Tan small bulldog puppy standing on the grass outside.

A big part of responsible pet ownership is researching your desired family addition so you can make an educated decision about whether they will fit well into your home. Brodie Animal Hospital loves seeing our bulldog patients, but with their growing popularity, we also see a fair number of clients who did not know what they were getting into with the breed. Keep reading to find out if the bulldog is the right breed for you.

Bulldog Health Considerations

If we were to make a list of unhealthy dog breeds, the bulldog may just top the list. Through no fault of their own, the breeding practices that have allowed us to get that smushy face, fat wrinkles, and stocky build have also put the dog underneath at some risk.

Aside from potential breathing issues, which we will elaborate on below, the bulldog is known to be prone to a few other health concerns. Among these are:

  • Heart defects
  • Gastrointestinal trouble
  • Malformations of the vertebra that can lead to things like fecal incontinence
  • Prolapse of the gland of the the third eyelid (cherry eye)
  • Orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia
  • Reproductive difficulties
  • Skin allergies and other problems related to skin folds
  • Recurring ear infections
  • More likely to overheat
  • High risk for the development of cancer

While this doesn’t mean that bulldogs aren’t great pets, it does make it even more important than normal to select a puppy who has been carefully bred to avoid these issues when possible. 

The Brachycephalic Bummer

Aside from the other known issues that the bulldog can have, the breed is also what is termed brachycephalic with a purposefully smushy face. While this is a pretty cute quality if you ask us, it also comes with some downsides. 

Many brachycephalic breeds experience brachycephalic syndrome, or a collection of challenges resulting from the exaggeration of this characteristic. These include:

  • Small nasal openings
  • An enlarged tongue
  • Narrow trachea
  • Elongated soft palate
  • Excess tissue in the back of the throat (everted saccules)

These features can result in noisy breathing, higher anesthetic risk, higher risk of aspiration pneumonia, and increased risk of heat exhaustion due to inefficient air exchange.

Sometimes surgery is necessary to decrease significant risk. 

Is the Bulldog the Breed for You?

We think that bulldogs have amazing personalities and are pretty adorable, but they definitely are not the breed for every family. Before considering one, be sure to ask yourself the following:

  • Am I prepared to research breeders and pay for a well bred puppy? (health screenings, reproductive issues, and likely need for Cesarean section make these puppies costly)
  • Can I financially support a pet who will likely have at least one chronic health problem? (pet insurance can be helpful here, although research is necessary as some policies exclude known breed issues)
  • Am I able to train a bulldog? (an intelligent, but stubborn personality does not earn these guys entry on the list of easy to train dogs)
  • Can I live with snorts and snoring?
  • Am I prepared to take extra precautions with my pet that others may not need to take? (not being outside long in warmer weather, ordering additional health screenings, etc.)
  • Do I have time for daily maintenance such as ear cleanings, skin fold cleaning, and extra snuggles for this loving breed?
  • Can I tolerate doggy digestive issues? (Bulldogs are known for being a bit gassy)

Of course, selecting which type of bulldog you want can help alleviate some of these issues. English bulldogs are probably at highest risk for health issues but are larger and a little more laid back generally. 

French bulldogs are smaller and definitely fit into the category of lap dogs. They may have a few less health issues than their English counterparts. 

The American bulldog is much taller and larger and may be mistaken for a pitbull. They are, though, related to the Olde English bulldog. They do tend to be less brachycephalic, resulting in less health problems. They are also not nearly the couch potatoes that their French and English cousins tend to be. 

If you are considering adding a furry family member, give us a call. We are happy to share our experiences with the breed and help you to make a good choice for your home.