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The Healthy Bedlington


The Bedlington Terrier is generally regarded as a “healthy” breed.  This is certainly the impression one receives when talking to Bedlington owners.  However, there is very little real evidence for this supposition.


So the question still remains - how accurate is this perceived impression of the breed’s general health status.


To answer this question requires an answer to ‘What is meant by healthy/good health’?  


One definition of good health may be “the state that exists within the dog when the body functions normally and there is no evidence of illness, injury, abnormality or any deviation from what is considered the “norm” in terms of physical attributes or behaviour”.  However, good health does not merely imply ‘the absence of disease or other infirmity’ and one often hears the terms ‘well-being’ and ‘soundness used in relation to health.


Certainly, dog owners who know their dogs as individuals are generally aware, subconsciously, of their well-being but would probably find it difficult to express this ‘impression’ in words.


It is obvious from analysis of the Breed Health Survey results that Bedlington terrier owners take a somewhat pragmatic view of what constitutes “good health”.  It seems to be generally accepted that most dogs will, on occasions, experience “health problems” the resolution of which may require some form of veterinary intervention/treatment.  However, such problems are generally “short-term” and are considered to have a relatively insignificant impact on the overall health status of the dog.




The BTHG Breed Health Strategy


A “Mission Statement” and a list of the “Aims of the Bedlington Terrier Health Group”, are shown on “The BTHG”. Page.  These provide a generalised statement of the role of the Health Group.  However, it is felt that several matters, as detailed below, should be prioritised and form the basis of a Breed Health Strategy.


•To arrange for the health status of the breed to be monitored by means of repeat surveys carried out on a regular basis.  Surveys relating to specific types of “problem” should be carried out where considered necessary/appropriate, e.g. eye problems, dermatological problems.


To encourage the adoption of a testing regime for copper toxicosis.  

It is strongly recommended that all  breeding stock be tested and that a breeding policy should be adopted that will eliminate the possibility of  breeding  “affected”puppies.


•To collect and collate “pedigree” information relating to Cushing’s Syndrome.  This is perceived as an increasing problem in the breed and many owners feel that there may be a genetic disposition to the condition.  Owners should be encouraged to provide details, i.e. the pedigree name(s), of any dog(s) that have been diagnosed with Cushing’s.  The analysis of “pedigree” data is considered to be the first stage in determining whether or not there is evidence of a “familial” trend in the occurrence of the disease.


•There is some evidence to suggest that certain forms of kidney conditions may have a genetic element. Again, in order to clarify the situation some form of “pedigree” analysis would seem to be appropriate in the first instance and, again, owners should be encouraged to provide details, i.e. the pedigree name(s) of any of their dog(s) that have been diagnosed with any kidney problem(s).  Where possible, the specific kidney problem diagnosed should be provided.


•Breeders offering puppies for sale should be encouraged to provide a puppy contract along with a comprehensive information pack - the Kennel Club and RSPCA websites provide useful information relating to this.



Maintaining Health


Anyone contemplating the purchase of a Bedlington puppy should aim to learn as much as possible about the breed beforehand and should be aware of the disease conditions/health problems to which the breed may be predisposed.


Both the Kennel Club and the RSPCA websites provide useful information/advice on “Buying a puppy”.  It is important that the puppy is bought from a recognised, reputable breeder who will be prepared to provide a comprehensive “puppy contract”, i.e. one based on the RSPCA contract, and to offer advice about the management of the puppy.


In common with dogs of all breeds, Bedlington terriers are randomly prone to a range of conditions that may be perceived as resulting in a “bout of ill-health”.  However, it is possible to reduce the occurrence/impact of many of these by adopting common-sense husbandry procedures.


•The adoption of a regular feeding regime, i.e. number of feeds, amount and type of diet that is appropriate to the physiological state of the dog, e.g. pregnant bitches, puppies and actively growing, i.e. juvenile/adolescent dogs, older dogs, etc.

It is important to avoid overfeeding - obesity is becoming an increasingly serious problem in older dogs.

A constant supply of fresh clean water is important.

It is equally important to avoid “titbits”.


