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Black Russian Terriers Health Issues

As with all dogs, the Black Russian Terrier (BRT) is susceptible to inherent hereditary diseases. Proper breeding by knowledgeable breeders can help alleviate some of these diseases.

The BRT life expectancy can be anywhere from 9 years to 14 years of age.

Hereditary (Genetic) Diseases

Hip Dysplasia

What is Hip Dysplasia? The hip of any dog consists of a ball, and joint socket. When the ball fits into the socket nice, and firmly, the dog is said to have good hips. When the ball does not fit into the socket firmly, the dog suffers from a condition known as hip dysplasia.


To further explain, the head of the ball may be too small, or the socket may be too large to accommodate the ball. Hip dysplasia in dogs can be deterred by not breeding dogs that are afflicted with hip dysplasia. Owners of BRT puppies should be careful in not allowing their puppies to run up, and down the stairs, or excessive exercise as these causes may also contribute to problems of hip dysplasia. For additional information on hip dysplasia, grading, and comparison x-rays, please go to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website.


For further explanation of hip dysplasia, and the PennHip method, please see video below.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia is a genetic condition that affects the elbow joints of Black Russian Terrier. When there is an abnormal cartilage growth on the elbow joints, this condition may be diagnosed as elbow dysplasia. These abnormal growths can lead to osteoporosisosteoarthritis, and osteochondrosis. Diagnosis can be confirmed by x-rays.


For additional reading on elbow dysplasia go to the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals.

Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis & Polyneuropathy (JLPP)

JLPP is a genetic condition which may have come from the Rottweiler and passed on to the Black Russian Terrier (Giant Schnauzers, and Rottweilers were used to create the Black Russian Terrier). JLPP is a condition which affects the Black Russian Terrier from 3 months of age.


Affected dogs usually have difficulty breathing after exercising, or when they become excited. They also can have difficulty in swallowing, and breathing which can lead to pneumonia. As the disease progresses, there is difficulty in movement in the front, and hind limbs.


Black Russian Terriers displaying any signs of JLLP should be taken to your vet immediately. The School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California has developed a test where samples are sent for identification of JLPP.

Hyperuricosuria (HUU)

Hyperuricosuria (HUU) is a genetic condition of excessive uric acid, resulting in stones being developed in the kidneys, or bladder. It is difficult to treat and the removal of the stones is done by surgical intervention.


Breeders should test all their dogs for this condition, and should be very careful when breeding dogs that carry HUU. The Black Russian Terrier HUU database has lots of reading information.

Gastric Torsion (Bloat)

Gastric Torsion also commonly known as Bloat is a condition where the dog’s stomach overfills with gas, food, or liquid which distends the stomach creating pressure on nearby organs. This expansion can cause blood not flowing to the heart properly, a rupture of the stomach lining, or breathing problems.


Sometimes, the dog’s stomach may rotate causing Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus. Symptoms of this condition would include, an anxious look, looking at the abdomen, standing, stretching, drooling, distending abdomen, and/or retching without producing anything. If your dog shows any of these signs, please consult with your vet.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic disease gene which has to be inherited by both parents of the Black Russian Terrier. In other words, Male A-PRA + Female B-PRA = Puppy-PRA. Parents can be a carrier or affected.


In simple terms, PRA is the degeneration of cells behind the retina. Most dogs with PRA will eventually go blind. There is no cure for PRA. It is important that breeders, and owners test their  Black Russian terriers yearly for PRA.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in a dog's eye

Close up image of PRA

Eye Diseases


Cataracts can be defined as the cloudiness of the crystalline lens of the eye which obstructs the vision partially, or completely. Your vet will be able to diagnose this problem during your visit.


Entropion is the condition when the eyelids turn towards the cornea (eyeball) causing the eyelids to rub against the cornea. This condition can be corrected by surgery

entropion in a dog's eye

Entropion in a dog. Notice the bottom eyelid


ectropian in dog's eye

Ectropion is where the lower eyelids roll out to become droopy. The resulting conditions of this abnormality cause the dog to have dry eyes, corneal infections, and/or ulcers. Surgery to correct this problem is necessary. Your vet should be able to diagnose this problem when visits are made to him.

Ectropion. Notice the droopy bottom eyelids.


Glaucoma is an Optic Nerve disease where elevated pressure is placed upon the eye from inadequate fluid drainage.


Symptoms include excessive blinking of the eye, the eyeball may recede back into the head, redness of the blood vessels in the whites of the eyes, cloudy appearance at the front of the eye, and vision loss.


