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     What You Need To Know Before You Buy a Bedlington Terrier:

Copper Toxicosis

[Read from the top down by scrolling, or click on the sub-headings listed below and go directly to them]
[Syprine] [VitaminSupplements] [Selecting Dog Food
[Eye Diseases
] [Kidney Failure] [Other Problems

     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.  This 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 element for red blood cells.  However, in excess, copper will kill a cell.  
The excess copper in the liver kills the liver cell by cell.  Eventually, the 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 copper molecules out of the liver and flush them out through the kidneys.  This drug, used properly, can extend to full term the lifespan of an affected Bedlington. 

      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, they just 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.  Two people with brown eyes can have a blue eyed baby.  Two people with blue 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 the individual gene for copper, it reads a group of related genes to develop this profile. 

      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 with the healthy gene, and "2" is associated with the unhealthy gene.  Again, this 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 making your purchase.

     One last note of caution:  Never purchase a puppy from a breeder who claims, "I have healthy dogs, look at them, they look healthy."   If the breeder can not give you the liver biopsy and/or DNA reports of the parents, look for a puppy elsewhere.

                                End of Section on the disease: Copper Toxicosis

Treating Protocol using the Medication:  Syprine

[Copper Toxicosis] [Vitamin Supplements] [Selecting Dog Food
[Eye Diseases
] [Kidney Failure] [Other Problems]  

     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 dog's life.

     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, 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

Vitamin Supplements   

  [Copper Toxicosis] [Syprine] [Selecting Dog Food
[Eye Diseases
] [Kidney Failure] [Other Problems]  

      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.
                                        End of Section on Vitamin Supplements

Selecting Dog Food

  [Copper Toxicosis] [Treatment protocol using Syprine] [Vitamin Supplements
[Eye Diseases] [Kidney Failure] [Other Problems]  

      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.

                                                End of Section on Dog Food

Eye Diseases

  [Copper Toxicosis] [Treatment protocol using Syprine] [Vitamin Supplements
[Selecting Dog Food] [Kidney Failure] [Other Problems]    

    There are several eye diseases in the Bedlington Terrier, and some will cause blindness.  The most severe is retinal dysplasia, which causes the retina to detach by the time a pup is 8 weeks old.  This puppy is permanently blind.  There are medical problems associated with a detached 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 condition in which the eye does not produce tears.  These dogs require daily eye drops.  Again, a canine ophthalmologist can diagnose and help treat these dogs.

                                             End of Section on Eye Diseases

Kidney Failure

  [Copper Toxicosis] [Treatment protocol using Syprine] [Vitamin Supplements
[Selecting Dog Food[Eye Diseases] [Other Problems]    

    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 - 3 years old.  The inheritance of the disorder is not known.  It is not very 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 diseased liver puts too heavy a load on the kidneys.
                                               End of Section on Kidney Failure

Other Medical Problems

[Copper Toxicosis] [Treatment protocol using Syprine] [Vitamin Supplements
[Selecting Dog Food[Eye Diseases] [Kidney Failure]    

     Bedlingtons can experience all the other problems occasionally seen in other breeds 
of dogs, such as thyroid problems, cancers, allergies, etc.  These health issues can be tackled on an individual basis.  It is best to 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