Staffordshire bull terrier hereditary health and longevity

Staffordshire bull terrier hereditary health and longevity

Breed Facts

The Staffordshire bull terrier or “Staffy” is one of the most popular breeds of dog in the UK, with pedigree dogs of the breed consistently making the top ten lists, and many times more non-pedigree dogs of the Staffy type and cross-breeds of the type also being widely owned across the country.

It would be hard to imagine a dog park or popular walking area without at least one Staffordshire bull terrier playing or walking in it, and ownership of the breed has risen exponentially over the last twenty years. However, the Staffy is also a commonly misunderstood and much maligned breed, and also one of the breeds most commonly surrendered to rescue centres by dog owners who found that they had bitten off more than they could chew!

The Staffy is a small to medium sized dog that is heavily built and very muscular, with a hard jaw and natural bulk. They are stocky in appearance and tend to be sturdy and very strong for their size, as well as being very bold and not afraid of new situations! While the breed was historically used for such distasteful “sports” as dog fighting and bull baiting, dogs of the breed do not have an innate tendency to aggression, and are very loving, loyal companions that are generally good with children, gentle and kind.

They can stand up to 41cm tall at the withers, and weigh up to 17kg, with males of the breed being larger than females.

If you are wondering if a Staffordshire bull terrier might be the right choice of dog for your family, it is important to do plenty of research into the breed, their temperament and core traits before committing to a purchase. This includes finding out as much as possible about the general health, longevity and recommended health testing for the breed, which is important not only for owners of pedigree Staffys, but also for those who own or are considering buying a mixed breed or non-pedigree dog of the type, which we will examine in more detail in this article.

Staffordshire bull terrier longevity

The average lifespan of the pedigree Staffordshire bull terrier is 12.7 years, but mixed breed and non-pedigree dogs of the Staffy type may benefit from hybrid vigour, improving their overall health and lengthening their lifespans.

The average longevity across the board for dogs of a similar size and build as the Staffy is 12 years, placing the pedigree Staffy just a touch higher than the average in terms of lifespan.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the Staffordshire bull terrier is 7.6%, which indicates that the breed is subjected to a certain degree of inbreeding among pedigree lines. The ideal for pedigree breeds is 6.25% or lower, but as the coefficient of inbreeding statistic only takes into account registered pedigree dogs, it is highly likely that the true figure for all dogs of the Staffy type is rather lower.


The Staffordshire bull terrier is a stocky and muscular dog that is built for strength and endurance rather than speed, and so they are apt to get out of puff with a lot of running around! Depending on the length of the muzzle of each individual dog, they may suffer from brachycephalic airways syndrome, particularly in dogs with shorter muzzles.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the Staffy is not particularly buoyant, and some heavier dogs of the breed cannot swim at all. Special care should be taken with dogs of the breed when around water, for this reason.

Health testing for the Staffordshire bull terrier

The Kennel Club, the British Veterinary Association and various Staffy breed clubs make a range of recommendations for health tests and health screening of dogs of the breed, in order to identify hereditary health problems prior to breeding. Current health schemes in place for the breed include:

  • Hip score testing, with the breed’s mean hip score being 12.9. Potential parent dogs should receive a hip score below this figure to be considered viable.
  • Eye testing for cataracts, and persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous lesions of the eyes.
  • DNA testing for the hereditary type of cataracts.
  • DNA testing for organic aciduria.
  • Litter screening for persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous lesions of the eyes, as mentioned above.

Other health issues

Aside from the hereditary issues mentioned above, the Staffordshire bull terrier is overall considered to be a healthy, hardy and robust dog breed, which is not prone to suffering from a lot of health problems.

However, other known health conditions that can affect the breed include:

  • Various forms of cancer, particularly mast cell tumours.
  • Demodicosis, a skin problem caused by a hypersensitivity to the Demodetic mange mite.
  • Canine follicular dysplasia of the coat.
  • Cataracts of the eyes, both the hereditary type and the type that tend to come with old age.
  • Brachycephalic airways syndrome in dogs of the breed with particularly short muzzles.


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