As mentioned elsewhere, you will want to have a good Vet who knows Bulldogs and have a good relationship with him. All animals have problems associated with the breed; Bulldogs are no different. If you are not sure about something, it's safer to visit your Vet than to let a potential health problem develop. Regular check-ups by your Vet should be part of your annual routine. As you get to know your dog and the breed better, you will begin to feel more comfortable about what you can and can't treat yourself.

The more common problems you may come across and some of the remedies which have been proven over time are discussed below. This is not inclusive of all problems nor is it a complete description of the actions you should take. It is not intended to replace sound medical advice from your Vet, but to provide you with information to make it easier to be an informed dog owner.

If you are showing your dog in conformation, remember that the AKC regulations for dog shows disqualify any dog that has had its appearance surgically altered. Although any surgical procedure mentioned will disqualify your dog from the conformation show ring, it may make him a healthier and happier pet.

Picking a Veterinarian

As a Bulldog owner, you will probably see much of your vet, so choosing a good one is crucial. Bulldogs require all the care that any other breed does. In addition, the unusual physical characteristics that make them so appealing may create their own problems. This is a highly specialized, man-made breed which would have difficulty surviving on its own in the wild.

You probably won't experience in one dog all the problems we discuss, but you can count on seeing all of them at some point if you continue with additional Bulldogs. Each dog owned feels it is his or her duty to teach you about another Bulldog problem. As you learn more, you can recognize the problems and feel more confident in your ability to handle many of them yourself and to decide when a Vet needs to be called in.

Your Vet must be experienced in handling Bulldogs - the more, the better. It's worth traveling farther to see a Vet that sees many Bulldogs - they can diagnose and handle their special problems better than a Vet who is less familiar with the breed.

This is important for everyday care and may mean the difference between life and death if the dog has a major problem. For example, Bulldogs have more difficulty with anesthesia than other breeds because of their unique breathing configuration. A more experienced Vet will know when not to use anesthesia and how much to use when it's needed. there are several outstanding vets in the area and the club can help you in finding a Vet used by Bulldoggers in your area. You can also consult the recommendations of follow bulldoggers for local vets or vets when you are traveling by consulting the Veterinary Database.

In choosing among Vets, try to find the best diagnostician; someone able and willing to explain what he sees, its implications and treatment options. You will need this to participate intelligently in the treatment of your dog.

You should take the puppy to a Vet for an examination within the first few days you have him, preferably on the day you bring him home. The earlier the better, since you will want to be assured he is in good health and have your Vet tell you anything specific you should be doing. You should bring a stool sample with you, so your Vet can test for worms.


They will give your puppy a series of vaccinations against common communicable diseases. They sometimes give the first shots as early as 5-6 weeks of age, although they frequently do not give them before 8-9 weeks of age. Many breeders (and Vets) differ on what is the appropriate timing for the shots.

If they give shots at around 8-9 weeks, the shots are usually given in a series of three, spaced a month apart and provide combined protection against distemper, infectious hepatitis, kennel cough, Parainfluenza, parvovirus, and sometimes leptospirosis. A series of shots is required, since the maternal antibodies, which are transmitted thought the mother's milk and protect the puppy from birth, may interfere with getting immunity from the shots. The multiple shots ensure that the vaccination will take effect shortly after the maternal antibodies lose their strength. At four months, your puppy will need vaccination against rabies.

By the time you get your dog, he will have been inoculated against some or all of the diseases discussed. Shots should be renewed on a set schedule to ensure continued immunity. Your breeder will let you know what shots your dogs got and when he got them. Your Vet will tell you when the next shots are due and which ones to get.
Be sure to follow-up with your Vet to make sure inoculations are kept current. If you take those simple precautions, your dog will probably never have any of the diseases against which they vaccinate him.

If your dog will be coming in contact with many other dogs (either in shows or in a kennel) they recommend the widest range of inoculations.

Rabies is a fatal disease of warm-blooded animals and is a growing problem in the United States today, especially in the Northeast. Any wild animal that appears friendly, lets you approach it, or froths at the mouth should be avoided as suspect.

State laws require vaccination against it, but differ on the frequency of the vaccination. In New Jersey, vaccinations boosters must be given every year. In New York and Pennsylvania, a three-year vaccine is permitted. The live virus provides longer-lasting protection.


The following protocol is being accepted by all 27 veterinary schools in the United States. This is a change from prior practices.

