Why Do Bulldogs Die Suddenly? What’s The Explanation?

I was going through dog forums a few days ago when I stumbled upon a distraught kennel owner. She’s wondering why one of the Bulldogs in their care suddenly became unwell and died within a 40-minute timeframe. This led her to the question, why do Bulldogs die suddenly?

The reason is that Bulldogs are prone to a slew of heart and breathing problems, which can cause sudden death. Most of the time, it’s neither the dog owner's nor anyone’s fault.

To make it simple, dogs can also suffer from the human version of sudden infant death syndrome. Your Bulldog may look fine and happy, then collapse after a few minutes. But the reason why this happens is often baffling, but veterinarians and experts can offer some answers.

In this article we’ll explains some of the reasons behind sudden death in bulldogs and how you can protect your pup!

Why do Bulldogs die suddenly?

Like any dog, Bulldogs can develop various health problems and not show symptoms right away. This leads some to drop dead, while others will develop mild symptoms before dying.

The following are the most commonly reported reasons behind sudden deaths among Bulldogs:

1. Respiratory failure

why do Bulldogs die suddenly

It’s no secret that Bulldogs have very sensitive respiratory systems. Their short and narrow airways make them prone to overheating and respiratory distress.

In fact, leaving your Bulldog outdoors unsupervised on a hot day is enough for it to drop dead. The high temperature can cause your dog to overheat. And if not cooled down immediately, your Bulldog can die. All of this can happen within hours, especially if you’re living in a hot place.

Heatstroke or heat exhaustion can kill any dog in under an hour. And for a brachycephalic breed like Bulldogs, it would be much faster.

You have to be careful during the summer months and when leaving your dog in the car for a quick grocery run. What’s quick to you could turn into sudden death for your dog.

2. Heart diseases

why do Bulldogs die suddenly

Sometimes, sudden death among Bulldogs isn’t due to sudden causes. It could be an undiagnosed heart disease that doesn’t show any obvious symptoms.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is one of the most common heart-related conditions that can cause sudden deaths. To be fair, this is a genetic condition. If you got your Bulldog from a legitimate breeder, there’s a very low chance that your pet has this problem. Just make sure that your dog came with a comprehensive health certificate.

The tricky part about cardiomyopathy is that it’s not easy to diagnose. Many times, dogs are only treated symptomatically, which allows the condition to worsen until it reaches a breaking point.

Another condition you should watch out for is arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. This is a very common condition among humans but also observed in many dogs, including Bulldogs. Affected dogs can have faster or slower heartbeat than usual.

Take note that a dog’s survival rate with arrhythmia varies based on what caused it. Non-cardiac causes are unlikely to kill a dog. However, many cases of arrhythmia among Bulldogs are secondary to heart disease. This is the condition that can potentially lead to sudden deaths.

Lastly, there are dogs that died suddenly due to blood clots. When the clot blocks a heart’s vein or artery, it will cause a heart attack. And as we all know, heart attacks are very lethal.

3. Heartworm

why do Bulldogs die suddenly

Parasites like heartworms can also kill a Bulldog if not addressed right away. Heartworms are mosquito-borne parasites that can lead to caval syndrome.

Caval syndrome in dogs is the accumulation of heartworms into a large mass within the heart’s right atrium. It can also occur in the vena cava or the right ventricle. When this happens, the heartworm mass will block proper blood flow, which will cause cardiovascular collapse. This is very deadly, and some dogs would drop dead without even getting diagnosed or treated.

The good thing here is that heartworms are very preventable. Veterinarians include this in their vaccination and treatment programs for dogs. It’s important to talk to your Bulldog’s veterinarian to know the best preventive measure to take.

4. Poisoning

A perfectly healthy Bulldog can drop dead when exposed to a highly toxic substance. Poisoning is a rampant problem among dogs, with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center dealing with over 180,000 cases in 2018 alone.

The worst part is that lack of knowledge often leads many pet owners to poison their Bulldogs inadvertently. There also instances when the poisoning occurred outdoors and beyond the owner’s control.

Take note that many innocent items in your home are highly toxic to dogs. Medicines, chocolate, grapes, chewing gum, and toothpaste all contain toxic substances that can put your Bulldog’s life at risk. If your dog happened to consume any of this while you’re away, you’d surely go home to a passed-out and possibly dead Bulldog.

Aside from that, you should be careful when using rat poison, fertilizers, pesticides, and cleaning agents in your home. Always lock it out of your Bulldog’s reach. And if you have to apply any of it, make sure that your Bulldog is locked inside a secure room.

But as I mentioned earlier, some things are beyond our control. Many dogs in rural areas are killed by snake bites. And when the pet owner isn’t around to supervise, the poor Bulldog will drop dead due to the range of toxins found on the snake’s venom. In this case, your Bulldog’s survival largely depends on how fast you can take them to the vet’s clinic as well as the availability of the anti-venom.

5. Physical trauma

Another possible reason behind Bulldogs dying suddenly is physical trauma. It’s possible that your dog fell off from an elevated area and hit its head badly. A speeding car can also hit your dog if the latter escaped your home. 

All of these can cause internal bleeding, which may go unnoticed for hours, and even days. Some pet owners will only know that something is wrong when their dogs are starting to die.

