Health of English Bulldog

Like all breeds, Bulldogs are prone to certain diseases and conditions. Not all Bulldogs will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them so you can be informed when you interview breeders and can know what to look for throughout your Bulldog's life.

Buying from a responsible breeder will help ensure that you get the healthiest Bulldog possible. A puppy from a reputable Bulldog breeder will be vaccinated and dewormed before you take him home. Responsible breeders use only physically sound, mature (at least 2 years or older) dogs, and test their breeding stock for genetic diseases pertinent to the breed.

Both parents should have health clearances, documentation that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Bulldogs, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips, elbow, and knees, and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF), certifying that the eyes are normal.

Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than 2 years of age. That's because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it's often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.

Overall, Bulldogs can have a lot of health problems. They are wonderful dogs, but be sure you're willing to monitor their health closely and can afford any medical treatment they may need. The following conditions may affect Bulldogs:

  • Cherry Eye: This is a condition in which the gland under the third eyelid protrudes and looks rather like a cherry in the corner of the eye. Your vet may need to remove the gland.
  • Dry Eye: This condition is caused when natural tear production is inadequate. Signs include a dry appearance or blue haze to the eye. Your vet can perform a test to determine if your Bulldog has dry eye and prescribe medication you can administer to relieve the pain of this condition.
  • Entropion: This is a condition in which the eyelashes turn inward and rub against the eye, causing irritation. It may require surgery to correct.
  • Inverted Or Reverse Sneezing: This isn't really a health problem but generally occurs when nasal fluids drip down on the Bulldog's soft palate, causing it to close. It also can occur when your Bulldog gets something in his nose. It sounds a lot worse than it is. Try to calm your Bulldog by stroking his throat and this should pass quickly.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

This disorder is found in dogs with short heads, narrowed nostrils, or elongated soft palates. Their airways are obstructed to varying degrees and can cause anything from noisy or labored breathing to total collapse of the airway. Dogs with brachycephalic syndrome commonly snuffle and snort. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition but includes oxygen therapy as well as surgery to widen nostrils or shorten palates.

  • Head Shakes. This resembles a fit, but it affects only the head. It's seen as an involuntary shaking of the head from side-to-side or up-and-down. Sometimes, this is violent. This dog appears to be conscious and aware of what is happening. It may be linked to stress and low blood sugar. Breeders often suggest giving your dog some honey to bring the blood sugar level back up or distracting them to stop the shaking. If the shaking doesn't appear to be related to stress or over-excitement, you should take him to the vet as soon as possible to make sure he isn't in pain.
  • Demodectic mange. Also called Demodicosis. All dogs carry a little passenger called a demodex mite. The mother passes this mite to her pups in their first few days of life. The mite can't be passed to humans or even other dogs - only the mother can "give" these mites to her pups. Demodex mites live in hair follicles and usually don't cause any problems. If your Bulldog has a weakened or compromised immune system, however, he can develop demodectic mange. Demodectic mange can be localized or generalized. In the localized form, patches of red, scaly skin with hair loss appears on the head, neck, and forelegs. It's thought of as a puppy disease, and often clears up on its own. You should take your dog to the vet anyway because this can turn into the generalized form of demodectic mange. (Enlarged lymph nodes often are a sign that this will occur.)
  • Generalized demodectic mange covers the entire body and affects older puppies and young adult dogs. The dog develops patchy skin, bald spots, and skin infections all over its body. Dogs that develop localized or generalized demodicosis should not be bred because the condition is considered to have a genetic component.
  • Hip Dysplasia. This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Most Bulldogs appear to have hip dysplasia based on their hip x-rays, just because they tend to naturally have shallow hip joints, but it's unusual for them to have the associated problems with lameness unless they're allowed to become overweight or are exercised too much during their period of rapid growth. If your Bulldog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, seek a second opinion and look into other treatment options, such as supplements, before agreeing to surgery.
  • Tail Problems. Some Bulldogs have screw tails, inverted tails or other types of "tight" tails that can cause them to have some skin problems. You should keep your Bulldog's tail clean and dry to prevent infection.
  • Patellar luxation. Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf)-is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.