Founded 1978



FOR MANY YEARS, since the introduction of the breed into the UK (and other countries), a few health problems have been noted.  As with all canine health issues, no one concern is restricted to the BGV.  some of the disorders are known to be congenital, whether inherited or caused by the environment.  A congenital condition therefore may nor may not be heriditary.   Here are a few of the known conditions.  All are monitored within the breed.  Although none is severe enough to currently cause undue concern, the Health Committee invites anyone whose BGV has a health problem to contact them, as submission of cheek swabs to the Animal Health Trust now may prove invaluable in the future should any health issue warrant further  research and investigation.      

Craniomandibular Osteopathy   Hopefully now under control with no cases reported in 2020, early 2012 the BGV Club became aware of instances of craniomandibular osteopathy in BGVs.  Known cases were mainly in GBGV puppies, though a couple were also been reported in PBGVs. ​ The BGVC Health Sub-Committee has been monitoring the condition in the breed and the Third World Congress at Warwickshire in November 2012 gave the opportunity to make representatives worldwide aware of the problem.   

Sometimes known as "Lion Jaw", craniomandibular osteopathy (CMO) is a bone disease of growing dogs.  There is excessive, abnormal bone growth of the skull and lower jaw.  Irregular enlargement of the affected bones results in extra bone growing on the surface of the lower jaw, making it wider and thicker.  It may also affect the jaw joint. In severe cases, the excess bone may prevent the jaw joint from opening and closing normally.   

WHAT CAUSES CM0 AND WHICH BREEDS DOES IT AFFECT? The cause of CMO is unknown. It is neither cancerous nor caused by inflammation.  It is an inherited condition known mainly in several terrier breeds, though has been reported in a few other breeds.   

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF CMO? The signs of disease usually occur between 4-8 months of age. There is swelling of the jaws, difficulty eating and pain on opening the mouth.  Sometimes opening the mouth proves difficult or practically impossible.  Dogs may drool and be depressed.  Often the body temperature will fluctuate over time, with fever occurring in phases every 10-14 days. In severely affected dogs, the muscles used for chewing may atrophy and there may be swollen glands.   X-rays of affected dogs demonstrate irregular thickenings of the various facial bones. It may be necessary to sedate or lightly anaesthetise the dog to obtain good x-rays, since it is a painful condition and the dog may not lie quietly.   

IS CMO INHERITED? Although the mode of inheritance is known to be autosomal recessive in West Highland White Terriers, in other breeds including the BGV the mode of inheritance has yet to be determined.   

WHAT DOES CMO MEAN TO YOUR BGV AND YOU? Your puppy may have a swollen and painful lower law, or have trouble opening the mouth or eating, or drool excessively. You may not notice all of these problems continuously; the signs may seem to flare up at times then get better. This disease is "self-limiting." Abnormal bone growth will typically stop and begin to regress by one year of age.  So, after your puppy is a year old, the condition will probably not get worse - and should get better. However if there has been severe bone growth, especially involving the jaw joint, the excess bone may not go away on its own. In some cases, particularly if the jaw joint is not working properly, your BGV may need surgery. Your puppy's condition is more serious and the prognosis is guarded if there is excessive bone growth on the base of the skull.   

HOW IS CMO DIAGNOSED? Your vet will diagnose this disease based on physical examination, history and x-rays.   

HOW IS CMO TREATED? There is no treatment to stop the disease from getting worse; it will usually get better as your puppy grows up. Pain can be relieved with anti-inflammatory drugs. Your puppy may need surgery in certain severe cases.   

WHAT YOU CAN DO If you have a BGV affected by this health problem, contact Health Sub-Committee members Peter Marks or Vivien Phillips who will help you to send cheek swabs to Canine Genetics (formerly at the Animal Health Trust).  These need to go with pedigree and a report from your vet.  There is no charge for this research.   

Eye Problems, other than POAG While POAG and cataracts remain the main problem in the breed, there is some minor evidence of Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPMs) and Lens Luxation.   

Persistent Pupillary Membranes are strands of tissue in the eye. They are remnants of blood vessels which supplied nutrients to the developing lens of the eye before birth. Normally these strands are gone by 4 or 5 weeks of age. Generally they cause no problems. However if attached to the cornea or lens, the strands can cause opacities which may interfere with vision. Cataracts that may possibly occur with PPM usually don't worsen.

Depending upon the location and extent of these strands, they may interfere with vision. They may bridge from iris to iris across the pupil, iris to cornea (may cause corneal opacities), or iris to lens (may cause cataracts), or they may form sheets of tissue in the anterior chamber of the eye. In many dogs these tissue remnants cause no problems.  ​  

  Lens Luxation is the dislocation or complete displacement of the lens within the dog's eye. The lens is the clear structure in the eye, consisting of two rounded or convex surfaces, that focuses light rays to form an image onto the retina. Normally the lens is suspended between the iris (the coloured portion of the eye) and the vitreous (the clear gel in the back of the eye), and is held in place by small fibres or suspensory ligaments.   Causes of lens luxation may be primary or secondary.  Where the lens luxation is not associated with trauma (secondary) it is assumed to be "primary" and therefore an inherited disorder and treatment varies on the position of the lens, the presence of acute glaucoma and the potential for sight.  The main aim is to reduce the pressure in the eye and subsequently monitor pressures, with medication to help.   


