Boston Terrier: Hereditary Skin Diseases

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Hereditary Skin Diseases in
Boston Terrier


The Boston Terrier, a high-spirited, intelligent dog is the result of cross-breeding the English Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Boxer, and White Terrier. Nicknamed the American Gentleman for his kind and gentle disposition, the Boston terrier, is a smooth, short-coated, compactly built dog with beautiful colours- red brindle, black brindle, or black, with white markings.

The Boston Terrier is a relatively healthy breed requiring little grooming and maintenance, but it is susceptible to certain hereditary skin problems.

A minor problem affecting its coat is a gradually spreading baldness that is sometimes found in female Boston terriers at about six months of age. It starts around the ears and moves down to the underside of the neck and the trunk and then down to the inside of the rear legs. The skin underlying the areas of hair loss is usually normal and does not have the signs of secondary infection.

Allergies could be a possible underlying cause for hair loss and secondary skin infections. Boston terriers are listed among the breeds that are prone to atopy (inhalant allergies).

The most common skin disease is the Demodectic mange, or red mange, caused by microscopic Demodex canis mite living in the hair follicles and within the skin layers of adolescent puppies or immunodeficient adult Boston Terriers. It is a genetically inherited defect of the immune system causing patchy to widespread hair loss and secondary bacterial skin.

There are three types of Demodicosis: Localized, Generalized, and Pododermatitis.

Localized Demodicosis usually causes small patches of red scaly skin and hair loss mostly on the face, but can occur anywhere on the body. These lesions are not itchy unless they get infected and are found in 3-6 months old puppies passed on by the carrier mother. Mild cases in puppies normally heal spontaneously and need no treatment. Demodex is not generally contagious between dogs.

In Generalized Demodicosis the skin is very red, with severe hair loss, crusts and sores, dark pigment, and deep infections accompanied by fever and loss of appetite. There are two groups of this type: juvenile onset when the pup is between 3 and 12 months old but recover with or without treatment and adult onset mostly in dogs over 2 years old which is difficult to cure, but can usually be controlled.

There is an inherited tendency to have Generalized Demodicosis so affected animals should never be bred.

Demodectic Pododermatitis is limited to the paws in adult animals is chronic and extremely difficult to treat.

Since these mites live in the hair follicles and in the dermis, deep skin scrapings are essential for diagnosis. Generalized demodicosis is treated with antibiotics. 90% of localized and 30-50% of generalized demodicosis get better with no treatment. The veterinarian aided by modern medication can control if not completely cure this infection.

Another disease inherited from the English Terrier and the Bulldog are Mast Cell Tumors or Mastocytomas in skin tissues These are raised, button like skin growths with raw pink surfaces which can be malignant and spread internally.

Cushings Disease is another skin disease found in the Boston Terrier caused by an excess of cortisone-type hormone in the dog's system. The use of too much cortisone-type medications, cortisone-containing eye drops or ear ointments or an over-active tumor of the adrenal gland or a tumor of the pituitary gland can cause the disease.

The signs of Cushing’s include a thin, poor hair coat, potbelly, increased water intake and frequent urination. The disease is very treatable and the changes can be reversed but if left untreated it can cause diabetes mellitus or life threatening blood clots.

Their sensitive skin prevents them from handling both extreme heat and cold. They should be checked daily – special attention being paid to their eyes and ears-for any external parasites such as ticks or mites. Caution should be taken when considering any medications for the Boston Terrier as they can be very sensitive to anesthetics, vaccines, and other drugs.


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