If you notice these symptoms, please take your dog to the vet immediately.

glaucoma in a dog's eye


Corneal Ulcers

Corneal Ulcer of a dog's eye

Corneal Ulcers occur when there is deep destruction of the epithelium, and into the stroma of the eye. When this occurs, fluid from tears leaks into the stoma which creates a cloudy appearance in the dog's eyes.


If the destruction reaches the Descemet's membrane, a descemetocele is formed. This descemetocele is very dangerous as if the Descemet's membrane is broken, fluid loss occurs which can lead to the eye collapsing.

Corneal Ulcer of a dog's eye


The Merck Veterinary Manual describes that dogs are susceptible to allergies from flea bites, the environment, and food.

Flea Bites

What are fleas? Fleas are very small flightless, parasitic insects that live on the blood of dogs, and cats. Adults fleas can grow as large as 3 mm, and are brown in colour. They have the ability to jump up to 20 cm (8 inches) high, and 41 cm (16 inches) horizontally.


Flea infestation in your home is a big problem, especially if you have either a dog, or a cat. Not only your pets can be bitten, but they do bite human beings as well. Fleas can spread diseases like typhus, and parasites like tapeworms. Dogs, if bitten by fleas can start scratching, licking, rubbing, and nibbling themselves agitatedly which can also result in alopecia (hair loss), and serious skin infections.

The diagnosis of flea infestation can easily be made. If your dog is scratching excessively, nibbling, and/or chewing themselves, it's time to give them a visual examination. If you examine his hair follicles very carefully you can find the fleas moving around. If you also find flea excrement which is described as reddish black, cylindrical, pellet, or comma-shaped, then you can be sure that you have a flea problem.

flea and flea excrement in a dog's coat

Fleas and flea excrement on a dog

life cycle of a  dog flea

Life cyce of a dog flea

How do you treat a dog who has fleas? You would have to take your dog to your vet, who would take some history, and re-examine the dog to confirm flea infestation. The vet would probably suggest some medications, and most importantly, they will advise that your residence should also be treated.


Fleas lay their eggs, and if not treated, and/or destroyed, these eggs are going to hatch, and the flea infestation will happen all over again. It is extremely important that the dog, and home be treated at the same time.

Environmental Allergies

The environment in which we live today contains allergens which may, or may not affect the Black Russian Terrier. These allergens can range from chemicals, trees, grass, and flower pollens that house dust. Seasonal allergies in dogs are very common.

different types of environmental allergens

Currently there are no available allergic tests to test for allergies. Diagnosis is usually based on the dog's breed, age, signs, and history of the dog. The vet will be able to study the dogs' history, and make a diagnosis. Treatment can be started and sometimes it is by trial, and error to find out exactly what the dog is allergic to.

Food Allergies

As with human beings, dogs do suffer from food allergies. The food that dogs are most allergic to include corn, beef, chicken, eggs, soy, wheat, and milk. Dogs that are constantly scratching their itchy skins may be suffering from a food allergy. The vet will examine the dog and if the vet thinks that a food allergy is the culprit, they will give you instructions on food management, and by the process of food elimination you can find out what food allergens your dog is allergic to.

Other Health Concerns

Otitis (Ear Infection)

The Black Russian Terrier is susceptible to ear infections. There are two types of Otitis:


Otitis Media is an infection of the middle ear, and Otitis Externa is an infection of the outer ear canal.


If your dog shows excessive shaking of their head from side to side, and/or excessive itching of the ears, it is time to take your dog to the vet, and have your dog examined for an ear infection.

Hot Spots or also known as Pyotraumatic Dermatitis

Hot Spots are infection of the skin which appears to be a bald spot, reddish in colour, hot, and moist. In medical terms, it is called dermatitis. If you notice that your dog has this condition, please take your dog to the vet for treatment.

hot spot (pyotraumatic dermati  tis) on a dog

 Hot Spot also known as Pyotraumatic Dermatitis

Other Information 

Other information regarding the Black Russian Terrier can be found under the respective menu titles of Black Russian Terrier Overview, Black Russian Terrier History and Black Russian Terrier Temperament

* Disclaimer

The author of the article is not a medical doctor nor a veterinarian. The information above was obtained by research on the Internet and put into the author’s own interpretation. If you think, or suspect that your Black Russian Terrier, or any dog suffers from any of the conditions mentioned above, please take your Black Russian Terrier, or dog to a licensed veterinarian ,or Emergency Dog Hospital for consultation, and or proper diagnosis.

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