10 Common Boston Terrier Health Problems

Whether you are deciding to buy a Boston puppy or you have had a Boston for years. You will want to know all the health problems that are common to this breed.

After owning Bella, my Boston, for over a decade, Emily and I haven’t had a major health issue including any one of these listed here.

10 Common Boston Terrier Health Problems. Boston Terrier Society.
Bella and Emily at the vet.

However, this article will cover the 10 issues a Boston Terrier may have.

Let’s look at 10 health problems a Boston Terrier can have. Along with how you can recognize and avoid them.

10 Common Health Problems

Here are ten health issues of a Boston Terrier!

1) Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic Syndrome is actually the combination of three different features seen commonly in brachycephalic, or short-nosed breeds like the Boston Terrier.

These three features include an elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and everted laryngeal saccules.

Want to learn more about brachycephalic syndrome in Boston Terriers? Read this article by Dr. Reinhard, Brachycephalic Syndrome In Boston Terriers 101.

Elongated soft palate

One feature of brachycephalic syndrome is when the soft palate, or the roof of the mouth, is too long and extends into the airway partially obstructing airflow to the lungs.

Stenotic Nares 

Stenotic nares are nostril openings that are too narrow or that collapse during inhalation.

Narrow nostril openings make it difficult for dogs to breathe through their nose.

Everted laryngeal saccules  

Laryngeal saccules are located in the airway just in front of the vocal cords.

In cases of brachycephalic syndrome, laryngeal saccules can protrude into the airway.

This protrusion causes a partial obstruction of air into the lungs.

Bella looking like she has a health issue. Boston Terrier

Other Issues With Brachycephalic Syndrome

Boston Terriers with brachycephalic syndrome may also have a narrower windpipe, collapsing trachea or paralysis of the laryngeal cartilages.

As you can imagine, having just one of these malformations could make breathing difficult, especially during exercise.

These features also contribute to the snoring, snorting, and overall loud breathing that we know and hopefully love in our Boston Terriers.

Surgery can fix some of the issues, but getting your pup from a reputable breeder will help ensure that brachycephalic syndrome isn’t a big concern.

2) Patellar Luxation

A common issue in small breed dogs like the Boston Terrier, patellar luxation, or a slipped knee cap, causes an abnormal walk when the knee cap slides out of its groove.

Pups that experience patellar luxation will try to stretch it out behind them to try to pop the knee cap back in place.

This lameness (abnormal walk) is initially not painful, but rather a mechanical issue. 

As it progresses, inflammation from the knee cap continually being out of place can cause pain.

Surgery is required in more severe cases. Patellar luxation can be an inherited condition, so getting your pup from a reputable breeder is a must.

Patella Luxation Boston Terrier Society Dr. Interview

Boston Terrier Society Interviews Veterinarian

3) Hemivertebrae

We all love a Boston’s little nub tail, especially if there’s a bit of a corkscrew to it.

Unfortunately, that corkscrew shape comes from a defect in the form of the vertebrae in the tail bones.

While it looks cute at the end of the spine, some Boston Terriers can have misshapen vertebrae, or hemivertebrae, in other areas of the spinal column. 

Depending on the location, these dogs can have nerve dysfunction such as incontinence, wobbliness in the hind end, and even paralysis.

Not much can be done to fix hemivertebrae, so it’s essential to get your Boston from a reputable breeder that properly screens their breeding stock.

Curious about cancer in Boston Terriers? Check out this article on the Boston Terrier SocietyAre Boston Terriers Prone To Cancer? 7 Signs To Watch For.

Boston Terrier Health Issues

4) Eye Injury

A Boston Terrier’s protruding eyes give them that understanding expression, but they also leave themselves vulnerable to injury.

Things like corneal ulceration, or a scratched eyeball, can become very serious if not treated immediately.

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, occurs when the tissues around the eye become infected. Pink eye shows up as puffy redness around the eyeball and should also be looked at.

Watch for any excess tearing or discoloration to the eye or the tissues around it. Pups may even squint or paw at their eyes, or you may see thick, colored discharge.

If anything seems off about your pup’s eyes, have them looked at by your veterinarian immediately.

Is your Boston Terrier squinting? Read this article, 6 Reasons Your Boston Terrier Is Squinting.

5) Cataracts

Continuing on with eye problems cataracts is a common inherited concern.  

Bostons are also predisposed to juvenile cataracts that can show up as early as eight weeks of age.

Cataracts are simply opacities that show up on the clear lens of the eye. The lens is responsible for focusing light to the retina at the back of the eye.  

These cataracts block some light from reaching the retina to be processed. Depending on the severity, cataracts can lead to blindness.

Surgical removal can be tried, or in some cases, eye drops can help control the progression of cataracts.

Proper breeding can help reduce the incidence of cataracts.  

Want to learn more about cataracts in Boston Terriers? Read this article by Dr. Reinhard, Cataracts In Boston Terrier: Everything You Need To Know.

Boston Terrier health issues.
Bella looking good in the grass.

