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Health is very important to us as BRT owners
and breeders. 

I will try to educate my website visitors about health issues that you may be reading on the internet on this page.


Anya getting her 9 week check up
Anya getting her 9 week check up


The Black Russian Terrier (Info from the BRTCA.org website)

is a very robust and generally healthy dog.  The primary problem in the breed is the prevalence of Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, which is a problem in many large breed dogs. Prospective buyers should not only question the breeding stock, but also ask to see the results of hip and elbow testing and familiarize themselves with ratings associated with the tests. In keeping with the spirit of the BRTCA Code of Ethics, BRT breeders are encouraged to inform puppy buyers of developmental conditions, that may or may not be hereditary or genetic, that are known to exist in BRTs, as well as methods to test and/or monitor some of these conditions.

It is hoped this information sheet will guide buyers to ask pertinent questions, encourage their review of testing certifications and enable them to make educated decisions before purchasing a BRT.  The following list is merely a guideline of health problems that can appear in canines in general and does not point to specific problems in the Black Russian Terrier.

Excellent Hips (OFA Website)
Excellent Hips (OFA Website)


 · Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture - The knee along with the external support (i.e., collateral leg) has two ligaments inside the joint that help prevent forward movement (i.e., cruciate). Insult/injury can cause this ligament to rupture and result in acute lameness (the animal will not want to bear weight) on the affected limb.

  ·Elbow Dysplasia - Elbow dysplasia encompasses several different conditions, all of which are indicative of abnormally formed or fused elbow joints and all can result in lameness and pain for the animal:

 · Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP) - This form of elbow dysplasia is generally the most difficult to treat if the fragments are actually loose in the joint.

· Osteochrondritis Dissecans (OCD) - A nutritionally based developmental disease. It is separation of joint cartilage caused by too rapid growth. It is known to occur in elbows, houlders, hocks and stifles but it can occur anywhere in the body. It is a defect in the cartilage overlaying or attaching to the bone.

 · Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP) - In BRTs the Anconeal Process can close later than in smaller breeds, as late as one year of age.

· Hip Dysplasia - Hip dysplasia is a painful condition caused by abnormally formed hips. The animal becomes lame in the hind quarters due to the pain associated with the degeneration of the hips.
Hip Dysplasia information.

· Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) - A nutritionally based developmental disease that manifests with toes turning in or out, roached toplines, pinched rears, and in advanced stages fever, lethargy, pain in joints,  inability to stand or function. This is a problem of intake in calories versus output of energy - too many calories consumed and/or unbalanced diet disrupted by supplementing.

· Panosteitis (Pano or Wandering Lameness) - Another nutritionally based developmental problem associated with too rapid growth. Lameness can occur in one limb or over time in all limbs. It is self-limiting and spontaneously disappears.

OFA Hip Grading Comparison Chart
OFA FCI (European) BVA (UK/Australia) SV (Germany)
Excellent       A-1 0-4 (no > 3/hip) Normal
Good       A-2 5-10 (no > 6/hip) Normal
Fair       B-1 11-18 Normal
Borderline       B-2 19-25 Fast Normal
Mild       C 26-35 Noch Zugelassen
Moderate       D 36-50 Mittlere
Severe       E 51-106 Schwere

  • Cataract - Lens opacity that may in part or in total affect one or both eyes. Blindness results when cataracts are complete and in both eyes.
  • Distichiasis - Eyelashes abnormally located in the eyelid margin which may cause ocular irritation.
  • Ectropion - Conformational defect resulting in eversion of the eyelids, which may cause ocular irritationdue to exposure.Entropion - Conformational defect where eyelid margin inverts, or rolls inward, toward the eye causing eyelashes and hair to rub against the cornea resulting in ocular irritation.

 Macroblepharon - Abnormally large eyelid opening; may lead to secondary conditions associated with corneal exposure.

 · Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM) - Persistent blood vessel remnants in the anterior chamber of the eye which fail to regress normally in the neonatal period.

· Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - Degenerative disease of the retinal visual cells which leads to blindness. In BRTs the age at which PRA can be detected varies from as young as 6 months to as late as 42 months. Typically BRTs with PRA go blind gradually, first loosing their night vision and then their day vision. Many do not go completely blind until they are 8 years old or older.

· Retinal Dysplasia - Abnormal development of the retina present at birth and recognized to have three forms: folds, geographic, and detachment. A BRT with just folds will pass CERF and the folds may disappear over time.


· Cancer - Most forms of cancer have been diagnosed in some members of the breed. Probably some forms of cancer are hereditary while others occur spontaneously or even due to environmental toxins.

