Black Russian Terrier Club of Northern New Jersey

New Jersey Regional Club

To insure the future of our wonderful breed.

The Health Committee recommends that all Black Russian Terrier breeders provide their puppy buyers with a list of health problems found in BRTs such as the following. If you are considering getting a BRT, please print this out and review it first.

Black Russian Terrier (BRT) Health Information Sheet

In keeping with the spirit of the Code of Ethics, BRT breeders are encouraged to inform puppy buyers of developmental conditions, that may or may not be hereditary or genetic, that are known to exist in Brts, as well as methods to test and/or monitor some of these conditions.

It is hoped this Information Sheet will guide buyers to ask pertinent questions, encourage their review of testing certifications and enable them to make educated decisions before purchasing a BRT. Preferably buyers should be asked to read this before committing to a purchase and encouraged to ask questions. It is important that the buyer understand the potential for these conditions or problems to develop in any BRT, regardless of the line, pedigree, breeder, or testing of ancestors and thus the need for testing and reporting the results of those tests to the breeder and participating in ongoing research efforts.


  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture - The knee along with the external support (i.e., collateral leg) has two ligaments inside the joint that help prevent forward movement (i.e., cruciate). Insult/injury can cause this ligament to rupture and result in acute lameness (the animal will not want to bear weight) on the affected limb.
  • Elbow Dysplasia - Elbow dysplasia encompasses several different conditions, all of which are indicative of abnormally formed or fused elbow joints and all can result in lameness and pain for the animal:
    • Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP) - This form of elbow dysplasia is generally the most difficult to treat if the fragments are actually loose in the joint.
    • Osteochrondritis Dissecans (OCD) - A nutritionally based developmental disease. It is separation of joint cartilage caused by too rapid growth. It is known to occur in elbows, shoulders, hocks and stifles but it can occur anywhere in the body. It is a defect in the cartilage overlaying or attaching to the bone.
    • Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP) - In BRTs the Anconeal Process can close later than in smaller breeds, as late as one year of age.
  • Hip Dysplasia - Hip dysplasia is a painful condition caused by abnormally formed hips. The animal becomes lame in the hind quarters due to the pain associated with the degeneration of the hips. Hip Dysplasia information.
  • Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) - A nutritionally based developmental disease that manifests with toes turning in or out, roached toplines, pinched rears, and in advanced stages fever, lethargy, pain in joints, inability to stand or function. This is a problem of intake in calories versus output of energy - too many calories consumed and/or unbalanced diet disrupted by supplementing.
  • Panosteitis (Pano or Wandering Lameness) - Another nutritionally based developmental problem associated with too rapid growth. Lameness can occur in one limb or over time in all limbs. It is self-limiting and spontaneously disappears.

  • Cataract - Lens opacity that may in part or in total affect one or both eyes. Blindness results when cataracts are complete and in both eyes.
  • Distichiasis - Eyelashes abnormally located in the eyelid margin which may cause ocular irritation.
  • Ectropion - Conformational defect resulting in eversion of the eyelids, which may cause ocular irritation due to exposure.
  • Entropion - Conformational defect where eyelid margin inverts, or rolls inward, toward the eye causing eyelashes and hair to rub against the cornea resulting in ocular irritation.
  • Macroblepharon - Abnormally large eyelid opening; may lead to secondary conditions associated with corneal exposure.
  • Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM) - Persistent blood vessel remnants in the anterior chamber of the eye which fail to regress normally in the neonatal period.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - Degenerative disease of the retinal visual cells which leads to blindness. In BRTs the age at which PRA can be detected varies from as young as 6 months to as late as 42 months. Typically BRTs with PRA go blind gradually, first loosing their night vision and then their day vision. Many do not go completely blind until they are 8 years old or older.
  • Retinal Dysplasia - Abnormal development of the retina present at birth and recognized to have three forms: folds, geographic, and detachment. A BRT with just folds will pass CERF and the folds may disappear over time.


