English Bulldog Dog Breed Health and Care (2023 Guide)
The English Bulldog is well known for its wide stance, muscular low profile, and short, wrinkled-faced with an underbite. As early as the 13th century, the dogs were bred for the now-illegal sport of bull-baiting.
The English Bulldog is a short-haired, medium-sized dog (40 to 50 pounds) with a low, sturdy stance, a large, short-faced head with an underbite, wide shoulders, and short tail. They have drooping lips with many loose skin wrinkles and folds throughout their face and neck.
Caring for an English Bulldog
The English Bulldog typically displays a friendly, yet stubborn, temperament and can make a great family dog. As a brachycephalic, or short-nosed, breed, English Bulldogs are not well-adapted to hot climates. Owners will need to be cautious if they live in warmer climates or during spring and summer seasons.
With their short snouts, this breed is not known for being particularly quiet—there’s lots of panting, snorting, and snoring. Their wrinkly skin will also require frequent maintenance to prevent skin infections.
The unique physical traits of the English Bulldog make it predisposed to an array of medical concerns. The short face, sensitivity to temperature extremes, excessive skin folds, and elevated hip position (above the shoulder line) can lead to medical issues. Some of these issues may require lifelong treatment or surgical correction, so this dog breed can become very expensive.
Pet insurance is a great option for any pet parent considering adding an English Bulldog to their family.
English Bulldog Health Issues
English Bulldogs have some unique features that have made them into the popular and identifiable breed they are today, but many of those characteristics come with potential health risks.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
The English Bulldog is one of the most represented dog breeds for brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). This condition is caused by a combination of anatomical abnormalities, including narrowed nose openings, elongated soft palate of the upper mouth, swelling in the larynx, and compressed/distorted nasal passages. The combination of these abnormalities leads to difficulty breathing in air and getting enough oxygen.
The short-faced, brachycephalic nature to the English Bulldog means they already have, or have a high potential to develop, some or all of the anatomical issues associated with BOAS. The brachycephalic nature of the English Bulldog also makes them sensitive to temperature extremes, and especially prone to overheating.
The characteristic snorting and snoring noises from the English Bulldog are also caused by their brachycephalic face.
Skin Fold Pyoderma and Allergies
All of the excessive skin wrinkles throughout the face and neck can cause skin issues for the English Bulldog.
Any time an English Bulldog gets wet, their wrinkles can trap moisture if they are not properly dried. The warm, moist environment provides the perfect habitat for bacteria and/or yeast growth—commonly referred to as skin fold pyoderma.
To help prevent skin fold pyoderma, it’s important to always clean and properly dry the skin folds. This keeps bacteria and yeast from building up and prevents moisture from becoming trapped and turning into a breeding ground.
Allergies also commonly affect the English Bulldog, which can lead to skin infection/pyoderma as well. Environmental/seasonal allergies, food allergies (commonly chicken and/or beef), and flea and insect allergies can all cause skin issues.
Depending on the allergy, your dog may require a special diet, medication, or medicated wipes to help manage and alleviate symptoms.
The English Bulldog is very prone to developing hip dysplasia, a condition in which the hip joint does not function properly and can cause pain. Because the English Bulldog’s hip joints are elevated above shoulder height, the abnormal position causes the top of the hip bone (femur) to fit awkwardly in the pelvis at the hip joint. This abnormal position creates an unstable hip joint, which can lead to arthritis and possible bone fractures over time.
There is testing available—PennHIP screening—to detect the likelihood that a dog will develop hip dysplasia in their lifetime. If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, there are a few options for treatment and long-term management including medications, joint supplements, and surgical intervention. Weight management will also be important, because any excess weight will exacerbate the issue and increase discomfort for the dog.
The English Bulldog can develop entropion, which is the inward rolling-in of the eyelids (usually the lower eyelids). This condition causes the outer hair of the eyelid to make contact with the surface of the eyeball (cornea).
Entropion can irritate the eyeball and soft tissues around the eyeball, causing redness, pain, swelling, and discharge.
While eye products like artificial tears and pain medication can help these symptoms, surgical intervention to correct the entropion may be necessary for permanent relief.
The English Bulldog is prone to obesity, and the extra weight can exacerbate other health concerns.
To help prevent unnecessary weight gain, pet parents need to be diligent about the type and amount of food given daily. Since English Bulldogs are sensitive to extreme temperatures and prone to breathing difficulties, weight management through food is even more important because exercise can be difficult.
What to Feed an English Bulldog
Due to their short, stocky nature, it’s important to keep the English Bulldog at a healthy weight.
English Bulldogs less than a year of age should be fed a high-quality puppy food that is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Older English Bulldogs (7 years old and older) should be offered a high-quality senior dog food that is also AAFCO-approved.
There are some dog foods on the market that are specifically formulated for the English Bulldog. These breed-specific diets offer a special dry kibble shape for easier eating and certain ingredients to promote gastrointestinal, joint, and skin health.
The English Bulldog can be very food-motivated, so overfeeding or offering excessive amounts of treats during the day should be avoided.
How to Feed an English Bulldog
As with most dog breeds, it’s appropriate to feed an adult English Bulldog twice a day, in morning and evening.
