BTC Health Protocol


The Bull Terrier Club strongly recommends that its members health test their Bull Terriers at regular intervals.  
BAER testing is a one off test which will determine whether your Bull Terrier can hear in both ears, one ear or none.
The best age to test a litter is around 5.5 to 6.5 weeks of age (ear canals don’t open until puppies are about 2 weeks old). The test can be carried out at any age after this, including on adult dogs; however, many breeders wish to know the hearing status of their pups before they go to their new homes. Also, at this age, puppies have an active period followed by a period of sleep, which is the perfect time to carry out the test.
The Kennel Club run a formal BAER testing scheme where results can be recorded on the dogs record and are available on the Kennel Club Health Test Results Finder. More details can be found at the following URL
Requirements for publishing results:
All participating dogs will need to be KC registered and microchipped (prior to screening).
The microchip of individual dogs will be scanned prior to screening to verify that the correct dog is being screened.
Owners are encouraged to submit copies of the certificates themselves directly to the Kennel Club, if the testing centre does not automatically do so.
For heart testing 18 months of age is deemed the most reliable time to start testing your Bull Terrier. Kidney testing can be carried out from 1 year onwards.
1) Basic heart auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) – This should only be carried out by a Veterinary Cardiologist.
2) Ultrasound scan – To be carried out by a veterinary cardiologist, preferably on the panel of the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society.
3) Ultrasound scan with flow velocities – To be carried out by veterinary cardiologist, preferably on the panel of the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society. NB: Cardiologist’s view -Usually 1.8 m/s is the cut-off value for normal aortic flow. Further scanning is needed to get more information on what is normal in this breed.   It is recommended that animals with measurements above 1.8 OR which have had their certificate marked equivocal only be considered for mating to animals with readings of 1.8 and below to attempt to reduce the incidence of heart disease in the BT**. NB; see point 1 above.
Auscultation/Ultrasound should be carried out prior to using any animal for breeding purposes.
As part of the Bull Terrier Club Heart Scheme data collection, we would appreciate it if copies of results (blue part of auscultation form) could be sent to the Secretary, Elaine Ball. They can be anonymised and will be held for data collection purposes only and not published. This should over time, allow us to form a useful picture of heart disease in the breed.
This can be a hereditary condition in Bull Terriers. You can get a UPC test done (urine protein:creatinine ratio) test carried out (it costs about £13) to test your dog’s kidney function. For breeding purposes this should be less than 0.3.
**It is important to remember that the UPC test only tests the kidney function at that point in time and is not an indicator of future disease.
If your Bull Terrier, or one you have bred has suffered from kidney disease or is diagnosed as having kidney disease it would be incredibly valuable and kind, if you would ask your vet to take a DNA sample for the AHT. It is a simple cheek swab and you should be able to do this at home instead if you wish, as instructions are provided. If you would like a kit you can either contact the Bryan McLaughlan at the Animal Health Trust.
 As part of the Bull Terrier Club Kidney Scheme data collection, we would appreciate it if copies of results could be sent to the Secretary, Elaine Ball. They can be anonymised and will be held for data collection purposes only and not published. This should over time, allow us to form a useful picture of kidney disease in the breed.

Canine Blood Donors Required

The demand for Canine blood is growing and more donors are needed to help save other dogs lives. One donation can help to save up to four other dogs!!
In order to donate, dogs must be over 25kgs, between 1-8 years old, not have travelled abroad, be fit and well and not on any medication.
Dogs have two main blood types – DEA 1.1 Positive or Negative, with more demand for Negative.
There are regular blood collections around the country and at the Veterinary Hospitals.
All the Donors receive a full health check before giving blood and it takes around 5-10 minutes to collect 450mls of blood. After each donation the special dogs are given a goody bag (if its the Pet Blood Bank).


Pet Blood Bank 01509 232 222

Royal Dick Edinburgh 01316517300

Glasgow Vet School 01413305848

DNA Test for Familial Nephropathy

Towards a DNA test for familial nephropathy.

