Caring for Your Faithful Companion
Bedlington Terriers: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Bedlingtons and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Highly intelligent, playful, and energetic
- An excellent companion, family, or working dog
- Protective of family; good watch dog
- Hypoallergenic coat sheds very little
- Eager to please and responsive to training
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- Needs a lot of activity and mental stimulation to avoid boredom vices
- Sees cats and small animals as prey unless trained otherwise
- Bold and fearless, may attack much larger dogs
- Coat requires regular brushing and grooming
- Can be strong-willed and difficult to train
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She’s an energetic and affectionate playmate for the kids, and wherever she is, she’s the center of attention. She runs the household with spirit.
Don’t let the sheepish appearance fool you; this dog is all terrier. Her lineage makes her fearless enough to take on a badger and fast enough to run a hare to ground and start digging! If you want a sporting dog, the Bedlington is known as one of the most reliable terriers. They are also prized as family dogs for their characteristic mild manners and loyalty. She’ll do fine in an apartment and adores children, but make sure you keep her mind and body occupied. You don’t want to find out how imaginatively destructive a bored terrier can be. Plan around an hour a day of high energy aerobic play to keep her content.
Your Bedlington Terrier’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Bedlington Terrier. By knowing about health concerns specific to Bedlington Terriers, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Bedlington Terriers to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Bedlington Terriers. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Bedlington looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Bedlington Terrier
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Bedlington Terrier is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Bedlington Terrier’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Bedlington Terriers are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Bedlington Terriers. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Bedlington’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Bedlington Terrier is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Bedlington Terriers
This inherited autosomal recessive disease is specific to Bedlington Terriers. In affected dogs, the disease causes a malfunction in the liver causing toxic levels of copper to build up, usually showing symptoms by about 2-4 years of age. Ideally, we will run a genetic test when he’s young to rule out this condition or start preventive treatment.
Sometimes your Bedlington Terrier’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
The pancreas has two major functions: regulating blood sugar and helping digest food. The enzymes that digest food are made by the exocrine part of the pancreas. Bedlington Terriers are at an increased risk of having too few digestive enzymes (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency). This causes inadequate digestion and absorption of nutrients, weight loss, foul smelling greasy diarrhea and a dry and flaky coat because of his inability to absorb dietary fats. Lifetime dietary supplementation with digestive enzymes is an effective therapy.
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Bedlington Terriers can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Distichiasis is a condition caused by extra hairs that grow inside of the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye. This is one of the most commonly inherited diseases in dogs, and your Bedlington Terrier is more likely than other dogs to develop this painful condition. If untreated, these abnormal hairs can cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Several treatment options are available, and the prognosis is good once the hairs have been permanently removed.
Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea (surface of the eyeball). This is an extremely irritating and painful condition that can ultimately lead to blindness. It can happen in any dog breed; however, your Bedlington Terrier is especially at risk for this heritable disorder. Surgical correction is usually successful if performed early.
Sometimes small strands of tissue that were meant to disappear soon after birth remain attached to the iris. When this happens, it’s called Persistent Pupillary Membrane, and your Bedlington Terrier is more likely to have this condition than other dogs. Fortunately, these tissue bits usually don’t hurt or impede vision, but occasionally they can cause problems.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease in which the eyes are genetically programmed to go blind. Unfortunately, Bedlington Terriers are a bit more likely than other dogs to have this condition. PRA is not painful, but also not curable. In dogs with the bad gene, early symptoms such as night blindness or dilated pupils generally begin around three to five years of age. A genetic test is available for this condition.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Bedlington Terriers. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, is common in Bedlington Terriers. The tear glands no longer produce enough tears to keep the eye moist, which results in sore, itchy eyes and infections. Ouch! Symptoms include a thick discharge, squinting, pawing at the eye, or a dull, dry appearance of the eye. This is a painful condition; please call us immediately if you notice any of these signs. We’ll conduct a tear test when we examine him. If he has this disease, we’ll prescribe ointment that you’ll need to apply for the rest of your dog’s life.
Some dogs seem to have guts made of steel, while others have loose stools every time they eat something new. It’s not his fault, though, Bedlingtons are known for digestive problems. You might say diarrhea runs in his genes. To help prevent symptoms, feed a prescription pet food that we recommend. Most importantly, avoid snacks and table food. Treats that are high in fat (like people food), sodium, or artificial ingredients are bad for your buddy’s digestion.
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Bedlington Terriers commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
Teeth abnormalities are often genetically induced and are relatively common in dogs, especially in purebred dogs like your Bedlington Terrier. An overbite or underbite is called a malocclusion, or a bad bite. Oligodontia is a condition where only a few teeth are present. Misaligned teeth can also occur and cause lots of problems, but can usually be corrected with braces or extractions. (Yes, dogs can get braces!) We want to keep your buddy’s teeth healthy so we will be watching his developing teeth closely.
In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Bedlington Terriers often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.
Cushing’s Disease is a malfunction of the adrenal glands causing them to produce too much steroid hormone. This is a common problem in dogs, and your Bedlington is more likely than other dogs to be affected. The condition usually develops slowly, and the early signs are easily missed. Symptoms include drinking and urinating more than normal, increased appetite and reduced activity level. Later, a potbelly, thin skin, and hair loss are characteristic. Treatment usually includes oral medications, and requires close coordination with us to ensure correct dosing.
Some male Bedlington Terriers have a condition present at birth in which one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum (a condition called cryptorchidism). Instead, the testicle stays in the abdomen, which can cause problems later in life, including high cancer risk. We’ll check for this problem when your pet is a puppy; we recommend removal of both testicles if he has this condition.
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Bedlington Terriers. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Bedlington live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- Considered hypoallergenic, but still needs her coat brushed at least weekly, with groomer visits every 4-8 weeks.
- Bedlington Terriers generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- Gotta give her energetic play for an hour a day. This dog is well suited to performance events like agility, flyball or earthdog.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Bedlington Terrier needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Poor appetite, depression and a yellow tinge to her eyes
- Greasy stool, weight loss, dry flaking coat
- Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
- Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Bedlington Terrier counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
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- Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/ic.upei.ca/cidd/breed/bedlington-terrier
- Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http:/www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=bedlington-terrier