Bulldogs are a severely brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed.
Bulldogs are very likely to suffer from serious health and welfare issues due to their physical conformation, including severe breathing difficulties, skin problems, joint problems and dental issues.
Due to the degree of potential suffering caused by breeding for exaggerated physical features rather than health and function, we strongly recommend owners consider a healthier breed, crossbreed or mongrel.
You can read our statement on the problems with brachycephalic (‘flat faced’) breeds here.
Bulldogs are a member of the ‘Utility’ breed group. Dogs in the Utility group were essentially bred for a specific purpose and so contain a variety of breeds. The function they have been bred for is not included in the sporting and working categories.
Bulldogs are affectionate and gentle-natured dogs. They need grooming just once a week, but their facial wrinkles will need daily cleaning.
Breed-related health problems:
Although some of these health problems are manageable, it’s been identified that it’s in the best interests of the dog to try and selectively breed to decrease the characteristics which cause these health problems. Some of the characteristics and associated health problems you’ll want to know more about in relation to Bulldogs include:
- Brachycephalic syndrome – upper airway abnormalities which are commonly seen in flat-faced dogs. Can include stenotic nares (narrowed nostrils) and elongated soft palate. This causes breathing problems and symptoms such as exercise intolerance, increased noise when breathing and difficulty in breathing. Bulldogs are prone to this and it is often the cause of their snoring or wheezing. There are both surgical and medical managements available and you should speak to your vet if you think your Bulldog is showing any symptoms of BOAS or having any difficulty breathing.
- Joint disorders – such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia - occur when joints don’t develop correctly and cause degenerative joint disease. Bone and joint problems can be managed but there are schemes to screen your dog and see how likely it is that they will suffer from these joint problems.
- Eyelid problems – such as entropion and ectropion – occur in Bulldogs due to excessive skin over the face and eyes. This skin causes the eyelids to droop either downwards, or in towards the eye, where the skin rubs and irritates the eye, causing problems.
- Dry eye – Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) occurs when one or both eyes don’t produce a normal amount, or type, of tears. This leads to the eye becoming very dry, which in turn can cause infections and ulcers.
- Cherry eye – eversion of the nictitating membrane or ‘third eyelid’ – generally occurs in younger dogs and can be surgically corrected.
- Tail problems – the bones in the tail of a Bulldog can form incorrectly and the tail can become inverted or ‘corkscrew.’ This can cause problems with the nerves around the area and need surgical correction. More commonly the large skin fold around the tail can become infected, called skin fold pyoderma.
- Skin infections – Bulldogs have lots of extra skin, especially over their faces, which folds over and when bacteria builds up in the folds it causes skin fold pyoderma.
- Bulldogs have quite large shoulders relative to their smaller hind quarters and pelvic bones. This can mean they have problems giving birth naturally and Bulldogs often need to have a caesarean section to be able to give birth.
For more information about these and other health problems you can speak to your vet or visit the Kennel Club or the Bulldog Breed Council.
For some conditions, there are screening programmes available through the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club. The Canine Health Schemes allow breeders to screen for a range of inherited diseases, so it’s a good idea to check the parents of any puppy you’re looking to rehome have been screened under these schemes. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above evident in the family line.
You can find out more about the Canine Health Schemes on the BVA's website.
Bulldogs need up to an hour’s exercise daily, but it’s important to remember that they should never be exercised in the heat of the day as they are prone to overheating. They are very calm dogs and will get on well with other household pets if given the right socialisation when young. To learn more about socialisation, take a look at our dog behaviour page.
Estimated lifetime cost:
The likely lifetime costs for a Bulldog are based on estimates calculated using current market prices and include:
- Initial costs of the purchase of the pet
- First vaccinations and booster vaccinations
- Pet insurance
- Flea treatments
The list above does not include veterinary costs if your pet becomes sick or injured, so these average lifetime costs could be even higher.
Insure your Bulldog with PDSA:
1 in 3 pets need vet treatment each year and vet bills can come to hundreds of pounds. PDSA Pet Insurance can give you peace of mind when your pet is poorly, especially for breeds like Bulldogs that are prone to certain conditions. PDSA Pet Insurance offers:
- 5 Star Pet Insurance* - from the vet experts
- 4 levels of cover to suit you
- Monthly payment at no extra cost
*Defaqto 5 Star rating applies to our Plus and Premier policies only. Defaqto’s Star Ratings provide an independent assessment of the quality of financial products.
By insuring your Bulldog with PDSA you’ll also be helping to provide vet care to some of the UK’s neediest pets.