5 Things to Consider Before Owning an English Bulldog
English Bulldogs Have Cute Underbites—But Are They Good Pets?
The English Bulldog easily captures hearts with its smooshy face. A medium-sized dog, the Bulldog is short and compact with a wide chest and small rear. Their large heads and chests are held up by strong legs and large front paws. Bulldogs have large jaws that allow a beautiful smile when panting or excited, and their underbite allows that large pink tongue to peek out when relaxed or sleeping. To some they may seem intimidating, but Bulldog owners will quickly point out their gentle, friendly nature.
Should You Get an English Bulldog?
Many people buy English Bulldogs because of their looks and have no clue the work that goes in to keeping these beautiful dogs happy and healthy. I bought my first English Bulldog strictly based on their adorable faces and personality, and I learned quickly that the breed has many special needs and considerations that all owners should be aware of and comfortable with before bringing a wrinkly bundle of fur home. Don't read me wrong: I wouldn't trade my Bulldogs for the world! However, I wish I would have been more prepared.
Before buying or adopting an English Bulldog, please take into consideration the following facts and ask yourself some questions:
- Am I willing to do that?
- Do I have the time to devote to these needs?
- Can I afford a breed whose care can often be expensive?
- Will I actually put in the effort to give a Bulldog proper care?
Too many Bulldogs wind up in shelters or with numerous health problems because their owners are not prepared. If after reading this article you answer "no" to any of these questions, please rethink bringing this breed home.
1. Bulldogs Have Food Allergies
Many bulldogs have food allergies that require time and money to conquer, meaning finding the right food can be an expensive experiment that is often times very difficult. The normal grocery store dog foods such as Kibble N Bits and Beneful do not sit well with most bulldogs, so be prepared spend more to give your bulldog the proper nutrition. Learn to read dog food labels to avoid the wrong ingredients and choose the best food for your bulldog's needs.
Common symptoms of food allergies in dogs include:
- Chronic Diarrhea
- Ear inflammation
- Licking of paws
- Itching skin
My bulldog Aubie does not do well on grains, poultry, or potato, and it took months of trial and error with foods (many expensive) to find kibble that would not cause an allergic reaction. Aubie licked her front paws constantly and the fumes leaving her tail end could clear a room. The first change was finding a grain free food as bulldogs often have allergies to grains. Then I began changing proteins and found that she does well on lamb, pork, and fish. I tried different brands with a lot of varying results and spent a lot of money. In the end, I found her perfect brand: Fromm. She can switch between the grain free flavors to change proteins with no problems.
Food is something essential yet so simple that can make a difference in your bulldog's health. Before bringing one home, be aware that they may need a special diet.
2. Bulldogs Need Wrinkle Care
Left on their own, an English Bulldog's wrinkles can become inflamed, yeasty, and/or infected, making your bulldog uncomfortable and causing bigger health issues if left untreated. A bulldog's wrinkles need to be kept clean and dry through daily cleaning.
Face wrinkles are often the worst offenders because a bulldog's eyes may water due to activity, heat, or allergies. Watering eyes drain into face wrinkles and if the wrinkles are deep, they can be the perfect breeding ground for yeast or bacteria. Aubie's right eye gives us constant problems. When she plays or gets hot, her eye waters, and that deep wrinkle beneath draws away the water and pools all the fluid. If left wet, the wrinkle will begin to smell, the hair will start to fall out, the skin will become red and sore, and brown gunk will build. To keep her wrinkles healthy, we are constantly cleaning them.
Bulldog owners often have their own ways of keeping wrinkles clean such as using soap and water, cotton balls and witch hazel, or baby wipes. A yeasty wrinkle can be treated with an anti-fungal such as Monistat, and Malacetic wipes can treat both bacterial and fungal infections. To calm inflammation in a chronically wet wrinkle, I use desitin to create a moisture barrier. A bulldog often has its own medicine cabinet full of remedies. I use a combination of methods depending on the severity of Aubie's symptoms.
It's important to make sure you clean all wrinkles. Aubie has larges ones under each eye and about four around her nose rope that require deep cleaning. Make sure you know your bulldog from head to toe as a missed wrinkle can be very difficult to treat once infected.
3. Bulldogs Need a Clean Tail Pocket
Bulldogs can have what's called a tail pocket: a literal "pocket" right underneath their tail and above their bum. Tail pockets can be shallow or deep enough to go up to the second knuckle on your finger. These pockets can collect filth and become easily infected. Many bulldog owners have no idea their dog has one until the dog starts showing signs of discomfort or infection such as scooting, drainage, or smell.
Tail pockets can appear at any age. Just because your puppy does not have one does not mean that your bulldog will not have one by the time it is a mature adult. Check periodically right underneath your bulldog's tail. If you can only feel the base of the bulldog's, there is no tail pocket; however, if you feel an indention, there may be even a shallow tail pocket that needs regular cleaning.