  • Cancer - Most forms of cancer have been diagnosed in some members of the breed. Probably some forms of cancer are hereditary while others occur spontaneously or even due to environmental toxins.
  • Cystinuria - (from Dr. Giger's description of Cystinuria): Cystinuria is an inherited metabolic disease caused by a defective kidney transporter for cystine and some other amino acids. Because cystine readily precipitates in acid urine crystals and later calculi (stones) can form in the kidney and bladder. These calculi can result in serious illness, especially in males. Cystinuric animals may show recurrent clinical signs of a urinary tract disorder from a few months of age until late in life.
  • Epilepsy - seizure disorder which can have multiple causes. Age of onset of the inherited form is 6 months to 5 years of age. Generally difficult to treat successfully in BRTs and other large breeds. There are two research efforts at this time.
  • Gastric Dilation, Torsion, Volvulus (Bloat) - Bloat is a hideous killer of giant breed animals, and BRTs are no exception. Without warning, the stomach fills with air (dilation), can twist 180 degrees (torsion) on its long axis, or more than 180 degrees (volvulus) thereby cutting off blood and oxygen to vital organs. Bloat can be primary or secondary, caused by emotional or physical stress, improper nutrition or feeding habits, guzzling water, inappropriate exercise, as well as other causes that we do not understand. Every BRT owner needs to familiarize themselves with bloat symptoms and have a plan of action to get the animal to an emergency medical facility at the onset of the first symptom. A dog that is bloating has approximately 3 hours to live without medical intervention.
  • Heart Disease - The most common heart problems are aortic stenosis, mitral valve dysplasia and cardiomyopathy. Early detection and treatment are essential for a good prognosis. Some BRTs have heart murmurs that are mild and not a cause for concern. If a heart murmur is detected it is essential to have it checked to see if it is an "innocent" murmur or a serious problem.
  • Hypothyroidism - Hypothyroidism is the result of an abnormally functioning thyroid gland resulting in a lower than normal level of thyroid hormone (T3 or T4). This lack of thyroid hormone can have serious health consequences including coat and skin problems, intolerance to cold, weight gain or loss, infertility, sudden aggression, and immune system malfunctions. The inherited form is autoimmune thyroiditis where the body's own immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland or reduces it's function. Autoimmune thyroiditis is diagnosed by measuring the FT4D, cTSH & TgAA. Acquired hypothyroidism can be caused by various problems such as stress for long periods of time, poor nutrition, prolonged infections, and chemical agents.
  • von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) - An abnormal bleeding disorder due to a lack of normal clotting. An animal's life can be threatened by bleeding due to an injury, or during spaying/neutering or any other condition resulting in bleeding.

Testing Information: Organizations, Contact and Registries

Cystinuria Testing and DNA Research
Joesephine Duebler Genetic Disease Testing Laboratory
Cystinuria Veterinary Hospital, Room 4020 University of Pennsylvania
3900 Delancey Street,  Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010
Phone: (215) 898-8078   Fax: (215) 573-2162   Secretary: (215) 898-8880

Epilepsy DNA Research
Liz Hansen
Coordinator of Veterinary Information
Dr. Gary Johnson's lab - Dept. of Vet. Path.
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri
209A Connaway Hall,  Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: (573) 884-3712   Fax: (573) 884-5414
Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF)
1248 Lynn Hall,  Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1248
Phone: (765) 494-8179   Fax: (765) 494-9981

Cardiac and Patellas

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Inc (OFA)
2300 E. Nifong Blvd,  Columbia, MO. 65201-3856
Phone: (573) 442-0418   Fax: (573) 875-5073

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Institute for Genetic Disease Control
P.O. Box 222, Davis, CA 95617
Phone/Fax: (530) 756-6773

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Inc (OFA)

2300 E. Nifong Blvd,  Columbia, MO. 65201-3856
Phone: (573) 442-0418   Fax: (573) 875-5073

Synbiotics Corporation
11011 Via Frontera,  San Diego, CA 92127
Phone: (858) 451-3771   Fax: (858) 451-5719

Hip Dysplasia DNA Research (cheek swab)
Vet Gen Hip Dysplasia Research (cheek swab)
Cheryl Hogue, Research Coordinator
1-800-4-VETGEN   Fax: (734) 669-8441
It should be noted that the use of soloxine (used to treat hypothyroidism) makes the results of thyroid testing invalid. For a thyroid test to be valid the BRT being tested must not have had any soloxine for at least 3 months prior to testing.

MSU Premium Canine Thyroid Panel Courier Service
Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory
619 West Fee Hall B,  Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1315

MSU Canine Thyroid Registry (OFA) Courier Service
Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory
B629 West Fee Hall B,  Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1315

AHDL Canine Thyroid Registry Page

von Willebrand's Disease (vWD)
Diagnostic Laboratory
College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University
Upper Tower Road,  Ithica, NY 14853
Phone: (607) 253-3900

For further information on health issues contact:

Mary Curtis