Kidney disease (familial nephropathy) is a particularly distressing disease in that although an affected dog may show clinical symptoms at a few months of age, others may be several years old before symptoms occur, and in the latter cases the dogs may already have been bred from and passed the disease to another generation. The disease leads to degeneration of the kidneys, it is fatal and although treatment may buy a little extra time, there is no cure. When clinical symptoms occur the kidneys will typically be something like three-quarters gone. Then, the dog loses weight rapidly, drinks excessively and euthanasia is soon necessary to release the dog from its suffering. The Bull Terrier which holds the UK breed record for siring champions, died of this kidney disease and so did half his offspring. When one parent is healthy and the other affected half of the offspring can be expected to have the disease, which is inherited as an autosomal dominant. Because the disease sometimes does not show up until the dog is relatively old (up to seven years old) early detection, so that affected dogs are not bred from, is highly desirable. A test is available - the urine protein/creatinine ratio test (UPC). A sample of urine "mid stream first in the morning" is collected and sent for laboratory analysis. UPC readings exceeding 0.3 indicate that the dog has the disease. Borderline readings should be checked with a repeat test. It is important that the urine is collected first thing in the morning before even one biscuit or treat is given as the test must be on urine from a fasting dog. Dogs which have the disease should not be bred from, although they may appear perfectly healthy. Because this disease is believed to be unique to this breed, your veterinary surgeon is very unlikely to know about this test or its significance. The blood test which vets regularly use to check for kidney problems only detects problems when the kidneys are already collapsing, whilst the UPC test is to give early warning of inherited kidney disease. Laboratory results of UPC tests routinely state that readings less than 1.0 are normal. This is true for other breeds but not for this breed. Vets often say everything is normal because of this lab statement - so demand a photocopy of the UPC lab printout and keep it as proof of the reading achieved.
The Animal Health Trust is about to start research to develop a DNA test for this disease but first £11,000 funding is needed. So far about one third of this has been raised, helped by a huge donation of £2,000 from Notts & Derby District Bull Terrier Club. Further donations can be made by individuals or clubs - please help to banish this dreadful disease. Donations please via this site