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Pitbull Health Concerns

We’ve all heard the phrase before: “it’s genetic.” We use the term to describe traits, illnesses, or disorders that we have inherited from our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc… Unfortunately, genetics don’t just affect humans, and there are a number of conditions that your pit bull might develop as a result of his breeding. Though most responsible breeders try to avoid breeding dogs with these conditions and therefore reduce the chances of puppies inheriting them, your pit bull could still be susceptible. This article will discuss the ailments that you should watch out for.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a disorder which can strike any dog, but there are a handful of breeds that seem particularly likely to get it. The pit bull is one of these breeds, so you’ll have to watch for signs that he is developing hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a condition in which a dog’s hips don’t fit properly in their sockets. This is because the sockets did not form correctly as the dog grew. It can be a very painful condition for the dog, and should be managed with a combination of pain medication, anti-inflammatories, and low-impact exercise. Your vet can help you create a plan to manage your pit bull’s hip dysplasia, should he develop it. Watch for signs such as limping, widely spaced hips, clicking sounds in the joints, hopping instead of running, pain in the rear legs, and difficulty going up and down stairs or taking walks.

Patellar Luxation

This complicated sounding condition is similar to hip dysplasia, but it involves the knees instead of the hips. The patella, the flat bone at the front of the knee, does not stay in place. This dislocation can be very painful, and surgery to realign the knee is usually the recommended treatment. It’s important that dogs with patellar luxation maintain a healthy weight, as overweight dogs can experience the problem more frequently and with more pain. The deformities are usually present when the dog is born, but the condition might not become a problem until later in his life. Unfortunately, patellar luxation is genetic and unpreventable if a dog has the deformities. Bow-leggedness, lameness, reluctance to walk, run, or jump, and abnormal gait can be signs of patellar luxation.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition which primarily results from allergies. Dogs can be allergic to pollen, dust, and mold – essentially any allergen that you might also be susceptible to. “Bully” breeds such as pit bulls can have severe allergies. In this case, the allergies cause itching, runny eyes, and itchy throat. More severe cases of atopic dermatitis can cause skin infections and lesions as well as ear infections. In many cases, dogs will make the problem worse by excessive scratching and biting, which can cause sores and hair loss. If your pit bull has atopic dermatits, your vet will try to determine what he is allergic to. Medication (including anti-histamines), frequent bathing with hypoallergenic shampoo, and a diet that includes healthy fatty acids (to help suppress the allergy) are the usual treatments for atopic dermatitis.


Just like humans, dogs can be deaf and it is a common problem among pit bulls and other bully breeds. Dogs can be deaf in either one ear or both. Deafness presents its own unique challenges because training a dog that can’t hear can be very difficult. If you choose to adopt a deaf pit bull, make sure you are prepared to exercise great patience and caution as you try to train your dog. Unfortunately, deaf dogs are at higher risk of injury or death because they can’t hear sounds such as traffic or your frantic commands. They can also be more likely to show aggression. This is mostly due to the fact that without their hearing they are easily startled or have a hard time interpreting threatening situations. Hearing loss is, sadly, irreversible.


Dogs can get any type of cancer, but pit bulls are particularly susceptible to a type of tumor known as a mast cell tumor. Mast cell tumors are essentially a form of skin cancer. They can grow very quickly and can have a variety of forms, so if you notice any growths or lumps on your pit bull, it’s best to take him to see a vet. Your vet can test the growth to see if it’s a malignant, cancerous tumor or if it is simply a fat deposit or another harmless growth.

Compulsive Tail-Chasing

Yes, this is a fun game to play with many dogs, and it’s always good for a laugh. But for some pit bulls, the desire to chase the tail becomes a compulsion. A pit bull that suffers from this psychological disorder will often spend the vast majority of his time chasing his tail. It can interfere with his ability to walk, sleep, eat, or play. Dogs that suffer from compulsive tail-chasing often develop the condition as a puppy, but severe or recurring stressors can also spark the compulsion. Treatment includes behavior modification in order to desensitize the dog to the cause of his stress. Anti-depressant medications have also been effective in treating compulsive tail-chasing. Fortunately, as long as the disorder is properly managed, most tail-chasers can live normal, balanced lives.

You don’t have to be paranoid about your pit bull developing a genetic disorder. Most dogs live perfectly healthy lives. As a responsible owner, however, you should keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms of these ailments so that you can get your dog the treatment he needs. Even if your dog does develop an inherited condition, proper care can help make sure his life is comfortable, happy, and long.