While this can be daunting, physical trauma can be prevented with proper supervision. You should also put up a fence in your yard to prevent your dog from running into oncoming traffic.

However, there’s one instance when internal bleeding can happen even if your dog isn’t subjected to an external force. A ruptured tumor that hasn’t been diagnosed can also lead to internal bleeding. When this happens, your Bulldog can bleed out fast inside. It’s a silent killer that can make a dog collapse and die within the day.

6. Gastric dilatation-volvulus

Bulldogs and other deep-chested canines are notorious for gastric dilatation-volvulus, also called gastric torsion. This life-threatening condition occurs when the Bulldog eats too much food or water combined with air.

Gastric torsion will cause serious bloating that will twist the stomach, which then blocks the exit and entrance points. With that, there’s no way for your Bulldog to dispel the excess air to ease the bloating.

This condition can turn deadly in just a few hours. Bulldogs that are left home alone with food and water are more likely to die from this condition. Since no one is around to pick up the symptoms, the Bulldog can develop gastric torsion and die from it all within your working hours.

Take note that the treatment for gastric torsion requires the expertise of a veterinarian. In mild cases, the vet will just drain the air, food, or water. However, in worst-case scenarios, a surgical procedure is required by puncturing the stomach. From there, the vet will use a tube to extract the contents of your Bulldog’s tummy.

How can I protect my Bulldog from sudden death?

Take note that not all Bulldogs are bound to suffer all these health problems. Many Bulldog owners I know have their pets grow old without experiencing any of these. The key here is knowing how to protect your dog from life-threatening yet very preventable conditions. Here are some tips you can do:

1. Always check your dog’s body

As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our dogs are in good health. One way to do this is keeping ourselves familiar with how our pets’ body looks.

Checking your Bulldog’s coat, tummy, and face will let you determine if something is off. Recognizing a bloated tummy will let you prevent the deadly effects of gastric torsion. Meanwhile, shallow and labored breathing can point to heatstroke.

Being an observant and hands-on pet owner can save your Bulldog’s life. Besides, you only need 5 minutes to give your doggo a quick look.

2. Consult with the vet regularly

It’s very important to bring your dog to the vet for routine checks. Sure, it costs a fee, but it’s much smaller than having to pay for the treatment of a late-diagnosed condition.

If you notice something different in your Bulldog, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult with a veterinarian.

3. Supervise your dog outdoors

If you’re letting your Bulldog play outdoors, you should keep an eye on its movements. This way, you can intervene in case your pet tries to chew on a foreign object. It will also let you take quick action in case a snake bit your Bulldog or if it falls from an elevated surface.

4. Beware of hot weather

Hot weather is the mortal enemy of Bulldogs. You should always keep them indoors on a hot day while providing a constant water supply.

Aside from that, you should schedule your dog walks at dawn or dusk. Avoiding the heat of the sun will save your Bulldog from heat exhaustion.

5. Get your dog vaccinated and dewormed

Every dog owner is compelled to get their pets vaccinated and dewormed, regardless if it’s a Bulldog or not. This way, your canine will have layers of protection against preventable illnesses, including the dreaded heartworm.

6. Be careful with your choice of plants

If you have a garden, you should review the plants you have. The likes of sago palm, Aloe vera, daffodil, Gladiola, and Ivy are toxic and can potentially kill a dog when consumed in substantial amounts. If you can’t get rid of these plants, make sure that your Bulldog won’t access them.

7. Put up a fence in your yard

Lastly, invest in a fence to prevent your Bulldog from wandering off. If you can’t afford a physical fence, you can purchase a wireless fence system. These systems use a transmitter and receiver collar, so there’s no need to bury wires.

Once your dog tries to escape the set perimeter, it will receive a static correction. Just note that training is an integral process in the implementation of a wireless fence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you know when a Bulldog is dying?

A: Dying Bulldogs are extremely weak and will have difficulty breathing and moving. However, some Bulldogs may die suddenly without warning. It can be due to heart disease, respiratory distress, poisoning, and more.

Q: What is the most common cause of death among dogs?

A: Dogs under the age of two usually die from congenital diseases, trauma, and infectious diseases. Meanwhile, older canines may succumb to cancer and metabolic diseases. It’s important to bring your dog to the vet if you suspect any unusual behavior or symptom.

Q: Why would a healthy dog die suddenly?

A: A healthy Bulldog can die suddenly when poisoned or subject to physical trauma. Most of the culprits here are external and highly preventable with supervision and caution.

Q: Will Bulldogs die suddenly in their sleep?

A: There are a few reported cases of dogs dying in their sleep. It’s often observed on very old Bulldogs with underlying health problems. However, it’s quite rare, especially for healthy and well-cared for canines.

Q: What do dogs do when they are about to die?

A: Bulldogs that are on the verge of death will have no concern in doing things they are interested in. You’ll also notice a sudden decrease in energy and activity. In many cases, the dog will stop eating, drinking, and responding to its owner.

Final words

Why do Bulldogs die suddenly? Sudden deaths among canines can be due to heart disease, respiratory failure, poisoning, and physical trauma. Many of these conditions are preventable with proper supervision and consultation with the vet. Nevertheless, there’s no solid evidence that Bulldogs are more likely to die suddenly than other dogs.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of bulldogpapa.com. Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!