6) Glaucoma

Yet, another inherited issue of our big-eyed dogs, Boston Terriers are also more prone to glaucoma.

Glaucoma occurs when there is some damage or a malformation that leads to blockage in the drainage system of the eyeball.

Fluid builds up in the eye, increasing ocular pressure and eventually causing damage to the optic nerve.  

Eyes with glaucoma are more bulging and can be painful, causing your pup to rub or scratch at the eye.

Since Bostons’ eyes are already bulging, it may not be noticed until the disease has progressed.

Treatment can be tried with eye drops to help decrease the pressure within the eye. 

Unfortunately, even with treatment, glaucoma usually ends up causing blindness.

Want to learn more about glaucoma cost, treatment, and symptoms? Read this article by Dr. Reinhard, Boston Terriers With Glaucoma – What You Need To Know.

7) Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eyes)

The last item on our Boston Terrier’s eye problems list is keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye.

Pups with this disease don’t produce enough tears to keep those large eyes moist, leading to itchiness, soreness, and possibly infection.  

Dry eyes can look cloudy or dull instead of bright and shiny, and you may notice your pup squinting or pawing at their eyes with this condition.

Dry eye is a chronic condition and will need nonstop treatment with an eye drop or ointment to keep the eyes moist and to prevent injury from scratching.

Want to learn more about how you and your veterinarian can treat dry eyes? Read this article on Boston Terrier Society, Dry Eyes In Boston Terrier: What Is It & What To Do About It.

8) Allergies

Our poor little pups are very likely to suffer from skin allergies or atopy.  This means lots of scratching, licking and chewing.

You may notice dry, flaky dandruff all over or a red bumpy rash on bellies and in skin folds. Allergies can also show up as frequent ear infections.

Boston Terriers can be allergic to foods as well as things in the environment like cleaners, weeds, or pollen.

Allergies are typically a lifelong problem unless you can identify and remove the assaulting allergen.

If that allergen can’t be removed, your pup may need treatment with antihistamines, omega fatty acids, or others.  

Read: Dog Allergy Guide: Symptoms & Treatments; Natural Remedies

Recommended Dog Treats

9) Epilepsy

Another attractive feature of our Boston Terrier friends is their dome or rounded head shape.

While it may give them that perpetual baby face, it can also because of severe complications like epilepsy.  

Epilepsy is when pups experience seizures with regular frequency.

Seizures are an abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can cause dogs to consciously or unconsciously convulse, foam at the mouth, or twitch.  

Epilepsy in Boston Terriers can be inherited. If your Boston has epilepsy it usually shows up before a dog turns three.

These dogs typically do well with lifelong anti-seizure medication and a little help from you to help keep when safe when seizures do occur.

Want to learn more about epilepsy in Boston Terriers? Read this article by Dr. Reinhard, Epilepsy In Boston Terriers: What You Need To Know!

10) Deafness

Boston Terriers are very affectionate, responsive, and come when we call.

However, you may notice that your new pup doesn’t always come to you or even look your way when you say his name.

It’s probably not that he’s disobedient, it could be that he’s deaf. Deafness in one or both ears is another heritable issue in Bostons.  

If your pup has trouble hearing, you should first have your veterinarian check him out for other causes of deafness, such as a severe ear infection. Deaf dogs can still be great pets, they just need a little extra protection from you.

Never take a hearing-impaired dog out of an enclosed area without being on a leash. Be sure to train your deaf dog using hand signals instead of voice commands.

Again, using a reputable breeder that has tested for deafness and other heritable issues can help ensure that you get a healthy pup.

Learn more about deafness in Boston TerriersBoston Terrier Deafness & Statistics

boson terrier health

Other problems

Just a few more issues that may plague Boston Terriers are dental diseases, heart failure, cancer, and arthritis.

While these complications aren’t necessarily heritable in Bostons, they seem more common because these pups tend to enjoy a long life.

Frequent veterinary checkups, maintaining a healthy weight with regular exercise, and a proper diet can help prevent or delay these troubles.

Do Boston Terriers get diabetes? Learn how to spot diabetes in your Boston Terrier by learning these ten signs, 10 Signs Your Boston Terrier Has Diabetes.

Need Help Finding Pet Insurance?

Watch this video where I interview the founder of Fursure. Fursure is a Pet Insurance Brokerage company helping pet parents find the perfect insurance policy.

Video Interview

Final thoughts…

Boston Terriers, with their goofy personalities and babyish cuteness, make great companions.

However, that cuteness can come at a price in the form of numerous health issues.

Do your research on breeders before choosing your perfect Boston to reduce the number of potential problems that could cast a shadow over your puppy dog friendship.


10 Common Boston Terrier Health Problems. Boston Terrier Society.
10 Common Boston Terrier Health Problems. Boston Terrier Society.

Donnie Gardner

Donnie Gardner is the owner of the Boston Terrier Society. He has been raising Bella the Boston since 2010. He resides in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and Bella. His favorite activities are hanging out with family, traveling, running (but has bad knees), and reading non-fiction books.

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