Q. I have a ten month Bull Terrier puppy
that has lived with my 4 year old Labrador dog; they have recently
What can I do?
A. It is always dangerous running a Bull Terrier with another of
the same sex, same breed or not. Sometimes it will work, sometimes
it will work for a while, but sometime something will spark off
a fight. This is not necessarily obvious like a bone, or over
food, but often some message passed between them and unknowing
Usually the first fight is the worst one because this promotes
others, sometime this may at first be gradual, at other times on
sight. Sometimes it is possible, albeit rarely, to bring them together
again, but generally not. It is foolish and dangerous to run the
same sexes together, if one or more is a Bull Terrier, and particularly
so with males.
Generally it means a regime of separation,
this is not always as difficult as may be thought. Travel cages
are a boon in circumstances
like this, one cage if need be, but two is even better. Owner’s
need to lose any thoughts that caging is cruel to the dogs; the
dogs love cages as their den and will retire to them voluntarily.
It is for a maximum of 50% of the time in any case. Bull Terriers,
as all dogs, spend most of the time sleeping and there will no
resentment from the one in the cage. It is quite likely that the
caged one would think it is having the privilege.
Q. I have a bitch and am told that it will be good for her to have
puppies. Is this so?
A. No, it could be to her detriment. Whereas
many enjoy mothering the puppies others do not, some even have
to have the puppies taken
away from them, and most become fed up when the pups are say ¾ weeks
of age when their teats being scratched and bitten. Bull Terriers
are, generally, unlike many other breeds, not good mothers.
Q. I have been told I should not let my 11 month dog run loose
in the park. Can I?
A. Unless in particular circumstances no Bull Terrier should run
lose (off lead or line) in a public place. They simply cannot be
trusted. Whereas the puppy, for puppy he is, will tolerate bad
manners and challenges now, it is doubtful he will as he matures.
To find out the hard way is not good enough. Sadly regardless of
the reason, the Bull Terrier always gets the blame, and unlike
most dogs the Bull Terrier can fight to kill.
Q. I have a 2 and a 4 year old child. Should I get a Bull Terrier?
A. Generally no. It would be better to wait until they are a little
older before obtaining a Bull Terrier. Not that a Bull Terrier
would be any more likely to attack a child than any other breed,
but they are clumsy, and they are excitable especially as puppies
or young adults. Any damage to children would normally be accidental,
like excitement bites, or knocking the child down heavily rather
than a deliberate attempt to cause harm. It can be, but not always,
different if the dog is already in the home. Then the situation
could be different, but even then great care should be taken. Needless
to say no dog should be left alone and unattended with a child.
Q. My 12 year old takes my Bull Terrier walking. Is this OK?
A. It is not if there is no responsible adult present. Always
anticipate the unusual happening and query whether a child is strong
and mature enough for this responsibility.
Q. My dog has skin trouble.
A. This must be the most common health problem
besetting Bull Terriers, and perhaps all breeds, although it
could be the difficulty
in curing these problems that makes it seem this way. There is
no short answer to this. As with humans, one of the most frequent
causes, and usually the worst problem, is an allergic reaction.
This is where a substance creates an abnormal reaction from the
body’s defence mechanism by identifying a normally harmless
substance as an enemy, and histamine produced by the body puts
it into an unnecessary defence mode The allergens that initiate
these reactions may be contained in food, in the air, or with any
other particles coming into contact with the affected creature
Allergies are responsible for more skin problems than most owners
would ever imagine. The worst periods for these attacks often seems
to be spring and summer which would indicate a vegetation connection
in these instances. Initially change the dog’s diet, and
change its bedding. Cotton is the safest, wool probably the worst.
Relieving the symptoms is usually the first action in any irritant
skin problems. Most vets will use a steroid, and antibiotics. Steroids,
do not cure these conditions, but are anti-inflammatory drugs which
do reduce the inflammation and alleviate most of the irritation
to the dog, and thus stop it scratching. They can show a dramatic
short term result. The antibiotics are to combat bacteria infections
and particularly to cure or prevent a secondary infection. Changing
the diet also is important, and may help more than the owner could
imagine. Sometimes it is the food that is causing the allergic
Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are obvious. The skin gets
more pink, there is irritation, sometimes skin eruptions, and eventually
there may be a loss of hair in affected parts. In extreme cases
the dog may also become debilitated.
