Bedlington terrier health and longevity

Bedlington terrier health and longevity

Health & Safety

The Bedlington terrier is a most unique looking dog, whose appearance is sometimes likened to that of a lamb! They can be sandy, liver or blue in colour, with closely curled fur that forms a distinctive topknot on the head of the dog. They are a small breed named for the town of Bedlington in Northumberland, which originally worked in the mines to hunt vermin. They are closely related to several other breeds including the whippet, otterhound and Dandie Dinmont terrier.

Versatile, lively and intelligent, they are renowned for being both totally fearless with other dogs and also excellent with children, and they are popular pets among people who love the terrier temperament and traits.

However, like all purebred dogs, the Bedlington terrier can be prone to a range of hereditary health conditions, including an unusual illness called copper toxicosis, which is not commonly seen in other dog breeds. In this article, we will look at the general longevity and health of the Bedlington terrier in more detail. Read on to learn more.

Bedlington terrier average longevity

The Bedlington terrier is generally considered to be a very healthy dog breed that has a median longevity of around 13.5 years of age across the breed as a whole. This is notably longer than for most purebred dogs of all breeds, including other dogs of an equivalent size. The oldest recorded Bedlington terrier lived to over 18 years old, and dogs of the breed reach their mid to late teens regularly.

The main recorded causes of death across the breed within the UK are classed as old age at 23%, urological conditions at 15%, and hepatic conditions at 12.5%. The main cause of hepatic conditions within the breed is an illness called copper toxicosis, which affects around 5% of all dogs of the breed but does not necessarily prove fatal in all cases, and we will examine this in more detail below.

Copper toxicosis

Copper toxicosis is also sometimes referred to as either copper storage disease or copper overload syndrome. It has a hereditary element to it, being an autosomal recessive disease, which leads to a build-up of copper within the liver of the dog, and is thought to be related to the similar Wilson’s disease in people.

The Bedlington terrier is much more prone to developing copper toxicosis than most other breeds, however, some other breeds are also known to suffer from the condition, including the Doberman Pinscher, Skye terrier and West Highland terrier.

Within the Bedlington terrier breed but notably, no other breed that is prone to the condition, it may cause haemolysis, which is a rupturing of the red blood cells; however, this is not thought to cause neurological problems, as similar disorders do within humans. In Bedlington terriers, the disease is caused by a defect of metallothionein, a protein which binds metal elements. This causes the lysosomes of the dog’s cells to become saturated with copper, and results in copper becoming stored in the nucleus of the cells.

The condition can present in any one of three ways in the Bedlington terrier:

  • Asymptomatic, in which high levels of copper accumulate but do not present with any clinical symptoms or obvious problems.
  • Fulminating, most commonly seen within young dogs of the breed, which is fast in onset and usually leads to death within just two or three days.
  • Chronic, which builds up over a longer period of time, leading to liver disease that ultimately usually proves fatal.

Bedlington terriers are also prone to accumulating high levels of iron in the liver too, due to the same condition, but this rarely causes the same sorts of problems.

Patellar luxation

Another condition that can affect the breed is patellar luxation, which can be due to hereditary conditions or an injury. `This causes the kneecap of the dog to dislocate, but can usually be surgically corrected.


Distichiasis is a condition that causes the eyelashes to grow an additional row, which may cause irritation of the eyes if they project inwards towards the cornea. Freezing and removing the offending extra lashes under a general anaesthetic usually resolves the condition.

Retinal dysplasia

Retinal dysplasia is a malformation of the retina of the eye, usually present from birth. It is usually a mild and non-intrusive condition that does not generally affect vision, and testing can be performed when the dog is young to identify the presence of the condition. As it is a hereditary condition, affected dogs should not be bred from.

Renal cortical hypoplasia

Renal cortical hypoplasia occurs due to the abnormal development of the kidneys, causing increased thirst and urination, the symptoms of kidney failure. While the condition cannot be cured and may prove fatal, supporting the function of the kidneys after diagnosis can help to manage the condition on an ongoing basis.



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