term pit bull is commonly used to describe kinds of dogs, by physical appearance. Official designations include:
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
While these dogs are registered as such with certain breeders' associations, people who adopt dogs from shelters may not know exactly what kind of dog they have — the dog may end up with a tentative designation based on their physical characteristics. If that sounds confusing, the good news is that all these dogs are, as Pit Bull Rescue Central says, essentially the same kinds of dogs. They were bred for different purposes and have some subtle differences.
What Kind Of Health Problems Do Pit Bulls Face More Often?
Healthy pit bulls tend to have a lifespan of between eight and 15 years. Pit bulls are, like some other kinds of dogs, unfortunately predisposed to certain medical disorders. It is important to be aware of this before you adopt a pit bull, so that you can take the medical needs your future dog may have.
Disorders that are more common in pit bulls include:
- Atopy or atopic dermatitis. This is a chronic and inflammatory skin disease caused by allergies, such as allergies to pollen, dust mites, and food. Your dog may itch, experience skin rashes, sneeze, and have watery eyes — just like humans who are allergic to something. Atopy can be managed by limiting exposure to allergens, with allergy shots, and with medications that treat the resulting symptoms.
- Cleft lip and palate. A cleft lip is an opening in the lip that may extend to the nose. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. Your pit bull is at a higher risk of being born with these defects, which can be repaired with surgery. Puppies with a cleft palate will need to be fed with a feeding tube.
- Canine hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a disorder in which the hip socket was not formed properly. It can lead to arthritis. Canine hip dysplasia can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication, exercise, and keeping the dog's weight down. Surgical intervention is also possible.
- Hypothyroidism, or a slow thyroid. Though this can lead to symptoms such as hair loss dull fur, weight gain, and a lack of energy, it can be managed with medication quite easily.
- Ichthyosis, a condition of the skin and the dog's foot pads. This condition can be managed with the help of special skin care for your dog.
- A dislocated kneecap. This requires surgical correction.
Dispelling Pit Bull Myths
Pit bulls are known as driven, hard-working, loyal, and friendly dogs to those who know and love them. They weren't bred to be guard dogs or aggressive dogs, and pit bull lovers say that pit bulls can be excellent dogs for people with children.
However, dogs require training, socialization, and their human's loving presence. All dogs should be supervised with children, regardless of breed.
Before you're ready to bring a dog — any dog — into your home, take your responsibility as a future dog owner seriously by learning about the care a dog requires. Things dogs need include:
- Never tether them to a chain.
- Provide them with lots of physical exercise by taking them out for long walks.
- Give your dog positive attention, but always make it clear that you are the "alpha dog". Dogs don't like power vacuums, and if you are not acting as the leader of the pack, your dog will attempt to take this place.
- Attend a dog training course if you do not have prior experience with dogs.
- Do not get a dog if you are rarely at home.
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