For anyone new to the breed I must first explain what this disease is. Familial means it is an inherited disease, nephropaphy relates it to the kidneys. In short, it is an inherited disease which destroys the kidneys. It destroys the kidneys completely, it is fatal and there is no cure. Like us, dogs are “over-engineered” with respect to kidney capacity, both we and dogs have kidneys which can cope with several times the amount of work they are required to do. When this disease strikes, the kidneys are destroyed little by little, there is no noticeable effect on the dog until there is too little kidney tissue left to cope with the work load, then, quite suddenly the dog becomes obviously ill. In a matter of weeks or even days an affected dog goes from apparently normal to having a tremendous thirst, and what goes in must come out again so it becomes incontinent. Its weight declines rapidly regardless of food offered and eaten. By this stage the distressed owner will have visited a vet, who will have done a blood test and diagnosed a kidney problem. The vet may not know about the underlying disease because it is unique to Bull Terriers and may propose various treatments. These are likely to empty your bank account but not help the dog. As the kidney destruction progresses the dog will experience great pain and the and the only kind and sensible answer is euthanasia as soon as real discomfort is evident. This is a “late onset” disease meaning that the affected dog may appear to be perfectly healthy for several years before it succumbs, sadly, this may result in it having puppies before any problem is suspected. The disease may become apparent at any age from a few months up to seven years. Dogs older than that can be assumed not to have inherited the defective gene.

How is the disease inherited? The defective gene may be in either parent and if it is present it will cause the disease eventually. Because genes always exist in pairs one defective gene will be paired with one normal gene, but the normal gene will be “overcome” or dominated by the defective one. The disease affects dogs and bitches equally. If you are familiar with the terminology of genetics the disease is described as being inherited as an autosomal dominant. This mode of inheritance means that one affected dog crossed with one normal dog will produce puppies of which half, on average, will have the disease. Although the disease is fatal, its late onset nature results in it being perpetuated down the generations. It should be noted that the Bull Terrier which sired the breed record number of champions had the disease, died of it, and half of those champions produced died of it too.

The answer

Clearly the answer to this problem is to find a test which will identify which dogs have the defective genes before they are bred from. If all dogs could have such a test before mating, and not be mated if they had the gene, then the disease could be completely eliminated. At the moment there is a test available but it is a “rule of thumb” test, not the final answer. It has been developed by Dr Caroline O’Leary at the University of Queensland. It involves collecting a urine sample from the dog first thing in the morning before it has been fed anything, this sample then being tested for its protein/creatinine ratio. This UPC test is inexpensive and most vets will either do it or get it done for you. The desired ratio is below 0.3 but be aware that the “normal” interpretation of the test is that a reading less than 1.0 is satisfactory, which indeed it is for other breeds, but a reading above 0.3 for a Bull Terrier indicates that it most probably has the defective gene. A DNA test for the defective gene would provide a much better answer, a dog once tested would be guaranteed free for this inherited disease. The Animal Health Trust has agreed to develop a DNA test for us, but it does not involve them waving a magic wand, there is much work for them and we have to play our part too to make it possible.

What do we have to do to help develop a DNA test?

DNA tests are expensive to develop. The Kennel Club funds a Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust so most of the expense is taken care of, but resources such as consumables and laboratory materials are funded solely by donations from funding organisations, breed clubs and individuals.

We have been asked to make an initial contribution of £11,000 to enable research to begin. At the time of writing most of this sum has been raised. Many donations, both modest and generous have come from individuals in many European countries, large donations have come from Notts and Derby District Bull Terrier Club (£2000) The Dutch Bull Terrier Club (£1,514.51), The Coloured Bull Terrier Club (£1000), The Danish Terrier Club (£800) the Bull Terrier Clinical Studies Fund (£606) the Southern Miniature Bull Terrier Club (£589) and the Danish Bull Terrier Club (£570). Whilst expressing thanks to all of the individuals and clubs concerned we must include special thanks to Terry Heath who set the ball rolling by getting the AHT on side and setting up the donations mechanism through the Just Giving website.