· Cystinuria - (from Dr. Giger's description of Cystinuria): Cystinuria is an inherited metabolic disease caused by a defective kidney transporter for cystine and some other amino acids. Because cystine readily precipitates in acid urine crystals and later calculi (stones) can form in the kidney and bladder.
These calculi can result in serious illness, especially in males. Cystinuric animals may show recurrent clinical signs of a urinary tract disorder from a few months of age until late in life.

· Epilepsy - seizure disorder which can have multiple causes. Age of onset of the inherited form is 6 months to 5 years of age. Generally difficult to treat successfully in large breeds.There are two research efforts at this time.

· Gastric Dilation, Torsion, Volvulus (Bloat) - Bloat is a killer of giant breed animals. Without warning, the stomach fills with air (dilation), can twist 180 degrees (torsion) on its long axis, or more than 180 degrees
(volvulus) thereby cutting off blood and oxygen to vital organs.
Bloat can be primary or secondary, caused by emotional or physical stress, improper nutrition or feeding habits, guzzling water, inappropriate exercise, as well as other causes that we do not understand. Every large dog owner needs to familiarize themselves with bloat symptoms and have a plan of action
to get the animal to an emergency medical facility at the onset of the first symptom.
A dog that is bloating has approximately 3 hours to live without medical intervention.

· Heart Disease - The most common heart problems are aortic stenosis, mitral valve dysplasia and cardiomyopathy.
Early detection and treatment are essential for a good prognosis. Many dogs have heart murmurs that are mild and not a cause for concern. If a heart murmur is detected it is essential to have it checked to see if it is an "innocent" murmur or a serious problem.

 · Hypothyroidism - Hypothyroidism is the result of an abnormally functioning thyroid gland resulting in a lower than normal level of thyroid hormone (T3 or T4). This lack of thyroid hormone can have serious health consequences including coat and skin problems, intolerance to cold, weight gain or loss,
infertility, sudden aggression, and immune system malfunctions.
The inherited form is autoimmune thyroiditis where the body's own immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland or reduces it's function. Autoimmune thyroiditis is diagnosed by measuring the FT4D, cTSH & TgAA. Acquired hypothyroidism can be caused by various problems such as stress
for long periods of time, poor nutrition, prolonged infections, and chemical agents..

   Addison's Disease - Auto Immune disease of the adrenal glands.
While Addison's Disease might not be
hereditary, various autoimmune diseases will appear in the line. 
Without proper treatment Addisons is fatal.  Main symptoms
are vomiting, loose stools, lethargy, depression, weight loss.  Electrolytes become unbalanced. 
Blood work will show renal failure.  Treatment is daily prednisone
to replace cortisol that the adrenal glands are not producing and once a month shot of Percorten-V. 
With treatment a normal lifespan is expected. 

   Hyperuricurosia - Urate Bladder Stones.  The Black Russian Terrier
has been involved in a study of this disease by the University of California/Davis.  A test has been developed to identify whether dogs are clear of the genetic marker, carry one copy of the genetic marker (and are carriers of the disease), or carry 2 copies of the genetic marker and have the potential to be affected
with the disease.


  Female Female Female
Male N/N  N/HU  HU/HU 
N/N 100% N/N  50%N/N, 50% N/HU  100% N/HU 
N/HU 50% N/N, 50% N/HU  25% N/N, 50% N/HU, 25% HU/HU  50% N/HU, 50% HU/HU 
HU/HU 100% N/HU  50% N/HU, 50% HU/HU  100% HU/HU 

Results Reported as: 

N/N:      No copies of hyperuricosuria mutation; dog is normal

N/HU:   1 copy of hyperuricosuria mutation; dog is normal but is a carrier

HU/HU: 2 copies of hyperuricosuria mutation, dog is affected and susceptible to developing bladder/kidney stones.


However; many dogs that have the "affected" gene never develop bladder or kidney stones.  Some dogs that are totally clear have been known to develop bladder stones.   While we agree this can be a problem in the Black Russian Terrier ... our Veterinarian has told us that it is a potiential problem in any breed.  We were told that watching the types of protien in the diet of  dogs that have the affected gene and offering  a lot of fresh clean water at all times (which keeps the chances of bladder and kidney infections at bay is one of the most important thing we can do for all of our dogs.)    It is the feeling of many breeders and veterinarians, that there is another component that triggers whether a dog will develop stones or not. 


We feel that enough is not known about this.   We do breed with all areas of the dog in mind, including but not limited to this gene.



What is Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis & Polyneuropathy?



If you look down the throat of a dog with laryngeal paralysis, the vocal folds  do not pull out of the way like they should as the dog inhales.  The airway cannot then open up completely when the dog is breathing hard, and they have trouble getting enough air. 



