Airedale Terriers are affectionately called the “King of the Terriers.” They are lovable creatures and make brilliant family pets. They can be stubborn, and they require a lot of exercise. Airedale Terriers are, unfortunately, prone to certain hereditary diseases. It is important owners are well-informed and understand the breed’s potential health problems before bringing one home.
Let’s explore the top eight health issues for Airedale Terriers.
The 8 Airedale Terrier Health Issues
The thyroid gland sits in the dog’s neck near the windpipe. Hypothyroidism occurs when the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland controls the body’s metabolism and affects every cell in the body. If there is not enough thyroid hormone circulating in the body this can lead to serious health issues.
It is usually diagnosed by clinical signs and blood tests. Total thyroxine (TT4) is measured in the blood. A low level of thyroxine along with clinical signs is usually suggestive of hypothyroidism. To definitively diagnose, a further test measuring free T4 by equilibrium dialysis is performed. If this test is also low, hypothyroidism is confirmed.
It can be difficult to diagnose as sometimes dogs can have low TT4 but normal free T4. Your vet will discuss any testing and results with you. There is no cure for hypothyroidism however treatment is successful using hormone replacement therapy. Airedales can live a long time with a good prognosis once the treatment is started.
2. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus
This is a serious condition that can be fatal. It is relatively common and is sometimes called gastric torsion or bloat. Airedales are prone to this due to their size and stature—they have deep narrow chests which facilitate this condition occurring. The stomach can twist on its axis and fill up with gas quickly. The blood supply to the stomach and the spleen is compromised as the stomach twists. If left untreated, the condition can cause death very quickly.
Bloat can occur on its own too. This happens when the dog’s stomach fills with solids (food) liquids or gas causing it to expand and put large amounts of pressure on other organs close to the stomach. It can happen very quickly.
If you are suspicious your dog may have gastric volvulus or bloat, seek veterinary attention immediately. Treatment involves stabilization of cardiovascular shock, aggressive fluid therapy, and pain relief on presentation. Your vet will then try to pass a stomach tube to decompress the stomach if possible. If the patient is stable enough for surgery, an emergency operation will be required to untwist the stomach and return the stomach and spleen to their correct positions. Sometimes parts of the stomach wall and the spleen need to be removed if damage has occurred. A gastropexy procedure can be performed to prevent the stomach from twisting again.
3. Hip Dysplasia
This is another common problem that Airedales are predisposed to. It is an issue frequently seen in many breeds of dogs. Hip dysplasia occurs during the first year of life. The ligaments that stabilize the hip are loose which causes joint laxity of the hips. The two parts of the ball and socket joint grind against each other causing remodeling of the joint, meaning the bony surfaces become deformed. Severe inflammation occurs in the form of secondary osteoarthritis. It is a very painful condition and causes a great deal of distress.
There are many treatment options for hip dysplasia. Some depend on the severity and some on the age at which the disease is diagnosed. Non-surgical options include anti-inflammatory medication, hydrotherapy, and exercise modification. Surgical correction can be carried out. Options include juvenile pubic symphysiotomies, triple pelvic osteotomy, total hip replacement, and femoral head and neck excision.
It is important to remember that a well-balanced diet and an appropriate amount of exercise are important for the maintenance of good joint health. Keep your Airedale at a healthy weight, as if they are overweight, it will put undue stress on their joints.
4. Corneal Dystrophy
Corneal dystrophies are a group of diseases affecting the cornea in dogs. Airedale terriers have a predisposition to this condition and it usually presents when they are 4 to 12 months old. It develops in the center of the cornea and is a progressive disease that over time affects the dog’s vision.
Treatment depends on the severity and the clinical signs. Often dogs do not react to the clouded area, and they get used to it, so their sight isn’t compromised. In some cases, topical treatment can be used. Very severe cases require surgery to remove the mineral deposits, although there are risks and complications associated with the surgery.
5. Skin Issues
Airedale terriers are prone to skin conditions. Terrier breeds in general are prone to dermatitis and Airedales are no exception. It can be difficult to spot skin issues in Airedales as their coats are so thick and dense so it’s important that owners check their coats regularly.
Treatment of skin disease does depend on the underlying cause. Some treat the symptoms and some address the underlying cause. There are topical medications, oral tablets, injections, and allergen-specific immunotherapy. Your vet will discuss suitable options with you.
Airedales often suffer from acral lick granulomas if sore spots and excessive itching cause the dog to repeatedly lick their skin until the top layer is removed, and a moist dermatitis develops. This can easily get infected. Other skin issues are encountered due to food allergies and seasonal hair loss.
6. Umbilical Hernia
An umbilical hernia is usually a congenital defect that occurs when there is an opening in the muscle wall close to the dog’s belly button which allows the contents of the abdomen to protrude. Sometimes the hernia just contains a small amount of abdominal fat, in more severe cases parts of the intestines can become involved. There are different causes, but the most common is genetic predisposition and Airedale terriers suffer more than other breeds.
Signs of an umbilical hernia include protrusion of tissue close to the belly button
Some hernias resolve on their own, if they are irreducible or there is intestinal involvement, surgery to return the tissue to the correct site and repair the defect in the body wall must be carried out. If your dog is female, the hernia can be repaired when they are being neutered as it can be incorporated into the spay incision and repaired when the surgical site is sutured.
7. Cerebellar Abiotrophy
Cerebellar Abiotrophy, also known as Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration, is an inherited disease. It causes the cells in the cerebellum (a part of the dog’s brain) to slowly die off. It is a degenerative disease. Airedale Terriers most commonly get Juvenile Onset Cerebellar Abiotrophy which is typically seen between 6 weeks to 6 months of age.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebellar abiotrophy, however, there are medications and therapy that can improve your dog’s quality of life. Medications can be given to relieve pain, and hydrotherapy and massages can be effective in improving circulation.
8. Juvenile Renal Disease
This is a disease process that involves abnormal development of the kidney cells when embryogenesis occurs. It is a serious disease that eventually results in renal failure and death.
There is no specific cure or treatment for the disease. Management of the disease is the same as that of chronic renal failure. It can include phosphate phosphate-restricted diet, anti-sickness medication, gastro protectants, and intravenous fluid therapy.
Airedale Terriers are unique dogs. They can be very rewarding to have as pets, but they require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. They are prone to a number of different health issues. Some are congenital and some develop later in life. It is important that owners are aware of these so that they can monitor for clinical signs to aid in early diagnosis. By having good knowledge of health problems specific to Airedale Terriers, it is possible to give them the best quality of life and prevent some predictable health risks.
Featured Image Credit: PROMA1, Shutterstock