Treatment for allergies consists of helping reduce the symptoms,
and an attempt to identify the cause of the allergy, and this identification
is usually not easy. Once identified, avoidance of the allergen
is often the only control that can be achieved. There is no simple
cure-all available, but new drugs are appearing which may sometime
help with these cases.
Fleas, a problem in their own right, can cause flea allergies. Fleas themselves
are not the allergy, but a dog may have the allergy to flea bites. This often
manifests as bald and ragged hair often at the base of the spine. Clearing,
and keeping clear of the fleas, will rectify this problem and the main danger
with this, indeed with all skins problems, is secondary infections. All dogs
can suffer parasites, not only fleas, and a constant vigilance is prudent.
Fortunately suitable remedies and preventives are available from your vet
or pet shop.
Skin problems do not kill dogs (although occasionally they make
the dog’s life such misery that euthanasia becomes the
only answer), and too often a control rather than a cure is all
that can be achieved.
Other and usually lesser problems can include moist eczema, usually localised
patches which, as the name denotes, are moist. Sometimes this is caused by
feeding too much carbohydrate, reduce this and the problem may go. It is
fairly easy to cure though, although if it is a diet problem, and the diet
is not corrected, it will reappear.
There is also dry eczema, more severe and covering more of the
body. The cause is not always obvious but is probably a genetic
problem- thus do not buy a puppy if the parents have skin problems!
The symptoms are similar, but over a larger area.
Another possibility is parasites- fleas, mange and lice and your
vet may take a skin scraping for microscopic examination to confirm
or eliminate this. Fleas and lice are easily rid of, mange not
so. Basically there are three types of mange, of the ear (discharges
wax and irritation), and sarcoptic or demodectic. The former much
easier cured than the second. There is also feet eczema; this is
dealt with in another section.
Q. My dog often suffers with feet problems.
A. The feet on a dog are vulnerable to all sorts of problems. Simple
things like sore pads, split nails, cuts, or bruises will cause
the dog to lick and bite the feet leading to bigger problems.
Keep dogs away from areas which have been sprayed, and in very
hot weather off hot pavements. Check the feet, and bathe in mildly
disinfected or salt water
Eliminating causes such as chemicals, hot roads and other irritants and there
is left the moist foot eczema problem. This can also be a dietary problem of
too much carbohydrate, change this, and it may cure the problem.
There is a well known condition once common in the breed, and which of late
seems on the increase again are called inter-digital cysts. These are so called
cysts, but they are really boils, between the toes. The dog licks them, they
usually are purplish in colour, they come to a head, burst, and then after
a period they depart, usually to recur with the same pattern at a later date.
At times the dog is unable to walk. They may exist on and off throughout the
animals’ life or they may simply disappear. There is no cure as such,
but different people have their own home remedies, most of which probably coincided
with the natural regression of the condition. It is believed hereditary, and
is an inability in the bodies natural defence mechanism to cope. Sufferers
should see their vet, but some owners swear by sea water. Walking them on the
beach and paddling through the water. Ensure that all the sand is afterwards
removed though. In all cases it is a good idea to bathe the dogs’ feet
in some mild antiseptic wash; salt water of course is just that. Ensure they
are thoroughly dried afterwards.
There is also the very common foot licking
syndrome. All dogs lick their feet at times, but it is when it becomes an
is of main concern. It is very common in the breed. In this
the animal is obsessed with licking and biting the feet. No doubt
an irritation of whatever cause is the reason, but the feet
become chewed, swollen, inflamed, and even bleeding. In some
cases it is because of external influences, especially sore
pads so check and eliminate the obvious. But in other cases there
seems no apparent reason and eventually, through the dog’s
incessant attention, the feet may become over sized. The cause
is probably an allergic reaction, and this is supported by the
fact that the condition is more prevalent at certain times of
the year. Old breeders used to refer to pink feet which occurred
when the animal went on grass- pinkness suggest inflammation,
and inflammation causes irritation. Pink feet would therefore
also be the condition we refer to as feet licking. Certainly
it worsens at certain times of the year, and on occasions has
been linked to the dog running on particular areas. The reason
the results are usually more dramatic on the feet than on other
parts of the body is that the feet are so accessible to chew.
It is a skin irritation, so if you can relieve the irritation
by whatever means you will be helping the animal, but we do feel
veterinary advice should be sought.
