Bedlington Terriers are in general healthy dogs. They have a good life expectancy, and a large number of individuals will become more than 14 years old and only very few will die before the age of 10.
In the past, Bedlington Terriers suffered from two serious hereditary diseases. In 1930ies and early 1940ies in USA it suffered from cracked pads/corned feet (hyperkeratosis). Work was undertaken to breed out this affliction. Unfortunately, in the mean time, a new disease hit the race. Whether this would have occurred anyway is not clear, but it seems likely that the selective breeding conducted to eliminate hyperkeratosis highly accelerated development of copper toxicosis.
Copper toxicosis is an inherited disease. Abnormally high amounts of copper accumulate in liver leading to liver damage and inflammation. Ultimately this results in liver failure and death. Currently there is no cure for the disease. Historically starting from 1970ties the disease devastated the breed. Because the symptoms are usually prevalent in adult dogs between age of 2 and 6 many affected animals have been unconsciously used for breeding and the disease spread in the population. Studies conducted in the 1980’s and 1990’s, indicated prevalence of copper storage hepatotoxicosis from 33% (in the UK) to up to 66% (in the USA) in Bedlington terrier populations (Herrtage et al 1987, Sevelius & Jönsson 1996). Luckily for the breed, today, there exist genetic tests that allow identifying healthy, diseased and carrier animals. Kennel clubs recommend testing both parents and only healthy animals or single gene carriers are allowed to enter breading programs. This significantly reduced the number of affected animals and the future Bedlington owners can minimize the risk of purchasing an affected puppy.
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