Some English Bulldogs may require a special feeding bowl so they don’t eat too quickly, which can result in regurgitation of food or aspiration pneumonia. There are the “slow feeder” bowls that have special designs that make a dog work harder to get to their kibbles. There are also puzzle toys, which require your dog to think and interact with the feeder to get to their kibble.
How Much to Feed an English Bulldog
In general, the amount of dog food offered should be based on the ideal weight of the adult English Bulldog, which is typically between 40 to 50 pounds. Your veterinarian can work with you to find the appropriate amount of food per day for your English Bulldog.
For English Bulldog puppies, the amount of puppy food offered is based on their current puppy weight.
Nutritional Tips for the English Bulldog
Multiple supplements can help maintain the overall health of the English Bulldog. Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, and glucosamine supplements can improve and maintain healthy skin and joints.
Probiotic supplements promote healthy gastrointestinal bacteria, which can alleviate flatulence and promote good digestion.
Talk with your veterinarian to learn which supplements make the most sense for your English Bulldog.
Behavior and Training Tips for the English Bulldog
English Bulldog Personality and Temperament
The English Bulldog is typically friendly, loyal but stubborn, good with children and other pets, and likes to make its presence known without being aggressive.
The stubborn nature can often be observed as laziness. Despite the stubborn temperament, the English Bulldog does enjoy and benefit from daily moderate exercise.
English Bulldog Behavior
Although the English Bulldog is quite docile, they can be curious in new situations and act protective of their family. The English Bulldog is not shy to make an entrance and may muscle their way to their pet parent (and often to other people) to get affection.
English Bulldog Training
As with most dogs, the English Bulldog responds best to training and socialization early in their puppy life. Because the English Bulldog is devoted to their pet parent, they can respond well to training, especially with a toy or food reward.
Basic training commands (sit, stay, leave it, etc.) should be taught early in life before stubborn tendencies arise.
Fun Activities for the English Bulldog
Swimming (preferably in a shallow kiddie pool)
English Bulldog Grooming Guide
The English Bulldog has a short, smooth hair coat with a moderate shedding level. Their coats can come in a wide range of colors and combinations: red, white, fawn, fallow, piebald, or brindle, to name just a few.
Their wrinkly skin will mean that their grooming needs are more frequent and time-consuming than for other dogs. To help keep their skin healthy, pet parents need to be diligent and thorough about their skin and coat care.
The skin wrinkles/folds of the face, neck, and tail areas should be evaluated and cleaned daily. A soft, dry cloth can be used to gently wipe out debris and dry the skin wrinkles. It’s important that you fully dry wrinkles after cleaning to prevent the growth of bacteria in trapped moisture.
The hair should be brushed about twice a week.
English Bulldogs should be bathed once a week to every other week, with special attention given to their skin wrinkles/folds. Be sure that skin wrinkles are clear of debris and gently dried with a soft cloth after bathing or splashing in water to prevent skin infection.
Since the English Bulldog can be prone to eye issues or allergies that cause eye discharge, you may need to clean around their eyes routinely. This can be done using pet-safe wipes—but again, make sure that you always fully dry the skin after cleaning.
After every bath or splashing in water, the English Bulldog should have their ears cleaned with a dog-specific ear cleaner.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Some of the major considerations for pet parents of an English Bulldog include brachycephalic syndrome, sensitivity to extreme temperatures, skin fold pyoderma, allergies, hip dysplasia, and entropion.
These considerations are important because they can greatly affect the overall lifestyle of the English Bulldog. They may require lifelong medical care and may ultimately need surgical intervention or a referral to a specialist veterinarian to fully alleviate these medical issues.
Pet parents considering the English Bulldog breed should consider getting pet insurance to help handle the medical costs of the breed.
English Bulldog FAQs
Is an English Bulldog a good family dog?
Yes! Most English Bulldogs make excellent family companions, especially with children and other pets. However, some English Bulldogs, especially ones that have had difficult developmental years, may display fearful or aggressive behavior that is not characteristic of the breed.
Are English Bulldogs smart dogs?
Absolutely. Don’t let their easygoing, often stubborn, behavior fool you; the English Bulldog does well with training and they are loyal to their pet parents.
What are the drawbacks of an English Bulldog?
By far, one of the biggest drawbacks of making an English Bulldog part of the family is coping with their medical issues. A great deal of emotional and financial stress can be mitigated by investing in pet insurance for the English Bulldog right after adoption.
Some pet parents may also consider the English Bulldog’s tendency to excessively pant, snort, snore, and drool to also be a drawback of the breed.
How much does an English Bulldog cost?
When purchased through a breeder, English Bulldog puppies can cost as much as several thousand dollars. However, there are English Bulldog rescue organizations that have young to older adults (and sometimes puppies) available for adoption at lower costs. Likewise, some animal shelters may have English Bulldog puppies and adults available for adoption.
Is an English Bulldog an aggressive breed?
While historically the English Bulldog was bred for the sport of bull-baiting and displayed quite an aggressive behavior, this characteristic has largely been bred out of the breed over time. In general, the English Bulldog breed of today is known for being friendly and docile.
Janelle Priestas, DVM
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