Do English Bulldogs Have Health Issues?

Behind Bulldogs’ adorable wrinkles are a share of health problems. Due to years of selective breeding, many Bulldogs have become dangerously unhealthy. Irresponsible breeders also sacrifice the health of the canines they produce for the sake of quantity. This makes aspiring owners wonder: do English Bulldogs have health issues? In this post, I will discuss this aspect and what you can do to avoid an unhealthy pup.

Take note that as various clubs and organizations rally for safe breeding, many Bulldogs can be produced with the least health problems. With that, Bulldogs aren’t a lost cause as long as you find the right breeder.

The problem with selective breeding

Many dog breeds have been victims of selective breeding, but Bulldogs seem to bear the most brunt. During the 17th century, Bulldogs were bred for bullbaiting. It’s a cruel sport that involves tethering the Bulldog to the ground as it tries to approach or bite the bull. In the process, many Bulldogs have died in this harsh sport.

For Bulldogs to compete in bull baiting, they need to have a muscular and short physique. The pooch has to be short because it needs to flatten itself close to the ground as it creeps toward the bull. It’s one of the reasons why Bulldogs have short legs, which are prone to orthopedic problems.

Selective breeding also resulted in a slew of other health problems in dogs, which I discussed below.

Do English Bulldogs have health issues?

Bulldogs are notorious for their health problems. For one, their anatomy isn’t the most ideal for a canine. So if you’re planning to get this breed, it’s crucial to consider these health issues first:

🐶Breathing difficulties

do English Bulldogs have health issues

English Bulldogs are widely known for their breathing problems. As a brachycephalic breed, this dog is prone to the following breathing problems:

  • Elongated soft palate. Dogs have a soft palate at the back of their throats, which is basically a flap of tissue. When this palate becomes abnormally long, it will start to block the airway of the dog. Also, it will cause choking while the Bulldog is eating. In worst cases, the Bulldog can pass out due to lack of air.
  • Stenotic nares. The nares or nostrils of a Bulldog can become extremely tight or pinched, which prevents air from passing through while breathing. This can be fixed through surgery by trimming the nares, so it won’t get in the way as your dog breathes.
  • Hypoplastic trachea. Bulldogs tend to suffer from hypoplastic trachea or an abnormal growth in the windpipe’s cartilage rings. This will cause shortness of breath, wheezing, and gurgling noises. However, surgery doesn’t do much in fixing this problem, so pet owners can only manage the condition.
  • Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema. Also known as ARDS or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, this condition can be life-threatening to Bulldogs. This occurs when the alveolar-capillary barrier of the dog’s body increases its permeability.

🐶Skin problems

Bulldog owners know how sensitive these canines’ skin can be. And since they have short fur, Bulldogs are susceptible to various skin infections and irritations. Here are some that are commonly observed on this breed:

  • Severe itching. This is fairly common among Bulldogs and can be triggered by various factors. Food allergy is one of the culprits as well as environmental irritants. If not addressed right away, severe itching will lead to excessive licking, scratching, and chewing. In no time, your Bulldog will be suffering from a full-on skin infection.
  • Hair loss. All dogs can suffer from some type of hair loss, but Bulldogs are at a higher risk. Hair loss or alopecia in Bulldogs can be seasonal (flank alopecia), environmental, or diet-related. Losing fur can also be a secondary condition to a more serious health problem.
  • Acne and impetigo. English Bulldogs are prone to acne, particularly in the chin area. Also, acne may actually be impetigo, which are pus-filled pustules. Both require medicated baths to reduce the itch and inflammation.

🐶Issues with temperature regulation        

do English Bulldogs have health issues

Flat-nosed canines like Bulldogs have poor tolerance toward extreme temperatures. Exposure to excessive heat will lead to overheating, which can be life-threatening if not addressed right away.

Here are the signs that your Bulldog is starting to overheat:

  • Excessive panting and drooling
  • Weird throat noises
  • Discolored tongue
  • Restlessness or weakness
  • Foaming in the mouth
  • Loss of consciousness

This is the reason why English Bulldogs must be raised as indoor dogs. Also, you should never force a Bulldog to walk outdoors in the middle of a hot day. Instead, you should keep them in an air-conditioned room.

If you notice your Bulldog exhibiting these symptoms, you should help it cool down immediately. You should bring the dog to a well-ventilated area and give it small amounts of cool water to drink. Once your dog has been hydrated and its panting has slowed down, you should rush it to the vet next.

Still, you shouldn’t overdo the cooling process as Bulldogs can also suffer from cold shock. Keeping the temperature comfortable is crucial for this breed.

🐶Eye problems

English Bulldogs also suffer from eye problems, especially as it grows older. While some of these eye problems aren’t life-threatening, they can still cause excessive discomfort among Bulldogs. Here are some of the most common eye problems reported on this breed:

  • Cherry eye. Cherry eye occurs when the third eyelid of a dog enlarges and bulges outside. It then creates a pinkish growth at the corner of the dog’s eye resembling a cherry. In some cases, cherry eye can be pushed back or corrected through surgery.
  • Dry eye. Bulldogs are also prone to dry eyes as the aqueous fluid in their peepers dries out. It will cause eye irritations and even infections if not treated right away. And since the natural fluids in the eyes are dry, there’s no why for the Bulldog to naturally clear contaminants that may get into their eyeballs.
  • Entropion. This condition causes the Bulldog’s upper eyelids to roll inward. In turn, the canine’s eyelashes will scrape its eyeball and cause excruciating pain. It’s often a genetic problem and if not treated right away, entropion can lead to blindness.
  • Ectropion. If the upper eyelids roll inward in entropion, ectropion affects the lower eyelids. It causes the lower eyelids to sag, which is a common sight among old Bulldogs. Over time, this condition can lead to corneal inflammation, ulcers, and pink eye.
  • Trichiasis. Some Bulldogs also suffer from trichiasis, a condition on which the eyelashes grow toward the eyeball. As the eyelashes scratches the eyes, it will cause swelling, excessive tearing, eye twitching, and a slew of infections.

