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Update February 2012......There is currently research about to take place at the AHT Newmarket for a DNA test for Kidney Disease (HN), after a fantastic effort by many owners, breeders, clubs & fanciers from all over Europe to raise the 11.000 needed to begin the research. Our thanks must go to Terry Heath (Holloville) who started the fund raising ball rolling, hopefully a DNA test to silence the silent killer forever will be available within the next couple of years.

Link to the AHT Donation page for Bull Terrier Clinical Studies for Kidney Disease (Read only)

Link to the AHT Donation page for Bull Terrier Clinical Studies for Heart Disease (New page)




The two main types of kidney disease affecting the Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier are Hereditary Nephritis (HN) and Polycystic kidney Disease (PKD), both are currently a major problem within the breed. HN is currently well recognised in the breed whereas PKD is not as well accepted but has been present in some dogs recently scanned these dogs were also diagnosed with heart conditions. In reality it is difficult to say what type of KD the dog had as little investigation is done.

Both HN and PKD are inherited diseases for which there is no cure, however, there are screening tests available to help detect early signs of the disease so these dogs are not used in breeding programs and the best treatment can be given as early as possible, hopefully improving the life of the dog.

I hope this page helps you understand what KD is, how it is inherited and what steps you can take to prevent breeding any bullies with KD and buying puppies from KD free parents.

The famous Bull Terrier Jackandandy held the breed record for siring the most champions, died at just 8 years old from Kidney Disease, as did half of his off-spring, this disease strikes even the best.

I have tried, as much as possible, to explain the processes in laymans terms so that everyone can understand the information whether from a medical background or not.


Canine Kidney - click to enlarge

The kidneys primary function is to regulate the plasma and tissue fluid in the body by the formation of urine, quite simply the kidneys are filtering harmful toxins from the body through the urine. In the process of urine formation the kidneys also regulate:-

  • The volume of blood plasma - and thus contribute significantly to the regulation of blood pressure,

  • The concentration of waste products in the blood,

  • The concentration of electrolytes and other ions in the plasma and

  • the pH of plasma.

As you can see, if the kidneys do not work correctly it can have a devastating affect on the whole body. As the kidneys degenerate the body will simply fill with harmful toxins, poisoning the blood, the blood pressure will rise and the concentration of electrolytes and the pH of the plasma will fluctuate causing stress to other organs.


The signs of KD

KD is well known as the SILENT KILLER as quite often there are no signs or those that are there are so easily missed or confused with symptoms for other things.

Some signs include:

  •  Increased water consumption

  • Increased urination

  • Bad breath (end stages)

  • Sudden weight loss (end stages)

  • Blisters (end stages)

  • Shivering (end stages)

  • Lethargic  (end stages)

  • Vomiting (end stages)

  • With PKD the dogs are often 'squirters' constantly having loose stools.

Of course a dog may show just one of these signs and in many cases the dog shows no signs or symptoms at all, if your Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier is young you may not notice the fact that he/she drinks a large amount of water or urinates a lot.

Many Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terriers affected with KD will live a perfectly normal life, play, sleep and eat as any other showing no signs of illness until the final stages of KD kicks in. This normally happens over just a few days and in some cases as quickly as 24 hours, the dog deteriates quickly with a great shock to the owner. The final stage is when the kidneys finally pack up and unfortunately there is nothing the owner or the vet can do other than humanly release the dog from pain and suffering. 

There is no cure for KD, some diets and medication may slow down the speed of the kidneys degeneration, however this is still un-proven and the end result will be death. The age of Bull Terriers dying varies greatly between 2 years - 8 years old (some above and below this figure). Because most owners/vets are unaware of the dogs illness, these dogs are bred from and, unfortunately pass this dreadful disease onto their puppies.


How is HN and PKD inherited?

Extensive research was undertaken in Australia into Kidney Disease affecting the Bull Terrier. Along with medical research each bullies pedigree was looked at in great detail. It was found that both forms (HN and PKD) are an autosomal dominant hereditary disease, this means that each dog carrying the KD gene will develop KD in its life and only one parent need have this gene to pass it onto roughly half the litter.

Information on the research can be found by clicking the link below. The report may be hard for you to follow if you have no medical back ground, try to find someone who can explain the report to you in easier to understand terms! Print it of and show it to your vet!




Testing for HN and PKD - The CORRECT test's and results

 Hereditary Nephritis (HN)

There is a screening test available (and quite cheap!) to help detect any kidney disfunction called a Urine Protein/Creatinine (UPC) ratio test. This test shows how much protein is in the urine, too much could suggest kidney problems and further investigation would be required. Please note at this point, some breeders test for kidney disease by blood test, blood testing will NOT clear your Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier of kidney disease. It is a well known and proven fact that KD does not show in a blood test result at the early stages, blood tests only show KD when the majority of the kidneys has ceased functioning. Again, Blood testing DOES NOT clear a Bull Terrier from KD.

The UPC ratio for a Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier should be below 0.3 this is unique to the breed so your vet may not be aware of this, for most dogs a result under 1.0 is acceptable to show normal kidney function - again for a Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier it should be below 0.3. In the research done in Australia it was proven that Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier with results above 0.3 also went on to develop KD.

