You Need To Know Before You Buy a Bedlington Terrier:
There is a fatal genetic disease sometimes found in the Bedlington Terrier called copper
toxicosis. It is known as Wilson's Disease in humans.
Here's what happens:
There is a protein missing in the liver of an affected Bedlington.
protein would normally process copper in the liver. Without this
protein, the copper molecules floating through the bloodstream, from the
dog's food, accumulate in the liver. Copper is a necessary trace
for red blood cells. However, in excess, copper will kill a cell.
excess copper in the liver kills the liver cell by cell. Eventually,
liver is destroyed and the animal dies.
However, the liver is an amazing organ. It can actually regenerate.
When a dog is diagnosed with copper toxicosis through a liver biopsy, it
can be medicated. Copper chelation drugs are used to pluck the
molecules out of the liver and flush them out through the kidneys.
drug, used properly, can extend to full term the lifespan of an affected
Left untreated, many Bedlingtons die between 2 and 6 years.
Copper toxicosis is a simple recessive gene, and inheritance is now very
easy to diagnose using liver biopsies and DNA results.
Using a liver biopsy alone, a dog can only be determined to be
unaffected or affected. Unaffected dogs are either clear or carriers of
the gene. A carrier of the gene never exhibits the disease,
pass it on. The gene for a healthy liver is the dominant gene.
To understand the principle of dominant
genes better, think
of eye color in humans. Brown eyes are dominant over blue eyes.
people with brown eyes can have a blue eyed baby. Two people with
eyes can not have a brown eyed baby. Brown is dominant over blue.
Using the DNA test available from: VetGen in Michigan, the Animal Health
Trust in England or The Finnish Animal Breeding Association, Finland, it
is now possible to read the DNA of many Bedlingtons.
The DNA test currently
available relies upon the liver biopsy information of the parents,
grandparents, and/or other family members to develop a "DNA
profile" of a
litter of puppies or individual dog. The test does not actually read
individual gene for copper, it reads a group of related genes to develop
There are two designated profiles commonly found in
the Bedlington, each can have the copper gene attached, and they are simply
labeled "1" or "2." Each dog has two numbers,
one inherited from each
parent. Most commonly, but not always, "1" is associated
healthy gene, and "2" is associated with the unhealthy gene.
can only be determined by liver biopsies and DNA profiles on the family.
The DNA test is considered at least 95% accurate.
When choosing a pet puppy from a breeder, it is safe to purchase a clear
or carrier dog. The DNA profile of a clear puppy will probably be
1,1. The DNA profile of a carrier puppy will probably be 1,2. However,
when determining future breding stock using
only the DNA is not safe, just as using only the liver biopsy is not
safe. Discuss the pedigree of your puppy with the breeder before
One last note of caution: Never purchase a puppy from a breeder who claims, "I have healthy
look at them, they look healthy." If the breeder can not give
liver biopsy and/or DNA reports of the parents, look for a puppy
End of Section on the
disease: Copper Toxicosis
Treating Protocol using the Medication:
If the dog is newly diagnosed with the disease,
and has never been medicated before, proceed slowly. Syprine is the
best drug on the market, in my opinion for CT, but none are perfect.
The most common side effect is nausea.
Since it does the dog no good at all to
regurgitate the capsules daily, I recommend the following:
Start out with 125 mg Syprine every morning on an empty stomach. If
you can, push the capsule down the dog's throat. If you can't, use a
food that is free, or very low in copper to entice the dog into eating the
capsule. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: Syprine is so powerful at
binding with copper that it can bind to the food sitting in a dog's
stomach, and never be absorbed into the blood stream. Always
medicate on an empty stomach.
Now, if your dog seems to tolerate the 125 mg
syprine, after 1 to 4 weeks (depending on the dog's reactions), move to
250 mg per day. This should be the dosage for the remainder of the
If the dog can not keep down 125 mg syprine after
2 to 4 weeks (again - you decide how much you and the dog can withstand),
have your druggist makeup a liquid syprine from your capsules. It will
cost you, but it is effective for those dogs that just can not keep down
any capsules. Your druggist can use a liquid suspension that is mild on
the stomach, free of copper, and tasty. You would use a dosage
syringe to medicate on an empty stomach.
If your dog is severely affected with CT, I
would recommend that once the dog is stable on medication, increase the
dosage to 500 mg daily for a month at a time. You can do SGPT's at
the end of each month, and once the enzyme levels are dropping to an
acceptable level, decrease the dosage to 250mg. Sometimes severely
affected dogs will need to be on the 500mg dosage several times a year
until the liver has had a chance to heal itself. So, I do recommend
SGPT's occasionally, at the least, to monitor liver damage.
I don't recommend cupermine because
this medication is much harder to keep down.
