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What Diseases Are Common In Pit Bulls? (And How To Prevent Them)

Vet listens to Pit Bull's heartbeat with stethoscope

As we all know, dogs are just like humans in the sense that their bodies are susceptible to deterioration and disease. It’s a sad thing to think about, but it’s an unfortunate truth.

So when I got my first Pit bull, I wanted to know exactly what to expect. What diseases were common among the breed? Which diseases were Pit bulls most susceptible to?

By educating myself on common Pit bull health concerns, I could better take measures to prevent them from arising. And today I want to help you to do that too by talking about some of the most common diseases in Pit bulls, and how you can reduce the risk. So why don’t we get started?

So what diseases are Pitbulls susceptible to? One of my Pit bulls suffered a neurological condition known as  Cerebellar Ataxia. This is a disorder that causes the cerebellum (the area of the brain responsible for muscle coordination) to become inflamed or damaged.

Loss of coordination and balance are the main symptoms of Cerebellar Ataxia. When an infection or tumor is to blame, medications or surgery may be able to clear things up. Sadly, if it is hereditary, it is progressive and fatal.

Unfortunately, while Cerebellar Ataxia is one of Pit bull’s health concerns, it’s not the only thing to be concerned about. Diseases that are common among Pit bulls include Hip Dysplasia, heart disease, hypothyroidism, cataracts, and allergies.

Obviously, some of these health concerns are more severe than others, but which ones should you be most concerned about? And how can you go about preventing them?

As we continue on with this article we will learn more about each of these health concerns, including the symptoms associated with them, the severity of each, the treatment and outlook, and how you can go about reducing your Pit bull’s risk.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common diseases among all breeds of dogs. Hip dysplasia usually begins when a dog is young and not fully developed. When the hip joints don’t develop properly, the result is a partial dislocation, or “hip dysplasia”.hip dysplasia in dogs

A dog with dysplasia can experience anywhere from mild to severe pain, and over time it can actually affect their ability to walk.

What causes hip dysplasia? In most cases, hip dysplasia is genetic. With that being said, there are some environmental factors that can increase risk or worsen the condition. These include things like malnutrition, rapid weight gain, or obesity.

How do you know if your Pit bull has hip dysplasia? Signs of hip dysplasia are actually quite similar to signs of arthritis in humans.

Your dog may be showing signs of pain, difficulty walking, overall stiffness, a reluctance to exercise or climb stairs, or weakness in their hind legs. In some cases, you might even hear a clicking noise clicking from their hips when they walk.

Unfortunately, because hip dysplasia is often genetic, it’s not always preventable. With that being said, there are things that you can do to reduce the risk. These can include:

  • Feeding your dog a healthy diet
  • Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight
  • Avoiding over-exercising as a puppy (no jumping, leaping, etc. until they are fully developed)
  • Keeping your dog physically active as they age
  • Taking your Pit bull in for screening.

Screening your Pit bull early for hip dysplasia is important, because the earlier it is caught, the more the vet can do for your dog. There are many surgical options available if necessary, but in most cases, the vet can teach you how to manage the disease with supplements, medications, and a healthy diet.

Heart Disease

Just like humans, dogs can be susceptible to heart disease, and unfortunately, it’s one of the more common diseases among the Pit bull breed. Heart disease can affect one or both sides of the heart and may lead to more serious conditions like congestive heart failure.

Once the disease has reached this point, the dog’s heart has trouble pumping blood to the rest of the body. This disease is often slow to progress and can take many years to spot.

What causes heart disease in Pit Bulls? In dogs, heart disease can be related to things like dietary deficiencies, heartworm infections, hyperthyroidism, cardiomyopathy, and endocarditis.

In some cases, as with that of congenital heart failure, the disease is genetic. In this specific type of heart disease, the dog is born with a heart defect that can be exacerbated by injury, infection, or age.

What are the symptoms of heart disease? There are a variety of things that can signal heart disease in Pit bulls. These include, but are not limited to, coughing that lasts more than a few days, difficulty breathing, changes in behavior, loss of appetite, rapid weight gain/loss, fainting, weakness, restlessness, swelling, and isolation.

With that being said, many of these symptoms can be signs of other concerns as well, so don’t panic at first sight of a symptom. Rather, take your Pit bull to the vet as soon as you notice anything abnormal. This will allow for early detection, and better prognosis.

Prognosis of heart disease in Pit bulls often depends on the underlying cause.

heartworm disease in Pit BullsMany heart conditions caused by heartworm, for example, can be resolved through treatment of the condition, and often times congenital (from birth) heart disease can be repaired with surgery.

Having said that, most cases of heart disease are incurable. With proper treatment, however, lifespan and quality of life can be greatly improved.

How can you prevent heart failure? Like hip dysplasia, heart disease is not always preventable. With that being said, heartworm, which is a primary cause of heart disease, can be prevented with regular heartworm medications.

This, in turn, can help to prevent heart disease caused by heartworm. Other preventative measures include maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet, and ensuring that your Pit bull maintains a healthy weight.


The thyroid is a small gland located in a dog’s neck, very close to their voice box. The job of this gland is to create a hormone known as “thyroxine”, which in turn, controls your dog’s metabolism.

When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroxine, the result is a disease called hypothyroidism.

Though it’s not known why, the disease is more common in dogs that have been neutered or spayed. The good news is that this disease is rarely life-threatening, and can often be managed or even treated with proper medication.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism? The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs are weight gain and reduced activity levels. These symptoms may also be accompanied by a thinning or dull coat, excessive shedding, muscle loss, flaky skin, and regular ear or skin infections.