 The brain controls muscles via signals that travel through nerves.  A disease that affects the nerves is called a polyneuropathy: poly- (many), neuro- (nerves), -pathy (a disease).  Due to a quirk in the way an embryo develops, one of the longest nerves in the body supplies the muscles of the voice box (larynx).  The vocal folds vibrate as air moves over them allowing a dog to bark.  When the dog breathes in, muscles in the larynx pull the vocal folds aside so that air can move easily into their lungs.  If nerves are unable to convey that message properly, the muscles become weak or paralyzed.  The longest nerves are often affected first; hence laryngeal paralysis is the first symptom. The vocal folds cannot be pulled out of the way as the dog breaths in. They vibrate noisily and can obstruct the flow of air into the lungs particularly when exercised or hot. The dog may also choke on their food or water or regurgitate, which can result in pneumonia.


The next longest nerves in the body go to the back legs, thus they are affected next. The dogs have difficulty getting up and wobble as they walk.   Eventually the front legs will also be affected.  The symptoms do not occur until after weaning age, and thus the disease is called juvenile laryngeal paralysis/polyneuropathy or JLPP for short.


Finally, in the affected pups where the eyes were carefully examined, they all also had abnormalities in eye development.  The eyes were smaller than normal (microphthalmia) and had cataracts as well as other changes.  


What else can look like JLPP?


  There are other, much more common diseases that can affect a pup’s ability to breath.  The windpipe (trachea) is stiff to keep it open when the dog is breathing hard.  In some dogs, particularly toy breeds, the trachea does not have the proper stiffness and it can collapse as the dog breathes producing a honking cough.  This condition is called collapsing trachea.  An infection of the trachea such as kennel cough can cause irritation to the trachea and a similar sounding cough.  Infections can cause swelling of the tonsils & lymph nodes around the throat in a young pup and “strangles”.  Finally, infections, such as distemper, or other diseases of the nervous system can affect nerves producing signs of weakness, sometimes with pneumonia.  Laryngeal paralysis also occurs in older dogs, but JLPP is different because the dogs develop paralysis at such a young age. 


How is JLPP inherited?


JLPP is inherited as a recessive trait.  In a recessive disease, both parents of an affected pup show no signs of disease.  All animals have two copies of each gene, one that is inherited from the mother and one inherited from the father.  A dog that has one normal gene and one gene that causes the disease is a carrier of the trait.  They show no symptoms because the one good gene is enough for their nerves to develop normally, but they will pass that bad gene on to about half of their offspring.  If a carrier dog is bred to another carrier, then some of the pups (25% on average) will get a bad gene from each parent.  Without one good gene to carry the day, the nerves cannot function normally and the unlucky pup has JLPP. 




What do we do with a DNA test?


Now that we have a DNA test that can identify carriers of JLPP, we simply eliminate all the carriers from the breeding pool and eliminate the disease, right?






When dealing with a genetic disease we need to consider the overall genetic health of the entire population of the breed. Unless wise breeding strategies are used, you simply end up trading the devil you know for the devil you don’t.  A good example comes from the experience of another breed with a similar size gene pool.  A hereditary neurodegenerative disease had become prevalent in the breed, and a DNA test was developed.  Breeding dogs were tested and dogs that were carriers of the trait were removed from breeding.  The next generation, everyone was patting themselves on the back for eliminating that disease from the breed.  Over the next couple generations, however, a dramatic increase in the incidence hereditary blindness and bladder stones was noted.  The problem is that ALL DOGS are carriers of potential disease causing mutations.  The recessive mutations aren’t recognized until they become widespread enough in the breed that the odds of two carriers breeding become high.  Abandoning one entire line for another only ensures that whatever mutations are lurking in the new line will be the next problem to be dealt with.  In addition, all the desirable traits that made that first line popular to begin with were thrown out with the bathwater.


With a DNA test, carriers of a trait can still be used in a wise breeding program.  As long as both parents are tested and one is clear of the mutation, no affected pups will be born.  The offspring of a carrier breeding to a clear dog will produce about 50% carriers, but DNA testing can identify those carriers.  If a clear dog from the litter has all the good traits a breeder desires, then that is the dog to keep for the next generation.  If a carrier is the pick of the litter in every other respect, then that dog can still be used, it must just be mated to a clear dog.  Thus the DNA status of the dog just becomes one factor in an overall breeding program that looks at the entire dog.  Over time the disease causing mutation can be reduced without losing desirable genetic diversity in the breed that provides the raw materials from which to select the best traits as we move forward.


From <http://www.brtca.org/juvenile-laryngeal-paralysis-and-polyneurpathy.html>

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.