A bulldog's tail pocket needs to stay clean and dry like their wrinkles so as to not breed yeast or bacteria. Do not use anything that will keep moisture in the pocket such as baby wipes. An astringent like Witch Hazel or another cleanser that contains a drying agent is ideal to keep the area dry. Keep an eye out for any drainage or discoloration when cleaning the tail pocket as these can be signs of infection. Once infection sets in, it can be difficult to treat because of the location.
Some bulldogs have chronic problems that are never relieved with basic treatment. It may be because of a very deep pocket or a very tight tail that makes it hard to clean properly. In these cases, owners may choose to have their tails amputated, which often makes a huge difference.
4. Bulldogs May Have Interdigital Furuncles
An interdigital furuncle, commonly referred to as interdigital cyst, is a boil that occurs between the toes due to a painful, deep bacterial or fungal infection of the hair follicle. These boils pop up as lumps in the webbing of the bulldog's foot and discharge fluid or pus if popped. Some may simply appear as hairless lumps while others erupt as bright, shiny red bumps that are painful to the touch. Symptoms may include:
- Increased licking or biting of the paws
- Redness and/or swelling between the toes
- Discharge of fluid, blood, or pus
Treating an interdigital furuncle requires a minimum of daily cleaning and soaking of the paw until it is completely healed. Keep the following on hand: Epsom salt, antiseptic skin cleanser, and antibiotic ointment.
- Soak your bulldog's foot in a bucket or the bathtub for 5 to 10 minutes two to three times daily.
- Clean with antiseptic solution (generic from the pharmacy will do).
- Dab the area with antibiotic ointment.
- Use socks to keep your dog from licking the area.
Aubie gets furuncles periodically and this cures hers; however, it must be done regularly until completely healed or the biol will return. If your bulldog's paws are severe, please see your vet. They may prescribe an oral antibiotic and prescription ointment. If treatments do not work, the last resort may be surgery to remove the webbing between the toes.
For Further Information...
Bulldog Medicine Cabinet
5. Bulldogs Can Develop Cherry Eye
Bulldogs are prone to a prolapsed gland of the eyelid, otherwise known as cherry eye. Cherry eye is attributed to a congenital weakness in the gland's attachment to the eye. The gland in question is a tear producing gland in the third eye lid that can "pop out" as a red and/or pink lump in the corner of the eye and be very alarming to bulldog owners unfamiliar with the term.
Although frightening to see, in many cases the gland can be put back in place without a trip to the vet. After using eye drops and a warm compress to reduce inflammation, the area can be massaged downward and back into place. It's important to stay on top of the issue because if left out, the gland could welcome infection of the eye. If cherry eye can not be manually kept in check at home, your vet may recommend surgery to either reattach the gland in place or remove the gland completely.
Is the English Bulldog Right for You?
Bulldogs can have many health care needs and problems. They are extremely vulnerable to heat. They must have a daily cleaning ritual for the skin folds and tail pockets. Allergies are very common, both environmental and food related. Surgery can be dangerous and expensive because their flat faces and airways create a higher risk of side effects to anesthesia.
I admit it's easy to fall in love with their wrinkles and big personalities, but I also know that this breed is not for just anyone. Do your research. Make sure you can care for these precious pets through the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are thousands of bulldogs in shelters and rescue across the country that need homes because they were used as breeding machines or their owners did not realize the care they would need. Before bringing a bulldog home, make sure you can commit for life. And if you think you can, do them a favor...ADOPT!
- Bulldog Information, Health, Grooming and Nutrition
Read articles relating to anything and everything bulldog- a great place to learn for new bulldog owners!
- Bulldog Medical and Health Information
Articles and information about English bulldog health information.
- Bullies 2 the Rescue - NC English Bulldog Rescue
Bullies 2 The Rescue is one of three companies organized for the welfare and love of English Bulldogs.
- Florida English Bulldog Rescue (FEBR)
Florida English Bulldog Rescue has been helping this wonderful breed since 2007. We are a small group of volunteers with a huge love for the bulldog. We are a 501(c)3 organization, that has helped over 500 bulldogs and that number is growing.
- Southern California Bulldog Rescue
Beyond doing a good deed, adopting a rescued dog can be the best addition to the family, and the best decision you ever make.
Questions & Answers
How do I train a very mean English bulldog?
Neither of my bulldogs has been aggressive, so I don't have personal experience with this. I would get a professional dog trainer, even if you can only afford a one-time thing to give you tips on what to do. You can probably also reach out to a bulldog rescue in your area. They may be able to give you some training tips or connect you with someone who can help. A lot of times their volunteers have experience in dog behavior. Also, be consistent in your training. Bulldogs can be stubborn, and mine has been too smart for their own good at times, so you have to be firm and consistent.
Are English Bulldog's noses supposed to be crusty on top?
They seem to get that way easily, and you have to stay on top of it (I'm guilty of not doing that, honesty). If your bulldog's nose is crusty, get some nose butter or lotion. I also use vaseline sometimes, and it works really well.Helpful 2