Common health problems with Staffies

5 June 2024 - 4 min read
Image of a black-and-white Staffie (Staffordshire Bull Terrier) puppy

Staffies look tough, but they're anything but - these dogs are known for their playful, eager-to-please nature.

They're enthusiastic and good-natured and are especially good around people and children. It's earned them the nickname of 'nanny dog'.

But like any pedigree, they're prone to certain health problems. Below, we discuss common problems with Staffies, how vets diagnose them and how to care for one.

The most common health problems in Staffies

Image of a black-brown Staffordshire Bull Terrier looking into the camera on a beige background

Hip dysplasia

Affected dogs are born with excessive laxity in the hip joint, allowing the bones to rub together. This damages the surfaces of the joint over time, leading to inflammation and arthritis. When dogs are six to 12 months old, they may show discomfort and pain.

Commonly, dogs are lame and stiff, especially after exercise. A vet may find the affected hip less flexible and painful when examined, prompting them to perform X-rays.

The majority of symptoms improve with rest and pain relief.

Skin allergies

Staffies are prone to allergic reactions, especially with their skin. An allergy is a reaction to something in the environment, like pollen, dust or chemicals. It's the immune system responding inappropriately to substances found in a dog's food or environment.

The immune response releases inflammatory chemicals under the skin that trigger an urge to itch. When dogs scratch the area, it leads to skin damage and secondary infection. The belly, armpits, feet and ears are most commonly affected, and dogs commonly develop symptoms at one to three years old.

Anti-inflammatory medications and shampoos, as well as effective parasite control and antibiotics when necessary, are important treatment methods. Diet trials are often attempted to rule out food allergies too.

Mitral valve disease (MVD)

This condition usually affects older dogs, in which a valve in the heart degenerates and causes blood to flow back into the heart during contractions. This puts added strain on the heart as it struggles to pump blood around the body.

Initial symptoms include:

  • A dry cough

  • Exercise intolerance

  • Lethargy

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Heart failure

Thankfully, some medications can slow disease progression. Commonly used drugs work by strengthening heart contractions and removing excess fluid from the circulation, therefore helping the heart to pump blood around the body effectively.


A condition involving the development of opacities within the lens of the eye, causing it to appear cloudy. Cataracts prevent light from passing through the lens, causing symptoms of vision loss, like bumping into objects and reduced night vision.

Hereditary cataracts affect dogs within a few months after birth and usually lead to blindness by two or three years of age. Cataracts can also occur spontaneously in older dogs or secondary to conditions like diabetes and glaucoma.

Whilst cataract surgery has a high success rate in many patients, most dogs will adapt very well to losing their vision.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is inherited disease that causes irregular growth of the bones forming the elbow joint, resulting in an abnormal joint. This results in inflammation, resulting in pain and arthritis over time. Dogs commonly develop symptoms before their first birthday, which include lameness and a reluctance to exercise.

A vet will often recommend X-rays to help confirm a diagnosis. Sometimes surgery may be required, to remove damaged bones or realign things.

All dogs, however, will benefit from weight management, exercise restriction and anti-inflammatory drugs during periods of discomfort.

How to care for a Staffy

a Staffordshire Bull Terrier lying down with it's mouth open, on a beige background

Genetic testing and selective breeding

Many of the common diseases have a genetic component and can be prevented by carefully screening animals before using them for breeding.

This may involve taking X-rays of a dog’s elbow and hip joints or performing a genetic test to rule out hereditary cataracts.

Dogs with severe hereditary conditions shouldn't be bred. That's why picking a responsible breeder is important.

Weight management

For dogs born with elbow or hip dysplasia, prevention largely relies on good weight management and exercise restriction. Opting for shorter, more frequent walks over long walks or strenuous activities like ball chasing, helps to strengthen the joints without overloading them.

This reduces the rate of wear and tear and is likely to reduce arthritis symptoms in later life.


Engaging in physiotherapy or hydrotherapy helps to strengthen the muscles around the joints, further protecting them from damage.

Allergy prevention

The best way to prevent the symptoms caused by skin allergies is to reduce your dog’s exposure to the offending allergen(s).

Food allergies can be managed by trialling ‘elimination diets’ under veterinary supervision. Environmental allergens are usually harder to identify, although certain blood tests can assist in this process.

The most important aspect of treating skin allergies is preventing dogs from itching/scratching their skin, as it's what leads to the more problematic and long-term issues seen with the disease.

Using veterinary-prescribed products licensed to kill parasites, managing itching and treating secondary infections (if needed) is essential.

Regular grooming

Regularly grooming and bathing your dog, and keeping a home environment free of dust and potential airborne allergens, will also greatly help manage allergic skin disease.

Making changes to your home if they have vision problems

If your dog has something like cataracts, simple measures, like keeping the layout of the house consistent and avoiding walking in dim light, will also help to make the transition process easier as a dog’s vision deteriorates.

Early detection and preventative pet care

Always pay attention to your Staffie as it can mean spotting symptoms and getting a diagnosis early. This can be instrumental in treatment.

Use early warning signs can lead to your vet performing tests, allowing treatment to be started sooner.

It's why preventative pet care is so important.

How dog insurance helps

Our Staffie insurance has all you need to stay prepared for the unexpected and protect your pet.

Dog insurance helps with up to £15,000 vet fee cover, unlimited 24/7 vet calls with FirstVet and a host of other perks.

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Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

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