Syprine has a stomach buffer. It, therefore, costs more, but it is
well worth it. I get the syprine from the local druggist, no
problem. Also, AARP carries it, and they are happy to fill
prescriptions for pets of their members. On the Internet, go to
drugstore.com, they carry syprine too.
In my opinion the zinc therapy is too
difficult to use on most dogs. First of all, it is the hardest
medication to keep down. Secondly, zinc is toxic in large doses--so
if you use zinc, not only do you have to monitor the liver, but you must
monitor for zinc poisoning.
End of Section on Syprine
If you want to give an affected dog a vitamin, talk
to your vet about a B complex supplement. (By the way, if the dog
ever goes into crisis, have the vet inject B complex.) The B
vitamins help the liver heal. Milk thistle is also great for
helping the liver heal.
The lowest copper-containing general vitamin
supplement I have ever found is Norwegian Sea Kelp. I use it with my
affected dogs. The only problem that I have had with affected dogs
medicated long term (I have had two that were both medicated for a decade)
is skin problems. I am not sure if the syprine may be robbing the dog of some other
essential elements, or if I have just restricted the diet so severely for
so long, that I created a problem. That is the primary reason I am
advocating Sea Kelp as a supplement. It really helps the skin.
Otherwise, my affected dogs have
never had a problem. Katie whelped three litters of puppies, all out
of a clear male, so the pups were all unaffected. They were small
litters, but she and the pups were fine. I medicated her until the
day she was bred, and then started again the day after the pups were born.
Katie lived to be 12 years old, she died from cancer of the larynx.
Her copper count at 12 years was 81 ppm cu, her count at 12 months
was 3500+ppm cu.
Section on Vitamin Supplements
Selecting Dog Food
An important issue in the treatment of
copper toxicosis is dog food. It is important that the dog
food you pick is one that is readily available. Dogs generally don't
do well with radical changes in their diets. So, when picking a low
copper dog food for your affected Bedlingtons, I recommend that you
purchase a food that is NOT a special order. You could easily run
out, and wait days to a week for more.
So, the next question is: how easy is
it to get to your feed store. If they are usually closed when you
are free, then go to the grocery store and buy a low copper dog food.
Purina makes some excellent dog feeds, and one of the lowest copper
foods is Fit & Trim. I recommend it because it is so readily
available that you can practically buy it at a convenience grocery/gas
station. It only has 11.2 mg/kg cu, and it is low calorie.
Since most of us are feeding mature neutered dogs, Fit & Trim is an
excellent choice. It has only 14% protein, and frankly that is good
for the affected dogs too, since many of them also have kidney problems.
Of course, if your dog has special
problems, your vet will recommend a diet to correct the problems, and
always follow his/her advise. If you are meticulous about the
care of your dog, you may choose to home cook a low cooper diet. If
you do, I still recommend that you mix low copper commercial dog food
50/50 with your home cooking.
It has been my personal experience
that the home cooked foods just do not provide enough essential vitamins
and minerals for the dog to stay fit. Don't compromise good general
health and "bloom" for the sake of extreme low copper intake.
Remember, a healthy dog can survive for more adversity than a sickly dog.
of Section on Dog Food
There are several eye diseases in the Bedlington Terrier, and some will
cause blindness. The most severe is retinal dysplasia, which causes
retina to detach by the time a pup is 8 weeks old. This puppy is
permanently blind. There are medical problems associated with a
retina which may require surgery, and cause a horrific amount of pain to
the dog. A puppy can be certified with normal vision as early as 8
weeks. Other genetic diseases causing blindness are juvenile
cataracts and PRA.
Another eye problem is teary eyes. This can be caused by an eye
infection, teething in puppies, blocked tear ducts or absent tear ducts.
In difficult cases, a doctor of veterinary medicine, who has specialized
in canine ophthalmology, may be needed to diagnose and treat this problem.
Dogs with constant eye infections may have dry eye. This is a
in which the eye does not produce tears. These dogs require daily
drops. Again, a canine ophthalmologist can diagnose and help treat
End of Section on Eye Diseases
There is a genetic kidney problem occasionally seen in this breed in
which the kidneys are too small. These dogs will often die between 1
years old. The inheritance of the disorder is not known. It is
common in the breed.
Many Bedlingtons die from kidney failure when they are affected by copper
toxicosis. It is not known why, but it is suspected that the
liver puts too heavy a load on the kidneys.
End of Section on Kidney Failure
Other Medical Problems
Bedlingtons can experience all the other problems occasionally seen in
of dogs, such as thyroid problems, cancers, allergies, etc.
These health issues can be tackled on an individual basis. It is
inquire about the sire and dam's medical history before purchasing your
puppy to determine which questions you need to ask.
End of Section on Other Medical Problems