Over the past days a heart-rending story has been played out via the medium of Facebook . A Bedlington terrier dying, showing the classic symptoms of copper toxicosis
This story is sadly only too familiar to us ! In 1982 we acquired our first Bedlington. A couple of years later we became involved with helping her breeder, Fiona Craig of the Highquest prefix, try to rid the breed of the disease. Following the advice of Fiona and Cambridge University Veterinary School we had a liver biopsy done on our girl, Highquest Homily and to our horror found she was affected with C.T! Fiona calmed us, telling us this was not an automatic death sentence . We kept her on a low copper diet and used the copper chelating drug that was available at that time, but she could not tolerate the pills. They made her very sick, so we made the decision to stop giving her them, thinking that a shorter happier life was better than a long and miserable on.
Fiona told us that 3 years and 6 years of age were dangerous ages and if she lived past these she could well go on into old age . We were lucky and she lived until she was 15 years old . The poor Bedlington in the facebook story was less than 3 years of age !
In the mid 80's Stuart and I were having telephone calls every week or so from people extremely upset, very often in tears, asking us for help as their Bedlington was very sick . In most cases, as in the facebook story, the breeder did not want to know! With our advice, sometimes the dog would pull through, sometimes not . We thought that these sad days were over but it seems not! This sad story is a wake up call. It is not enough to sit back and wait for the research to be done into the definitive DNA test for C.T. We must publicise the problem, although at the moment none of the tests are 100% accurate. We must make potential owners aware that when they buy a puppy they must make sure that the breeder is aware of C.T. and is using the tests available to check their breeding dogs' status so as to minimise the risk of producing C.T. affected puppies . Do not just accept the word of the breeder as the poor woman in this story did. Ask to see written proof. Any genuine breeder will be proud to show the certificate. Also, no matter how upsetting it is have an autopsy done on a dog that has died, seemingly of liver failure, it is most important that this is done and the result published wherever possible along with the name of the breeder! In the past, by spreading the word it made it very difficult for breeders who would not test their dogs to sell their puppies. These days we have another medium at our disposal to publicise this terrible illness, the computer. There are enough illnesses and problems that beset our beloved dogs without tolerating ones that can be avoided! If we sit back and do nothing stories like this poor woman's will become more commonplace until all the good that has been done over the past 30 years could be undone and copper toxicosis could return to being the scourge it once was!
A fuller history of copper toxicosis can be found in Ken Bounden's book and the Bedlington Health Group website has an extremely useful section on the disease.
PS: The tragic tale of little Awool and her devastated owner touched the hearts of Bedlington lovers everywhere - from the UK to Mexico, from the USA to Australia. No-one could save this little girl, but donations have been sent from all over the world to help towards the costs of her veterinary care. Bedlington people care! Let's get rid of this terrible illness forever!!! Angela Yearley