🐶Orthopedic problems

Bulldogs are heavy-boned dogs. However, their bone structure also makes them prone to orthopedic problems. The following are the most common cases among Bulldogs:

  • Dysplasia. Bulldog is one of the dog breeds with a high risk of having a form of dysplasia. This genetic condition happens when the bones on joint don’t fit snugly. It varies in intensity and some canines would have the joints completely detached since it didn’t develop fully. Take note that this can happen in the hip or elbow of Bulldogs.
  • Arthritis. Similar with humans, Bulldogs can develop arthritis later in life. It occurs when the cartilage cushioning the joints start to thin. In turn, the bones rub together, which causes extreme pain. Bulldogs tend to experience it more due to their stocky bodies that put more pressure into their joints.
  • Ligament injuries. An English Bulldog’s build make them highly at risk of suffering from ligament tears. It can occur when the dog jumps from an elevated surface or when it runs too fast. Most of the time, ligament injuries can be fixed through surgery while some will undergo length rehabilitation.

🐶Allergic reactions

If you’re planning to get a Bulldog, you better for their sensitivities. This canine is notorious for its allergic reactions. It can be due to food, exposure to irritants, or inhalation of contaminants.

Bulldogs with allergies will suffer from itchy and red skin, diarrhea, vomiting, and weakness. In some cases, the dog also experiences hair loss.

When it comes to canine allergies, you have to consult the vet immediately. It’s crucial to determine the allergens, so you can stop exposing your Bulldog to it. Remember that contrary to what other pet owners believe, exposing a dog to its allergens often will build immunity. The truth is that by doing so, you’re just making your dog’s condition worse.

🐶Head shaking

Head shakes can be scary to see on dogs, especially if it’s vibrating out of control. It’s also easy to mistake with seizures.

However, head shaking is often caused by extreme stress and low blood sugar. Other health problems can also trigger this same reaction, so it’s best to bring your dog to the vet for proper examination.


Cancer is the most common cause of death among dogs. Bulldogs, for one, are prone to mast cell tumors as well as lymphoma.

When a Bulldog develops lymphoma, it suffers from the harmful growth of lymphocytes or white blood cells. It’s a progressive and deadly condition that requires intensive treatment. If not, the damage will spread throughout your canine’s bones, eyes, skin, and nervous system.

On the other hand, mast cell tumor is a type of cancer that manifests as nodules on the skin. These nodules contain mast cells that will start to spread throughout your canine’s body. Take note that it’s a complex type of cancer and will have a varying prognoses.

How to spot a Bulldog with health issues

If you’re getting a Bulldog puppy from a breeder, it’s important to check for the following red flags that may indicate poor health:

  • No paperwork required. Breeders that don’t require or produce paperwork for the sale of the puppy most likely provides sick dogs. Legitimate breeders will issue contracts indicating the conditions of owning the dog. If the breeder doesn’t give you one, you should walk away and look elsewhere.
  • No health certificate. Registered breeders will subject all their puppies to rigorous health checks. This includes but not limited to joint, eye, genetics, and cardiac evaluation. The pup must have a clean bill of health to be placed to a new owner.
  • A puppy that’s too young. If the breeder is selling the puppy before 8 weeks of age, you must not proceed with the transaction. Bulldog puppies need to be with its mother or litter for at least 8 to 10 weeks. This is to prevent behavioral and health problems later on.
  • “Dirty” puppy. Bulldog puppies that sit on their feces are most likely bred and raised in a puppy mill. It’s because the pup wasn’t given a dedicated space for toileting. In turn, the dog doesn’t develop aversion to its own excrement. And as many know, puppy mill dogs are mired with health problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What percentage of Bulldogs have health problems?

A: According to experts, about 72% of English Bulldogs are dysplastic and around 35% have canine elbow dysplasia. You have to be meticulous if you’re planning to get a Bulldog from a breeder to avoid these problems.

Q: Why do Bulldogs have so many health problems?

A: English Bulldogs suffer from a slew of physical ailments as a product of excessive inbreeding and selective breeding. Some breeders go to extremes to achieve the look that wins prizes on dog shows. However, it’s always at the expense of the canine’s health.

Q: What is the life expectancy of a Bulldog?

A: Due to their health risks, Bulldogs only last for up to 8 years. Some can stretch it for up to 10 or 12 years, though this can be rare. Proper breeding and raising will impact a Bulldog’s lifespan.

Q: Are English Bulldogs high maintenance?

A: English Bulldogs have a share of health problems, which can make them quite high-maintenance dogs. You should also expect high veterinary bills and frequent visits to the vet if you aspire to own this breed. Despite that, the hassle is worth it as Bulldogs are affectionate and loyal pets.

Q: What should I know before buying an English Bulldog?

A: English Bulldogs are intelligent canines, but you should prepare as they are high-maintenance. You also have to find a legitimate breeder to ensure that you’re getting a healthy pooch. Also, Bulldogs can be energetic and stubborn at the same time, so they require patience.

Final words

Do English Bulldogs have health issues? Yes, this breed has a large share of health problems that could be a make-or-break part for many aspiring owners. But with the right breeder, you can have a healthy and well-bred Bulldog with lower risk of health issues.

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