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Medical Needs

All breeds of dogs have certain medical problems that they are more prone to than others. Below you can find a list of illnesses that Pits tend to be susceptible to along with symptoms and treatments.

  • Parvo
  • Dysplasia

The Parvo Virus

Parvo is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system. It strikes fast and puppies may succumb to the virus with a matter of days. It causes dogs and puppies to not be able to absorb nutrients or liquids. Certain breeds seem more prone to parvo. Pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers have led the parvo predisposed list for several years. While most adult dogs are usually immune to parvo, puppies between 6 weeks and 6 months of age are dangerously susceptible. Some puppies have more immunity to the disease than others. If their mother was properly vaccinated, she will transfer immunity to parvovirus in the colostrum, or first milk. In order to ensure that a puppy is adequately protected against parvovirus it needs to be vaccinated every three weeks starting at about 8 weeks.

Breed notwithstanding, crowded living conditions (like those found in puppy mills and pet stores) and concurrent disease (especially intestinal abnormalities) also increase the risk of parvo. Sexually mature, intact dogs may face a greater risk of parvo than their neutered counterparts because un-neutered dogs tend to roam, increasing their exposure to infectious agents.

How is parvo spread? Parvo is known to survive on inanimate objects - such as clothing, food pans, and cage floors - for 5 months and longer in the right conditions. Insects and rodents may also serve as vectors playing an important role in the transmission of the disease. The virus is also shed in the feces of an infected dog. Humans can also spread the disease on their hands if they touch feces from an infected dog and then touch a puppy without washing properly.

Symptoms: Many adult dogs exposed to the virus show very few if any symptoms. The majority of cases are seen in dogs less than 6 months of age, with the most severe cases seen in puppies younger than 12 weeks of age. Be on the lookout for lethargy and loss of appetite, progressing within a day or two to vomiting, diarrhea (often profuse and bloody and particularly foul smelling and sometimes yellow in color) and high fever. Parvo can also attack a dog?s heart causing congestive heart failure. If your normally energetic pet becomes listless and disinterested in food, play it safe and visit your veterinarian. Young pups, less than three months of age, can become dehydrated quickly. These animals can die easily if not treated promptly.

Treatment: There is no cure. There is no drug we can give to the dog that kills parvovirus once the animal is infected. Without intense treatment, the victims of parvo die of dehydration. Supportive care is very important in the treatment of parvoviral infections. Sick animals need to be given fluids to prevent dehydration. Secondary bacterial infections may also be a problem. If an infection develops, antibiotics need to be administered to fight it. Controlling of the body temperature and blood transfusions may also be required. Treatment may take a couple of days up to several weeks, depending on the dog, its age, and the severity of the infection.

Dogs who have survived parvo can get it again. Parvovirus can persist in the environment for long periods. It is important to clean up after an infection. Washing the animal's area with bleach and water in a 1:30 dilution will kill the virus. The bowls should be thrown away and the bedding either bleached or thrown away to prevent further spread of the infection. Discard all feces from the infected dog.

Precautions: There is not a sure-fire parvo preventive, but the following precautions - especially important for puppies - will increase your dog?s chances of living parvo-free:

  • Stick religiously to your dog's vaccination schedule.
  • Keep young puppies isolated from other dogs and out of parks where they may come in contact with infected feces, until they have completed their series of vaccinations. Puppies should not be allowed to socialize with other dogs until two weeks after their last vaccination
  • Observe good hygiene at home, and if you board your dog, insist that its kennels and runs be disinfected daily. A 1 to 30 ratio of chlorine bleach to water is most effective against parvo virus.
  • If you have had parvo in your home, use the strong bleach water solution to kill it. Soak the yard with it - better to kill the grass than your next dog!! Parvo can live up to 6 months in your home or yard. Before you bring home another dog, be sure it has a strong immune system. You can have a vet draw blood and run a titre to find out how well your new dog will fare in a parvo-infested environment.

Dysplasia

The breed in general is healthy, but joint problems are a very common dog health issue, especially for the American Pit Bull Terrier. Because they are so active, twisting, spraining, pulling, dislocating, bruising is very common for the Pit Bull dog.

Hip dysplasia is the most common that people are familiar with as a cause of rear limb lameness. Its front limb counterpart is elbow dysplasia.

Elbow dysplasia has only been recognized as a disease in dogs in the last 10 to 15 years or so, whereas hip dysplasia has been diagnosed for the last 30 to 40 years. Dysplasia means a developmental abnormality, it can be in the size, shape, or formation. Elbow dysplasia is a combination of four developmental abnormalities: an ununited anconeal process, osteochondrodystrophy (OCD) of the distal humoral condyle, a fragmented medial coronoid process, and elbow incongruity. Dogs may have just one abnormality or in some cases all four.

Unfortunately, not paying attention to the latest contemporary dog health testing is also adding to this problem. By not proactively testing for cases such as Dysplasia, the risks of the pups have joint problems increases. Problems usually begin in dogs at around 6 months of age or older. Owners may notice their dogs become lame in the forelimb. Generally one leg can appear worse than the other. In most cases both front legs are affected. There can often be swelling of the joint and dogs usually exhibit pain on range of motion. Dogs who have suffered with dysplasia may later in their life develop some degree of degenerative joint disease, which is simply a form of arthritis.

Here are some insider dog health tips for Pit Bulls as well as other breeds to help avoiding these issues:

  • Warm your dogs up before exercising them. This will also help prevent strains, sprains and tears of the muscles. Warming them up by walking them briskly for 10-15 minutes before play time will help keep their joints flexible and their muscles ready for action.
  • Avoid hard surfaces such as Concrete and Asphalt when possible. Dog Health experts advise people to do the same. Run on dirt, grass, or some other softer surface to lighten the impact on the joints.
  • Stretch them out. This helps keep the muscles flexible which helps the joint as well. If the muscles are flexible and not stiff they will be able to support the joint better during exercise.
  • Watch their weight. Obesity in dogs is a major cause of joint problems and other dog health issues. All that extra weight bearing down on your dogs joints puts a lot of strain on them and an otherwise healthy joint becomes a candidate for future problems. Put your dog on a strict diet. This includes a regular meal plan that will maintain a healthy weight. ? Even if your dog is currently at their perfect weight, consulting your vet and building a diet maintenance program to maintain that healthy wet is always a good idea.
  • Avoid over-stress. While exercising for your dog's health is important, Excessive exercising can be damaging to the joints. Keep exercise/play sessions light and remember to warm your dog up and cool them down afterwards to avoid any muscle cramps or sprains as well.

In the end a lot of love, a little common sense, and using preventive measures like stretching and supplements will help your dogs joints stay stronger.