•Regular vaccination is important.  Over the past few years there has been some concern about a perceived problem of “over-vaccination” and its possible side effects.  As a result, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association has published a number of very informative documents relating to vaccination and vaccination protocol.  These can be viewed by visiting the WSAVA website and following the links to “Guidelines” and then “Vaccination Guidelines”


•Regular grooming, paying particular attention to the condition of the coat, the teeth, ears, eyes and nails.

Moreover, regular handling/examination is important in order to check the dog for signs of any swellings/lumps, skin abnormalities, evidence of any discharge, evidence of external parasites etc.  

Staining is often an indication of an underlying problem, e.g. foot staining may be the result of the dog chewing/licking the foot because of an irritation.


•Regular prophylactic treatment for the control of internal/external parasites, e.g. various types of worms, fleas, ticks, mites etc.


•Dogs are naturally inquisitive and it is important not to leave the dog where it can “scavenge” - recently there has been an increase in the reported incidence of lung-worm infestation in dogs, largely attributed to the accidental/intentional ingestion of slugs/snails that are “carrying” lung-worm larvae.


•Moreover, owners should be aware that many “products” associated with the house/garden can have a detrimental effect on health.


•Regular exercise is also important.




In summary, it is important to KNOW YOUR DOG - OBSERVATION - watch out for any changes in behaviour, demeanour etc. - these may indicate that something is not quite as it should be





Genetic disorders


In recent years there seems to have been an increasing awareness of genetic disorders in dogs.  It is generally recognised that genetic disorders can be broadly divided into two groups:


•Those inherited conditions that result from an initial random, spontaneous mutation that occurs in one dog (the founder dog) and which is generally recessive to the “wild” type gene.  The mutant gene will be transmitted to subsequent generations  and over a period of time will “accumulate” in the “bloodlines” of the original founder dog. Ultimately, it will manifest itself  as a disease when a dog acquires 2 copies of the mutant gene, i.e. a copy from each “carrier” parent.  Obviously, the spread/impact of the mutation can be related directly to the degree to which the founder dog and any subsequent progeny are used as breeding stock.


  Copper toxicosis, still regarded by many Bedlington terrier breeder/owners as the most serious health problem within the breed, is a classic example of this type of genetic disorder.  Furthermore, footpad hyperkeratosis as recently been confirmed as a genetic disorder.


•Those genetic disorders that develop indirectly as a result of the adoption of breeding policies that have, over time, resulted in “modifications” to “conformation” - one may regard such disorders as being the result of misunderstanding/misinterpretation of the breeding standard . a “more is better” attitude.  This problem was highlighted in the “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” TV programme shown on BBC 2 in 2008.  Although Bedlington terriers did not feature in this programme, the Kennel Club, in their subsequent review of breed standards, removed the term “deep set” from the Standard entry relating to eyes, probably on the presumption that “breeding for deep set eyes” could lead to problems.


  One point to note about this type of genetic disorder is that the primary cause, i.e. the “aggravated change in conformation”, is usually polygenic, i.e. due to the interaction of several genes.





Analysis of the results of the recent Health Survey and, in particular the comments of respondents, suggest that there are some breeders/owners who consider that Cushing’s Syndrome and certain kidney disorders/eye conditions may be genetically determined.


Incidentally, the following three website databases list genetic disorders in dogs (by breed):



Unfortunately, they differ in the amount of information they provide - for example, the Cambridge University database (organised by Dr Sargan) and the University of Prince Edward Island list three genetic disorders for Bedlington terriers, namely copper toxicosis, retinal displasia and cataracts whereas the University of Sydney database, whilst showing the same three disorders, also includes several other conditions.


Interestingly, Padgett, in his book (Control of Canine Genetic Diseases), lists 22 disorders in Bedlington terriers for which he considers that there is some evidence of a genetic involvement, although he does state that in many instances the mode of inheritance is not known.  Moreover, the implication is that in many instances the available evidence is limited/questionable.





Click on the drop down menu (under the 'Health' heading) for details of specific health issues

Following the closure of the Animal Health Trust, in 2020, please note that

Animal DNA Diagnostics

can offer DNA testing for various disorders, including Copper Toxicosis in Bedlington Terriers


Contact June Swinburne (Director)

tel: +44 (0) 1223 395 557

Mob: +44 (0) 7870 456 808

email: [email protected]