WHAT IS CUSHING'S DISEASE? Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, which has been known to a small degree in the BGV for many years, is a condition where the body overproduces the cortisol steroid hormone.  It's a fairly common condition in middle aged and older dogs.    Dogs normally need some steroids for their bodies to function properly and they are produced by the adrenal gland, which sits next to the kidney. The adrenal gland is sent messages to produce cortisol by the pituitary gland, which sits at the base of the brain. If a dog gets a growth on either of these glands, this can send hormone production into overdrive which leads to a number of symptoms.  However the majority of Cushing’s cases are caused by a benign tumour on the pituitary gland. Tumours on the adrenal gland also cause this disease but are less common. High level use of steroids, used to treat immune disorders or allergies, can also cause Cushing’s disease.   

SYMPTOMS Most owners will notice excessive thirst and urination. One of the first signs is that their dog suddenly begins needing to go out to the toilet in the middle of the night.   There can also be hair loss, weight gain, panting, skin changes, lowered immunity and abdominal swelling, which can make the stomach appear to sag. A lack of energy is another symptom you may notice.   In most cases the symptoms are quite mild and for this reason – along with the fact that there could be other causes of these signs – getting a confirmed diagnosis can be difficult.  Keep in mind that all symptoms are not apparent in every patient and that many of the signs can also be associated with other diseases.   To determine whether or not a dog has Cushing’s disease, a vet will need to look not just at the symptoms but also at the results of several different diagnostic tests.   

TREATMENT It Is not always necessary to treat Cushing’s disease.  This in itself is not without risks so you should discuss the right course of action with your vet.  Treatment also depends on the type of Cushing's your dog has but medication can be used in most cases.   If your dog’s illness is due to the most common cause, a benign pituitary tumour, daily medication will help manage the disease. Such treatment may not be necessary if symptoms are mild and, in any case, your vet may want to monitor your dog closely for a while first.  Specialist surgery to remove a pituitary tumour may also be an option.   Where the Cushing’s disease is caused by a growth on the adrenal gland, the dog will need a scan to see whether the condition is benign or malignant. If there is just one tumour, your vet may advise a course of medication to shrink it, followed possibly by surgery to remove it. In some cases, further tumours may spread through the body and in severe cases are unfortunately untreatable.   Dogs who have developed Cushing’s due to taking steroids for other health conditions such as allergies or immunity issues will needs to be weaned off those steroids under the advice of a vet. Coming off steroids too quickly can lead to further, potentially fatal, problems.   

MANAGING CUSHING'S While Cushing’s disease cannot be cured, in most cases it can be managed but it is a costly condition to treat. Medication will be needed for the rest of the dog's life, accompanied by regular vet checks, which often includes blood tests.   

Hypothyroidism   Hypothyroidism has been reported in a few BGVs. An inadequate or subnormal thyroid gland function results in immune destruction of the thyroid gland.  Clinical signs include obesity, lethargy, mental sluggishness, hair loss, change in coat texture, infertility and hyperpigmentation of the skin.  While hypothyroidism cannot realistically be prevented, it is not particularly difficult to diagnose and treat.    There is no evidence at present that this is hereditary in BGVs but obviously, if the condition is diagnosed, it is prudent not to breed from that individual.   

Pancreatitis   The pancreas is part of the endocrine and digestive system, which is integral for the digestion of foods, producing the enzymes that digest food, and producing insulin. When a condition occurs to cause inflammation of the pancreas, the flow of enzymes into the digestive tract can become disrupted, forcing the enzymes out of the pancreas and into the abdominal area.   If this occurs, the digestive enzymes will begin to break down fat and proteins in the other organs, as well as in the pancreas. In effect, the body begins to digest itself. Because of their proximity to the pancreas, the kidney and liver can also be affected when this progression takes place, and the abdomen will become inflamed, and possibly infected as well. If bleeding occurs in the pancreas, shock, and even death can follow.    Inflammation of the pancreas (or pancreatitis) often progresses rapidly in dogs, but can be treated without any permanent damage to the organ.   Always consult your vet who will begin a course of treatment but you can help your BGV by feeding bland, low fat, high carbohydrate, easily digestible food until the condition has cleared thoroughly.   

Steroid Responsive Meningitis   Steroid responsive meningitis, sometimes known as juvenile pain syndrome, aseptic meningitis or spinal meningitis, is a condition which has attracted considerable concern among Petit owners in a few countries. It has been known to crop up in the UK in Petits and occasionally in Grands but usually affects young dogs up to two years. Most cases respond to treatment with drugs that include analgesics, antibiotics and corticosteroids. A vet is likely to warn that relapses can occur but, beyond the age of about four years, these are unlikely. Although no genetic predisposition has been established, clearly it is unwise to breed from any affected individuals.,   

WHAT YOU CAN DO Although numbers are quite small, the BGV Club will arrange for DNA samples of affected BGVs to go to Canine Genetics (formerly at the Animal Health Trust). If you have a BGV affected by this health problem, contact Health Sub-Committee member Fiona Buchanan who will help you to take cheek swabs.  Once Canine Genetics is up and running, hopefully in the not too distant future, these will need to go with a pedigree and report from your vet.  There is no charge for this research.  
Remember - if you have any concerns about your BGV's well-being which appear to be related to any of the known health problems in the breed, let us know.  We are here to support you.  


If you have any concerns about your BGV's well-being which appear to be related to any of the known health problems in the breed, let us know.  We are here to support you.