DNA samples

We now need samples from affected dogs, possibly as many as fifty. Collecting these may be difficult because affected dogs don’t survive long and their distressed owners may not be aware of the importance of providing samples. So please be vigilant and if you know of any Bull Terriers which are suspected of the disease try to make sure that samples are collected. Here I am copying the advice of Dr Bryan Mclaughlin of the AHT:

“Due to the nature of this disease I realize that sampling is not always easy. May I suggest that if a dog is suspected of the condition, then a sample is taken prior to full diagnosis, and if renal nephropathy is determined post mortem we are informed. Tissue samples may also be taken if at all possible, but these must either be placed in a preservative solution (not formaldehyde) or frozen directly until we can supply the solution.”

The supply of whole kidneys or kidney tissue samples from affected dogs is the ideal because the diagnosis is then definitive instead of just being the opinion of a vet who may not have met the condition before. The AHT will send DNA cheek swab sampling kits free of charge together with the necessary documentation. Request kits by email to putting Bull Terrier DNA study as the subject.

Working together we can and will remove this dreadful kidney disease from our breed. If anyone wishes to contact me about this subject I can reached on Finally, donations for this study should be made through What happens to the money if donations exceed the study’s expenditure? Since the donations will have been made specifically for a Bull Terrier problem the AHT will consider them ring-fenced for the breed.

Dr Brian E Hill (Bull Terrier Breed Health Coordinator)

Liver Colour in Bull Terriers


The appearance of a liver tri-colour male Bull Terrier advertised at stud on the Internet has caused the BT fancier to question the value or risks associated with using this colour pattern in a breeding scheme.

In the 40 years I have been breeding, liver colour in Bull Terriers has popped up occasionally in reports, discussions and in personal observations. I have personally seen one liver brindle bitch, one all white bitch and now this most recent liver tri-colour dog.

All Bull Terriers carry the B locus gene which is a black overlay gene from production of black pigment (melanin). Review of dog coat colour inheritance publications, especially the most recent, state that all Bull Terriers are double dominant BB because all Bull Terriers have black black nose and pads pigmentation.

We know of course, that some Bull Terriers must be carriers of a recessive b gene since we have knowledge of liver coloured Bull Terriers. Therefore, when the B locus gene is resent in either BB or Bb the dog will have a black coat overlay with black nose and pads (melanin), but when present in red-brown (liver) in all the areas of normal melanin distribution. So in this instance (bb), the dog becomes liver coated with light yellowish eyes, a liver nose and liver pads in areas where it should have been black melanin coloured.

The medical studies of black pigment mutation centres around the change of melanin pigmentation to phaecomelanin pigmentation. Melanin pigment is present in many locations throughout the body in humans and dogs. These include the hearing apparatus, eyes, brain, skin and more. Melanin serves a an important anti-oxidant in these locations to protect against harmful oxygen free radicals which cause a myriad of destructive changes to cellular functions. Phaecomelanin is a poor anti-oxidant and does not function similarly to melanin in any of these organs systems.

There is documented proof that loss of melanin in the hearing apparatus of the ear (Cochlea) increases the rate of hearing loss from both loud noise exposure and aging loss in humans. Canine hearing research has linked the loss of melanin containing cells in the hearing apparatus directly to congenital deafness in the dog. Other research has shown a protective function for melanin in the light receptor layer of the eye (retina) as well.

The recessive b gene must occur with some frequency in the breed since it persistently but infrequently pops up. Whether this gene expression occurs with higher frequency depends on reporting from breeders, have they seen this? How often? What did they do? (Cull, place in pet home, etc.) I think that with the current breeding population so heavily slanted toward black tri-colour, there is a significant risk for many more liver coloured animals to be produced. Thus e may be leading the breed towards potentially more phaecomelanin complications spread widely through our breeding population. Certainly, if the currently offered stud dog is used, it will introduce the recessive b gene rapidly into our dogs as every offspring will carry at least oen copy of the recessive b gene an serve as carriers. Our early breed mentors who wrote the breed standard may not have been familiar with the science, but they certainly understood the importance of black (melanin) pigmentation.

A prominent breeder once said at a BTCA meeting about deafness “We all know deafness is bad, but if you want it, breed to it”. The same applies to liver colour in Bull Terriers, in my opinion, it’s bad, but “if you want it……”