Thankfully, the prognosis of hypothyroidism is very good. Unless the disease was caused by a tumor on the gland (which is rare), it’s not life-threatening. Furthermore, treatment is relatively inexpensive and easy.

Though your Pit bull would have to take daily medications for the rest of their life, their life quality and expectancy would remain high with proper treatment.

How can you prevent hypothyroidism? Most cases of hypothyroidism occur when a dogs immune system is low. In return, it’s important to work with your veterinarian to keep your dog healthy, and their immune system running well.

If you can do this, most cases of hypothyroidism can be prevented. With that being said, some cases are simply genetic, in which case the focus should be on early detection and treatment.


A cataract is an eye disease that is common in both humans and dogs. Characterized by a cloudiness to the lens of the eye, cataracts cause a dogs vision to become blurred. The severity of the disease depends on the size of the cataract.Dog's eye cataracts

A small cataract is unlikely to cause much difficulty, but larger ones could lead to difficulty seeing and blindness.

There are many things that can cause a dog to develop cataracts in their eyes including other diseases, trauma, and age, but in most case,s it is a genetically inherited disease. Many incidents can also be related to diabetes.

What are the symptoms of cataracts? If your dog has cataracts, you may be able to see a small (or large) cloudy dot in their eyes. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have cataracts (it could just be nuclear sclerosis, which is not as serious), but it’s still worth a checkup.

Other signs that your Pit bull may be developing cataracts include clumsiness, scratching of the eyes, discharge, irritation, or redness.

What’s the prognosis? As I said previously, the severity of cataracts depends on the size of the cataract itself. If a cataract is small, it probably won’t be of much concern to you or your Pit bull.

Larger cataracts, however, can cause vision loss. Thankfully, a good ophthalmologist can often restore this vision loss through surgery, which generally has a high success rate.

How can you prevent cataracts? As with most diseases, not all cases of cataracts are preventable, but there are things that you can do to preserve your Pit bull’s vision. The first step to preventing vision loss is keeping your Pitty in good health.

In many cases cataracts can be linked back to diabetes, so maintaining a healthy diet is extremely important. Secondly, examine your Pit bull’s eyes regularly. If you notice any signs of cloudiness, discharge, or irritation, take them to the vet as soon as possible. The earlier you diagnose, the better the prognosis.


Like many humans, dogs can suffer from allergies. Because Pit bulls have such short fur, their skin is more exposed to the elements, and this leaves them more susceptible to skin allergies than other breeds.

Unfortunately, there are allergens all around us. Common Pit bull allergies include the sun, pests, certain foods, and other environmental triggers.

The good news is that while allergies are one of the most common Pit bull diseases, they’re also one of the easiest to treat.

How do you know if your Pit bull has allergies?

Veterinarian treats skin disease of a dogA dog that is suffering from allergies may have “hot” (or bald) spots on their fur, irritated bumps on their skin, cracked or irritated skin, or may engage in excessive licking.

Dogs with allergies may also display regular scratching, runny eyes, sneezing, or even vomiting and diarrhea.

The good news is, allergies don’t have to affect your dogs quality of life – they are treatable. The best way to treat an allergen is to remove the cause. If you can trace what is causing your Pitbull’s discomfort, you can easily make lifestyle changes that accommodate the need.

With that being said, it’s not always easy to pinpoint an allergen. In such cases, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to help reduce symptoms and lessen discomfort.

Note: If a severe allergic reaction takes place, take your pet to the emergency vet immediately for treatment.

How can you prevent allergies? You can’t prevent your dog from being allergic to something. If they are allergic to chicken, they are allergic to chicken – there’s nothing you can do. What you can do, however, is prevent them from coming into contact with that allergen and prevent an allergic reaction from taking place.

This may require some intense monitoring, as you will need to find the trigger for your Pit bull’s allergic reactions. Once you find the trigger, you can remove it from the dog’s environment, and thereby prevent allergic reactions from taking place.

So there you have it! Hypothyroidism, Heart disease, Allergies, Cataracts, and Hip Dysplasia – these are the 5 most common diseases in Pitbulls.

While many of them are genetic, there are things that you can do to reduce the risk of your Pitbull becoming affected. Above all, keep your Pit bull healthy and active. With a nutritious diet and exercise, most Pitbulls can live a good, healthy lifestyle of over 14 years!

Related Questions

Do Pit bulls Have A Lot Of Health Problems?

No. Though we have discussed some of the more common Pit bull health concerns above, the fact remains that Pit bulls are generally an overall healthy breed. With proper nutrition and exercise, most Pit bulls live a healthy lifespan of 12-14 years with few health concerns.

How Much Exercise Does A Pit bull Need To Stay Healthy?

Pit bulls are extremely athletic dogs with muscular builds, plenty of stamina, and lots of energy. In return, they require a great deal of exercise – more than most breeds. In general, you should aim for at least an hour of exercise each day (once they are full grown).

Because each Pit bull is unique, some will require less exercise, and some will require more. Signs that your Pit bull needs more exercise including whining, pestering, and destructive behaviors.

How Frequently Should I Take My Pit bull For A Checkup?

Most people only take their dogs to the vet when they need to update their vaccinations, or when an emergency arises. But if you want to ensure the health of your dog, you should be taking them for regular checkups. As a puppy (up until 4 months of age), your Pit bull should have a checkup once a month.

Adult dogs should visit the vet at least once a year, and senior dogs should visit at least twice a year. Regular visits to the vet will allow them to complete an overall physical exam, and perform age-appropriate tests that may catch preventative diseases before they become problematic.

Of course, you should always take your dog to the vet anytime you notice anything abnormal as well, just to be safe!