While some other dog breeds include "bulldog" in their names, the stand-alone name "Bulldog" is reserved in the American Kennel Club registry for the gentle and much-loved breed also known as the English bulldog. Once a bull-baiting and fighting dog, the bulldog no longer possesses the temperament or athleticism required for such work. The breed was transformed during the Victorian age into a household companion animal, and has continued to transform since. In the decade prior to 2012, the bulldog rose from 21st to sixth in breed popularity in the U.S. The AKC website credits the breed's wrinkles and gentle disposition for its popularity, but years of selection for extreme characteristics in these dogs has created a pet that can have some serious health issues and special care needs.
Know the health issues that can affect bulldogs. Bulldogs are at risk for a broad range of health issues, many requiring a great deal of treatment and care. Respiratory difficulties that result from the bulldog's extremely short face top the list of potentially lethal problems. Among the brachycephalic breeds, such problems are at their worst in bulldogs. Brachycephalic airway syndrome leaves a dog unable to breathe efficiently and properly cool his body. Signs of the condition include snoring and heavy, labored breathing.
Bulldogs experience the highest rate of hip dysplasia of any breed, according to a 2010 report by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Bulldogs also reportedly have a higher incidence than many other breeds of a genetic immune-system defect that opens the door to demodectic mange. Ear and eye problems range from keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS, a dry-eye disease, to deafness in piebald bulldogs. Some bulldogs develop neurological problems or heart issues, including pulmonic stenosis, an obstruction in the heart that reduces blood flow to the lungs. Bulldog females often cannot give birth naturally.
Find a veterinarian who is familiar with treating bulldogs. Many breed clubs and organizations strongly disagree on whether bulldogs are unhealthy and poorly built. While the controversy around breed standards tends to polarize opinions, veterinarians are practical about the breed's potential for health issues. If your bulldog develops a problem, you want a vet who knows bulldogs.
Consider obtaining pet insurance. Because of the number, type and severity of conditions that can potentially affect bulldogs and the costs involved in pet health care, you may find the cost of pet insurance justified with this breed.
Create a canine first-aid kit. Include in it items needed to address any known health problems your bulldog has. Familiarize yourself with plants, poisons and hazards in your dog’s environment.
Care and Feeding
Feed your bulldog a high-quality dry dog food according to his size and activity level. Spread the daily ration over two meals. Find a dog food that agrees with your pet’s digestive system, as gas formation can be a problem with bulldogs. Offer his food in a flat-bottomed stainless-steel bowl. This makes accessing the food easier for your bulldog and allows you to sterilize the bowl often. Feeding in this manner reduces the potential for vomiting and choking, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia.
Clean your bulldog’s wrinkles and the loose skin around his throat and mouth at least once a day, using a damp cloth and dog shampoo or an unscented baby wipe. Rinse the area very well if you use shampoo. Dry the coat and skin thoroughly. Some bulldogs' wrinkles may require care immediately after each feeding. Make the routine pleasant for your dog so he'll cooperate.
Avoid giving your bulldog small toys, plastic items and rawhide chew toys, as they present a choking hazard.
Brush your bulldog a few times per week, using a rubber brush, a soft-bristle brush or a grooming mitt. Bulldogs can shed frequently and do shed seasonally; brushing reduces stray hair.
Bathe your bulldog infrequently to preserve his coat’s oils. Bathe him quarterly, or as needed to eliminate dirt and odor. Frequent bathing can cause your dog to develop skin problems.
Check your bulldog’s general health at each brushing. Treat skin issues as they arise. The Bulldog Breed Council UK website suggests applying petroleum jelly for dry nose, and rash cream for skin-fold and tail irritations. Keep your bulldog's nails trimmed, as imbalances and shifting of his body weight can lead to joint stress, according to the Bulldog Club of America.
Investigate the cause of any tear stains, and treat them as soon as possible to avoid infections. Such staining can be caused by yeast or bacterial infection in the tear ducts or by a turned-in eyelid.
Give your bulldog moderate daily exercise. Bulldogs require less exercise than many breeds. Avoid strenuous exercise, stress and over-excitement. Bulldogs perform well at rally, obedience and agility activities.
Maintain your pet at a healthy weight by adjusting his activity level or his food intake. Obesity leads to health problems and can worsen existing health issues.
Take precautions against seasonal dangers for your bulldog. Make sure shade and water are always readily available when he’s outdoors. Limit his exposure to heat and sun. Bulldogs can suffer from sunburn. Freeze bottles of water and carry them when you go out with the bulldog to help keep him cool, suggests the Bulldog Breed Council UK. Never leave your bulldog in a car, even for a few minutes. Guard your bulldog against slipping on ice when you take him out in winter, and make his time outdoors brief. Bulldogs can’t tolerate cold temperatures for long. Provide plenty of water, and give active bulldogs increased food rations in winter.
Supervise your bulldog when he’s near water. Bulldogs are heavy animals that don’t swim well. Invest in a canine life vest if you own a pool or live near water; then you can exercise your dog in water if you like.
Training and Socialization
Understand your bulldog's temperament. Bulldogs are generally happy and good-natured, but they crave attention and need a lot of contact. Your dog may become destructive if he is left alone. Bulldogs are not unintelligent, but they dislike change and can be possessive. They make noises, but don’t often bark.
Use positive reinforcement methods to train your bulldog. Begin training early. Use a harness rather than a collar, as pressure on the neck can add to existing breathing problems.
Socialize your pet with family members, family pets and other dogs. Because of their physical characteristics and health issues, and because they are frequently targeted for theft, bulldogs are best kept as indoor dogs. They get along with other pets, but the Bulldog Breed Council UK website recommends thoroughly socializing your dog while he’s a puppy. Supervise your dog around children. Bulldogs are affectionate, protective and good with children.
Items You Will Need
- Veterinarian skilled in treatment of the breed
- Pet insurance
- Canine first-aid kit
- Flat-bottomed, stainless steel food bowl
- Dog shampoo or unscented baby wipes
- Rubber brush, soft-bristle brush or grooming mitt
- Petroleum jelly
- Rash cream
- Leash and harness
- The Kennel Club UK/British Small Animal Veterinary Association: Summary Results of the Purebred Dog Health Survey for British Bulldogs
- The Bulldog Club of America Rescue Network: Before You Adopt a Bulldog...
- Bulldog Club of America: Are You Ready for a Bulldog?
- Bulldog Club of America: Protecting Your Bulldog
- Bulldogs World: Bulldog Medical and Health Information
- Bulldogs World: Coat Color Chart for the Bulldog
- Bulldog anglais image by Olivier from Fotolia.com