COMMON DISEASES AND CONDITIONS IN THE BULLMASTIFF

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. It is not to be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem, nor is it a substitute for professional care. If you suspect that your dog may have a health problem, please consult your veterinarian.

The following list is meant to serve as a guide for understanding common health problems in the Bullmastiff. It is by no means all encompassing. The list is organized alphabetically and includes a synopsis on the given condition with focus on definition, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and prognosis. Owners may use it as a screening tool to help identify a health problem. It can also be used as a beginning point for discussion with veterinarians and breeders on health issues. Breeders may include this list in puppy packets to help new owners identify problems that might arise and to encourage an exchange of information.

 

ALLERGIES

Allergies are an immune mediated response by the animal towards a given antigen. Allergies can be caused by many things, including food, fleas, and the environment (i.e., grass or pollen). Symptoms often include red, itchy skin on the feet or groin, dry, flaky skin, excessive hair loss, reddened ears with a foul-smelling discharge, and weepy, watery eyes or a runny nose. The animals will often scratch or clean themselves excessively. Veterinarians have several techniques available to identify allergens including intradermal skin testing and blood tests. A simple process of elimination will sometimes suffice. Treatment may be as simple as eliminating a cause (such as a change to a natural diet). In cases where avoidance and environmental changes donít help, antihistamines are sometimes used. More severe cases are often treated with short-term steroids. Immunotherapy ("allergy shots") can be very effective. However, allergy shots are not without risks. Due to the fact the animal is receiving injections of very small doses of what they are allergic to, there is the possibility for a systemic or anaphylactic reaction.

BLOAT (Gastric Dilation and Volvulus or GDV)

Bloat is a condition in which the stomach fills with air (dilation) and twists on its long axis (volvulus), thereby causing obstruction and cutting off the blood flow to vital organs. This potentially and often fatal condition can occur in any dog but is especially prevalent in large, deep-chested breeds. The exact cause is unknown. Bloat often occurs within a few hours of eating followed by excessive exercise, but it can also occur under normal, daily routine. Symptoms include abdominal distension, restlessness, pacing, unsuccessful attempts to vomit or pass stool, and lethargy. Diagnosis is confirmed by x-ray. Treatment can involve "decompression" (passing a tube through the mouth to the stomach to release the gas), but surgery is indicated in severe cases. Even in those cases where decompression is successful, surgery to prevent reoccurrence should be considered. Bullmastiff owners should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of bloat and establish a plan for immediate treatment. Early detection and immediate medical intervention is essential if the dog is to survive.

CANCER

Cancer is an immunologic condition brought about by a prolific response of a given abnormal cell type within the body. It is present in all breeds and the exact causes are unknown. In Bullmastiffs, the most common cancers are:

CARDIAC

The most common heart problems in Bullmastiffs are valvular disorders, sub-aortic stenosis (SAS), and cardiomyopathy. Owners are encouraged to report to their breeders if any heart problems are diagnosed.

While weakness, lethargy, stunted growth, exercise intolerance, fainting, or abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) may be present, both of these heart conditions (SAS and cardiomyopathy) can also progress undetected until they result in sudden death. Listening to the heart with a stethoscope is the first step in assessing a dogís cardiac condition, but it is not always adequate, especially in a short-nosed breed such as the Bullmastiff. Further tests involving EKGs and cardiac ultrasound may be indicated. A consultation with a canine cardiologist is recommended when abnormalities are detected. Some treatments to manage cardiac disease are available through your veterinarian.

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EYES

HYPOTHYROIDISM

This condition results when insufficient thyroid hormones (usually T3 or T4) are produced. It is characterized by a wide variety of symptoms including: obesity, lethargy, hair loss (mostly in patches on the sides or tail areas), infertility, abnormal heats, skin and coat problems, interdigital cysts, and the onset of sudden aggression. Diagnosis is confirmed through blood tests. Treatment with synthetic thyroid supplementation is very effective.

KIDNEY AND URINARY

Chronic kidney failure is one of the most common canine conditions, and it afflicts all breeds. In many instances, it is a result of old age; the kidneys begin to wear out after a lifetime of filtering wastes from the bloodstream. Chronic kidney failure can also be attributed to renal diseases such as:

While chronic kidney failure is not a curable disease, it can be a manageable one if detected early enough.

Be alert for any symptoms that might indicate these as well as other kidney/urinary disease: frequent drinking, frequent urinating, difficulty passing urine, blood in the urine, decreased force of stream, vomiting, and/or bad breath. Routine blood work is also useful in early detection of kidney problems. Such diseases are often medically or surgically treatable, though not curable.

ORTHOPEDICS/JOINT DISEASE

There are several developmental bone diseases that primarily affect puppies of rapidly growing, large breeds, and males in particular. They are: