Bedlington Terriers – Name The Liver Disease Often Found In This Breed

This beauty is Tama, a Bedlington Terrier.  She is a friendly girl who enjoys the company of dogs, humans and her family’s cat.  She is even nice to her veterinarian!  When not making friends, this little socialite loves to play with her ball.  She is a wonderful ambassador for her breed.

Unfortunately, some Bedlington Terriers will develop severe liver disease.  The disease is more common in females and clinical signs develop between 2 and 4 years of age.  What is the name of this disease?  How is it diagnosed?  What may be done to prevent it?


Diagnosis:  Copper Storage Hepatopathy

Copper storage hepatopathy is caused by excessive copper accumulation in the liver because of abnormal binding. It has many similar names including copper toxicosis, Bedlington Terrier hepatitis, copper storage disease and copper-associated hepatopathy.   I personally don’t like the name Bedlington terrier hepatitis because this disease also occurs in Dalmatian, Doberman pincshers, Labrador retrievers, Anatolian shepherds, West Highland white terriers and Skye terriers. 

As the copper accumulates, it damages the liver causing anorexia, jaundice, increased thirst, elevated urination, diarrhea and weight loss.  The results of blood tests and a urinalysis will suggest liver disease but the final diagnosis requires a liver biopsy.     

Treatment involves using copper chelators to reduce the amount of copper in the liver and then maintaining lower levels with compounds such as zinc acetate to decrease accumulation.  Some veterinarians will also use anti-oxidants in their treatment plans.

If you own a Bedlington terrier or one of the other breeds prone to this disease, I recommend genetic testing your pet to see if they are at risk.  With early detection, the effects of this disease may be lessened with diets low in copper combined with supplements to improve liver function and health.  More information about genetic testing is available at

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.