North Island Bull Terrier Club

Buying a Bull Terrier Puppy?

Buying A Bull Terrier - CLICK HERE to Download your FREE copy
Puppies are expensive but did you know a DogsNZ pedigree and a puppy on trademe are around the same price. Our booklet “Buying a Bull Terrier” lets you make an informed decision and ask the right questions when looking for your next family member.
Published by the North Island Bull Terrier and Canterbury Bull Terrier Clubs of New Zealand.

Things you should know before considering buying a Bull Terrier Puppy.
A breeder should know about the breed, be able to tell you the merits and the faults of their dogs, and be willing to share with you information on the history of their dogs, including health, breeding and showing. They should also be knowledgeable about the organisation that deals with rescue for their breed. 
  • A conscientious breeder will be able to provide you with written proof that their dogs, and the sire of the litter, have been tested clear of the hereditary diseases associated with the breed.  They should be willing to allow you to view their dogs, be able to arrange for you to view the sire (he may be in a different town/country, so this may not be practical to you), but at least have photos to share. 
  • They should be forthcoming with information.  Kennels should be clean, and spacious.  Puppies should be active and clean, with clear eyes, and bottoms. 

Food for thought:
As renowned bull terrier breeder, judge and author David Harris said "Bull terriers are such remarkable characters ... their unique multi-faceted personality making Bull Terriers the best possible friends and companions for the individual or the family." With that said, a bull terrier puppy is a challenging prospect for novice bull terrier owners and again David Harris sums it up nicely by saying "Bull Terriers are wonderful dogs. I commend them wholeheartedly. However, they aren't suited to everyone and certainly not to every situation."  

Hereditary Diseases
Bull Terriers are generally very hardy dogs, but have been plagued by some hereditary diseases over the years.  Responsible breeders currently test for the following five, and will be able to show you clearances for the sire and dam, and possibly previous generations of the puppy you are looking to buy.  Never accept verbal assurances that the sire and dam have been tested clear.  Ask to see the original clearances on Veterinary Letterhead. Some vets are including photos of the tested dog on their certificates now. The following are brief descriptions of diseases currently tested for.

Bull Terrier Hereditary Nephritis
This is an autosomal dominant disease that affects the kidneys and is eventually fatal.  If your puppy's parents have been tested clear of the disease, your puppy will never develop it.

The test for Hereditary Nephritis is done by collecting a urine sample.  Your vet will send it to a veterinary laboratory, to be tested for the protein/creatinine ratio (UPC). A score of .3 or under is required.  Dogs testing over 0.3 need further testing to ensure they do not have the disease. 

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
This is an autosomal dominant disease that affects the kidneys. If your puppies parents have been tested clear of the disease, your puppy will never develop it.

Ultrasound scans (by vets with suitably powerful ultrasound machines) are used to view the kidneys.  Effected kidneys have numerous cysts attached to them.  If the cysts are large enough, they can be seen as young as eight weeks old.  The disease is progressive and fatal.

Heart Disease
Mitral dysplacia and sub-aortic stenosis are two problems found in Bull Terriers. Dysplacia is the most common which causes the valve between two of the chambers in the heart not to close properly - when the heart attempts to send blood into the arterial system, some leaks back. This overworks, and can enlarge the heart. If it leaks badly enough it causes heart failure, even in young animals. 

Sub Aortic stenosis occurs when the hearts main artery - the aorta - is narrowed at the point it leave the heart. To push enough blood past this constriction the heart has to work harder, again possibly leading to heart failure.  In a normal heart the valves opening and closing and the blood flowing produce characteristic sounds, if a valve is faulty or a blood vessel constricted, the abnormal sounds produced are called heart murmurs.  The severity of these is graded from 1 (mild) to 6 (very serious).   As there are several different causes of heart disease the modes of inheritance have yet to be determined, the only advice which can be given is to breed only from heart murmur free parents.

The vet checks for these with a stethoscope. This is noted on certificates as ‘auscultation’. Hearts if needed can be dopplered. This is the best test if possible and tests should be carried out before each breeding. 

Luxating Patella  (Dislocating knee caps)
The patella (or kneecap) is situated at the knee joint of the rear legs.  This is a recessive disease so can skip generations.  It is important that every Bull Terrier used for breeding is tested clear before breeding, or each year. Your vet will be able to assist with initial consultation and check for this, you may then be refferred to an orthopaedic vet if necessary. 

Luxating patella causes the kneecap to luxate (or dislocate) during movement.  It ranges from minor to severe and is usually given a number grade of severity.  Discomfort and pain is caused to the dog and arthritis often affects the joint.  An operation to fix the kneecap into place can relieve the symptoms.

Deafness (BAEP test) 
Deafness can be bi-literal (both ears) or unilateral (one ear).  It is caused by a recessive gene so can skip generations.  Both white and coloured Bull Terriers are affected.  Puppies are checked by BAER or BEAP testing which is only available at Massey University and is particular difficult to access in NZ at this time. It may be impractical for your puppy to have been tested.  

Deaf dogs pose a greater risk to themselves and people as they are easily startled and may bite out of fear. Raising a deaf dog is a serious lifetime commitment that many people are unable to cope with. 

Lethal Acrodermatitis (LAD) 
Lethal acrodermatitis is a serious inherited skin condition of Bull Terriers with white skin and fur because of the lack of pigment. This disease causes severe retardation of growth, thick skin and painful blisters on the muzzle, eyes, nose, ears, feet, and mucous membranes which eventually leads to pneumonia and death. The most commonly affected areas are the muzzle, ears, feet, legs, and groin.

There is a one off test that can be checked by a DNA test. Dogs can be certified clear or carriers of this serious disease.

Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) - Miniature BT
PLL is an inherited condition, where the crystalline lens in the eye moves, due to the ligaments (zonules) that hold the lens in place, breaking. The lens more commonly moves forward (anterior luxation) in front of the iris but can also move backwards (posteriorly luxation), both are serious and can lead to secondary health conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and loss of vision.

Breeding dogs can undergo a DNA test to test whether dogs are affected, clear or carriers.

Laryngeal Paralysis - Miniature BT
Laryngeal Paralysis prevents the larynx from opening properly with results in difficulty breathing and occasional suffocation. Testing for this disease requires a one off DNA test

DNA Testing 
Massey University offers DNA testing for New Zealand, via their InfogeneNZ – animal genetics and genetic testing services. For information please visit


Contact Details

The Secretary
North Island Bull Terrier Club
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