Q. My dog’s nails are growing too long. Should I cut them?
A. Someone must. Many Bull Terriers dislike
having their nails clipped, and it then becomes a two person
job. Some owners regularly
take their dog to the vets to have its nails clipped, but it is
not really necessary. It is better to start cutting the dog’s
nails whilst it is a puppy, it will then become used to it, so
can you. Puppy nails are soft and snip easily but do take care.
Don't use scissors; buy a pair of dog nail cutters. These are like
wire cutters, and they will remain sharp for years.
Dogs nails are worn short by walking on hard surfaces such as
cement or paving stones, but this will only be so if the toes
present the nails correctly. In any case dew claw nails need
cutting. It would be rare to find a Bull Terrier that never needed
to have its nails cut, unless s the animal chews its own nails
short, and some do.
Care must be taken not to cut nails too short, and if they are
very long it is better to snip them off in small pieces rather
than in one go. If they have been neglected it may be necessary
for the vet to cut them under an anesthetic, but providing they
are then cut regularly there should be no further trouble. Cut
into the quick (the flesh at the rear of the nail) and they bleed,
and the animal experiences pain. This means they become shy (sometimes
hysterical would be more apt) about having their nails cut. However,
many have this fear for no good reason except that they dislike
having their nails cut. Despite this there should be no real
problem that normal bribery and comforting cannot control.
Q. My dog chases its tail? Is this serious?
A. It can be. Tail chasing varies in the intensity
of the problem. The occasional tail chasing, usually in an exciting
is not too much of a problem, (although obviously it is better
to avoid the trigger if possible) to dogs that chase their tails
until exhaustion forces them to collapse. Most are somewhere between
of course. The vast majority of tail chasing is hereditary, and
is probably just another facet of an underrlying mental problem
carried in the parents, probably as a recessive as I would hope
no one would breed with stock showing temperament flaws. I do not
believe that tail chasing makes the dog dangerous except if other
considerations enter the problem- to explain, I believe that a
dog in full flow tail chasing is totally impervious to any other
out side influences, hence it could damage itself or even people
through the act of tail chasing. If it bit or scratched it would
probably be through the tail chasing, rather than of deliberate
Some Bull Terriers chase their tails. Most puppies do so, very
briefly, but rapidly get fed up with it. In the mild form, this
seems often related to boredom, or to stress.
A much more serious form of tail chasing is often called spinning.
This usually begins seriously at about 6 months of age, when the
dog is obsessed by its tail to the exclusion of owner, food, or
water. Commanding the dog will not cause it to stop. There is no
magic wand cure I know of. Some vets will prescribe sedatives,
sometimes strong sedatives such as phenobarbitone, this to sedate
the animal in the hope that when the course is finished the dog
will be cured- I have on a few occasions heard of this working.
With less severe cases lighter sedative such as Valium, Prozac
and other medicants. In some cases this does help.
At times dogs have to be put down because
of severe tail chasing, and this is sad, very sad, but if one
sees such dogs’ severe
mental state, and the severe physical damage caused it is understandable.
It does make this traumatic task a little easier. Observation of
this over many years does suggest that the problem is more common
in dogs than bitches.
Q. My dog is showing aggression to my children, and to strangers.
A. I think it would be fair to say the Welfare help-line is contacted
most days by owners with Bull Terriers that suffer temperament
problems that vary in type and intensity. Some seem to have uncharacteristic
behaviour abnormalities, and these are dealt with on an individual
basis, but many have a dominance problem. These would be the
animals that in experienced Bull Terrier owners hands would usually
give no problems. Dogs do not reason, they simply accept a code
of behaviour inherent in the wild, and where there is a defined
order of leadership. If they recognise the human members of their
pack as superior, there is no problem, but if they do not, the
problems start. All puppy purchasers should be advised that they
must use love and kindness, but they must also be the boss. This
can normally be acquired without the need of physical action
other than indicating one’s displeasure, perhaps by banging
a rolled up newspaper on the table, rattling a tin with some
coins or stones in, or treating the animal more like a dog, like
walking through the dog rather than around it. Once a dog has
started on this slippery path to dominance it needs early attention
to rectify, and there are methods, but many do not seek help
until the behaviour is really ingrained in to the dog.
Most temperament problems are a combination of hereditary, hormonal
and environmental causes, so whereas castration may help with the
hormonal element, this alone would probably not rectify other causes.