You can collect your dogs urine yourself or any vet will be able to take your dogs urine and send it to the lab for analysis, if your vet is unfamiliar with the UPC test then ask them to speak to their lab who can explain further.

Your dogs urine will need to be collected in a clean sterile pot, the first wee of the morning is required at mid flow and your dog should be starved the night before.

The same test is done for both dogs and bitches, however, be sure your bitch is mid season as any blood in the urine can affect the results.

The UPC test does not diagnose KD, if the test comes back above 0.3 it is firstly important that you do not breed for the time being. You must rule out any urine tract infections, your vets can do this. If you are unsure then have the dog take a course of suitable antibiotics to clear an infection.

Once this has been done and you have given a week for antibiotics to clear you will need to re-test. If these results come back above 0.3 then it is likely your dog has kidney problems and should not be used to breed from.

The only way to be 100% certain on what is happening with your dogs kidneys is to have a biopsy, this should be a quick procedure and the only way to tell what kind of kidney disease your dog is suffering or if the UPC is high due to other factors. My advice at present would be to have this carried out and of course to share this information with others, this is the only way Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier breeders and clubs can begin to monitor these disease in the breed.

The UPC test is used as a screening process only, however any Bull Terrier/Miniature Bull Terrier with result above 0.3 should NOT be used to breed.

The UPC test will need to be carried out 6 monthly - yearly to monitor your dogs kidney function. A clear result at a 1 year old does NOT cover a dog for life and this can change as the dog gets older, in my own opinion stud dogs should be tested 6 monthly until the age of 4, then yearly and bitches should be tested mid season before they are mated.

If you own a breeding dog/bitch ensure you have a copy of the UPC ratio results from your vets (lab report), if you are buying a puppy be sure to ask for the results (make sure you see the UPC ratio print out from the lab) and please, please ensure they are in date (minimum of yearly).

UPC/Ratio is best done when the dog is at least 1 year old & then on a regular basis of at least yearly for dogs (6 monthly is better for stud dogs) & prior to a bitch being mated. A certificate will be given to the breeder/owner giving the UPC/Ratio. Click below for picture of certificate (they do come in various forms, this is just to show what information should be available.)


Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

PKD is totally different to HN, they are two seperate conditions. PKD has been known to be in the breed for many years with only a couple of breeders regularly scanning for it, but during 2010 when a couple of dogs scanned showed cysts present and the information was shared, many breeders are now testing breeding dogs. The scan is easy to do & costs between 35 - 50 (UK) for a once in a lifetime check. It is wiser to wait until your dog is over a year old to perform the scan. After years of scanning and monitoring for PKD in Australia where much KD research has taken place it is believed that PKD checking over five generations is the only way to clear your line of PKD.  Unfortunately PKD does not always show in a UPC test, especially during the early stages. The only way to be sure your dog/bitch is not suffering from this disease is by having the kidneys scanned. This may require a light sedation to ensure the dog keeps still during the process however will not be painful to the dog at all.

The scan will detect whether the kidneys are normal or if there are abnormal amount of cysts present. A copy of the report should be kept in order to show potential puppy buyers. If only 1 or 2 cysts are present at time of scan it is advisable to rescan in 6-12 months.

Only one test in a dogs life is required to clear them of PKD. It is possible to have puppies scanned as young as 6 weeks old however it is advised to wait until they are around 1 year old before testing. Five generations of testing will truly give you a clear line.

PKD is often associated with Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) which is why it lays undetected, heart conditions are easier to detect and show many more clinical signs, once a heart condition is detected it is usually accepted within this breed so no further investigation is advised, however if you have a dog who has had a heart condition detected, especially in a young dog a PKD scan is advisable. PKD positive dogs often live out their life to old age, as a rule they are far more likely to die in old age to a heart condition than to PKD.


A once in a lifetime kidney scan, best done when the dog is at least 1 year old will detect any cysts on the kidneys. A certificate will be given to the breeder/owner to say whether cysts present or not. Click below for picture of certificate (they do come in various forms, just to see what information should be available)


The way forward

If breeders all worked together and tested their stud dogs and brood bitches, removing those dogs with UPC's above 0.3 and any showing signs of PKD these diseases could be seriously reduced and almost wiped out in a matter of years, vitally important for puppy buyers to ask for the lab reports of both parents and check they are in date, along with other relevant 'in date' health test results.

In my opinion there is absolutely no reason why a breeder would not test their breeding stock for such a horrific disease, if any breeder has a valid reason then please feel free to tell me!


Please remember why this disease is called THE SILENT KILLER and ask yourself again, how do you know your dog is not suffering in silence?





Written by Debbie Wiles

Debbie would like to offer her grateful thanks to Peter Siesz from Bullytrax Bull Terriers and Dr Caroline O'leary (Queensland School Of Veterinary Science) and her dedicated team for all the help, advice and explanations to help understand kidney disease and for giving the thirst to want to know more about BT & MBT Health.


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