Castration does reduce the production of aggression hormones in
a male, so one may reasonably expect some degree of an improvement;
but not necessarily sufficient. We recommend castration, as it
does make the animal more malleable, and a better dog - but do
not rush out and have your stud dogs done! With a bitch with aggression
we are not so sure. Certainly spaying helps reduce future health
problems, (and this is important), but it does reduce the female
hormone production, so this could even make aggression worse.
Q. I am on income support and my Bull Terrier needs medical treatment.
Will the Welfare Trust pay for it.
A. We are often asked this question in one form or another- pensioners,
income, sick, unemployed and at times I am sure by some who wish
to get something for nothing. It may be for veterinary treatment,
boarding fees, or any other essential expenses. The short answer
is no, we cannot help. We do not have the funding to do this, or
the facilities to check that the applicant is really in financial
need, or indeed is it in our mandate. We do advise that the PDSA
do give free veterinary treatment for income support people, and
the RSPCA and other big organisations do sometimes help. Also that
some local councils have funding to help in such matters.
Q. I am going to Australia for three months- do you have someone
who will foster my dog whilst I am away?
A. Sadly not. Whereas I am sure many BT owners would like to help,
ours is not the sort of breed where a strange dog can be introduced
without causing problems with the resident Bull Terrier.
Q. My bitch has a dry eye. What is it?
A. Technically it is Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, better known
as a dry eye. Any with an animal suffering this will be aware of
the distress it can cause, and which, if not treated, in time can
become a chronic and often incurable condition.
It has been possible to perform an operation to alleviate the
condition for many years. Normally this consists of joining the
tear to the saliva duct -tears and saliva being similar in composition-
but it is a delicate and difficult procedure. Even then the remedy
brings its own problems as the animal, on seeing food, drools,
and the eye runs with tears. It sounds amusing, but it can cause
acute soreness and hair loss of the skin surrounding the eye. The
other standby was no cure, although it did alleviate discomfort,
and it did lubricate the eye, consisted of artificial tear drops,
a saline solution, inserted from a dropper. Ideally these needed
inserting every hour, but I doubt many could follow such a rigid
regime. Certainly the more occasions these saline drops were inserted,
the more comfortable it was for the dog.
The condition does seem hereditary, although
perhaps more an inherited deficiency of immune system that allows
this condition to occur.
Years ago one of our own bitches suffered a dry eye which we traced
through several generations of the mother’s line. We prevented
the problem in our line by not breeding from her. To confuse matters
completely we think it can also be acquired. Repeated bacterial
infections may corrode the delicate drainage ducts to the eye,
and eventually they may block permanently.
Years ago it was common to blame a certain
type of sawdust; fine powdery dust would float in the air and
could cause soreness and
infection. Sore eyes, probably a contributory cause to dry eye,
are prevalent in welfare animals, and without doubt the main cause
of this is neglect. Prevention is better than cure. A few years
ago we had a bitch come into the scheme with double entropian (in-growing
eyelashes), and a classic case of acute dry eye. She was almost
totally blind and we had to work to bring her to condition before
she could endure the two necessary entropian operations. The Welfare’s
Veterinary Surgeon prescribed an ointment, Optimune, to treat the
dry eye. Initially we had no faith in this but it worked like a
miracle. Optimune, or similar preparations, are now fairly standard
treatments, but then it was relatively new. In this instance the
years of pain and distress to the bitch, not to mention the eye
damage and partial blindness, was the result of neglect. Restoring
the tears and the subsequent entropian operations improved the
sight, the eye, and eradicated both the cause and the condition.
A very satisfactory conclusion.
In the pre dry eye stages the eye will probably be sore, with
recurring infections. The animal may exhibit signs of distress,
such as the rubbing or scratching at the eye. Veterinary attention
is essential. Certainly bathe the eye as a temporary relief, using
mildly salty water if you have no recognised veterinary or homeopathic
additive, Euphrasia tablets and (diluted) tincture for bathing
the eye are excellent homeopathy remedies. Tears are anti bacterial,
and the healthy eye is constantly lubricated and bathed. An animal
that has the condition deteriorate to a full dry eye problem is
well past the time when it should have received veterinary attention.
A dry eye is more than uncomfortable and unsightly, it will become,
infected, scarred, and damaged, with vision impairment and even