Dog's immune systems mature fully at 6 mos. of age. If a modified live virus vaccine is given after 6 mos. of age, it produces lifetime immunity for the pet. (i.e. canine distemper, parvo, feline distemper). If another MLV vaccine is given one year later the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralize the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect. The titer is not “boosted” nor are more memory cells induced. Not only are annual boosters for parvo and distemper unnecessary, it subjects the pet to potential risks of allergic reactions and immune-mediated haemolytic anemia. There is no scientific documentation to back up label claims for annual administration of MLV vaccines

Puppies receive antibodies through their mothers milk that last for 8-14 weeks. Puppies should NOT be vaccinated at LESS than 8 weeks. Maternal immunity will neutralize the vaccine and little protection (0-38%) will be produced.

Vaccination at 6 weeks will, however, DELAY the timing of the first highly effective vaccine. Vaccinations given 2 weeks apart SUPPRESS rather than stimulate the immune system. A series of vaccinations is given starting at 8 weeks and given 3-4 weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age. Another vaccination given sometime after 6 mos. of age will (usually at 1 yr. 4 mos.) provide LIFETIME IMMUNITY.

Vaccinations given:

Distemper Distemper is highly contagious and potentially deadly. Within a few weeks, signs of central nervous system involvement occur. They give shots in combination or shortly after weaning in combination with a measles vaccine.

Infectious Hepatitis Canine Infectious Hepatitis is a very contagious disease which is transmitted only among dogs through contact with urine, stool or saliva. Young puppies experience the more severe cases. They will give either Adenovirus Type 1 or Adenovirus Type 2 to protect against Hepatitis and the Adenovirus associated with the Kennel Cough complex.

Kennel Cough Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection, exhibiting itself in harsh, dry, spastic coughing. It is especially serious in a Bulldog puppy, where small windpipes can be closed off by mucus secretions. Several organisms cause Kennel cough. A vaccine against Parainfluenza protects against one of these, just as the Adenovirus vaccine protects against another. Bordetella vaccine protects against another kind. Show dogs should have this additional protection. You can give puppies Intra-Trak nasally at three and four months and follow-up for active show dogs.

Leptospirosis  This disease is spread in the urine of infected animals, with rats serving as a main repository of the infection. Major symptoms involve pain in the kidneys, a thick, brown coating on the tongue, bloody stool, severe thirst and increased urination, and jaundice. Vaccination is recommended in areas where Lepto is prevalent. You may want to discuss with your Vet the advisability of Lepto vaccine for your dogs, expecially is their previous vaccination was not done with th elatest version of the vaccine. If you use it, you should monitor your dog closely for at least several hours after the vaccine is given, especially after the second shot when antibodies created by the first shot may cause allergic reactions.

Parvovirus and Coronavirus Parvovirus, which is highly contagious and deadly, is transmitted in feces. The incubation period can be as short as three days. It has its most severe effects among puppies, although it affects all ages. It appears in two forms.

The first has symptoms of loss of appetite, vomiting and severe abdominal pain, followed by high fever and diarrhea. The second manifests itself in puppies less than three months old, who stop nursing and gasp for breath. Death can occur quickly or after a few days.

Both types require quickly consulting your Vet for medical attention. Delays can result in severe dehydration and death. They will hospitalize your dog in all but mild cases. Parvovirus protection should be provided as part of the combination puppy shot. A booster shot is required to maintain immunity. Coronavirus is similar to, but milder than, Parvo. You will need to consult your Vet for treatment. They strongly recommend inoculation for dogs who are shown.

First Aid

You should know elementary first aid for your dog. Knowing the proper procedures for moving an injured dog, treating poisoning (some common household plants are potentially dangerous), stopping bleeding, and administering artificial respiration and CPR can save your dog's life. For detailed information on first aid and/or care for an ailing or injured pet, you may want to look at Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert Carlson, D.V.M. and James Giffin, M.D. (Howell Book House, 1980), The Complete Home Medical Guide for Dogs by Stephen Schneck & Dr. Nigel Norris (Stein & Day, 1976), or The Complete Book of Dog Care by Dr. Leon Whitney (Doubleday & Co., 1953).

Since an emergency is bound to occur, you should be prepared for it. With the caveats that all prescription medications should be checked with your vet before use and that some of these require more than a simple knowledge of animal health and the effects of medication, we have found the following effective to have on hand for emergencies or when we can't get to the vet quickly:

o a pair of tweezers to remove splinters,
o a small scissors,
o a rectal thermometer (preferably digital) and petroleum jelly to lubricate it,
o an eyedropper or syringe to give liquid medicine,
o gauze pads to cover wounds and to control bleeding,
o self-stick gauze bandages and adhesive tape to wrap wounds and to use as temporary muzzles,
o Cotton balls and baby wipes for general cleaning and cleaning ears and wrinkles,
o Sterile, isotonic eyewash,  
o an electrolyte solution, like pedialyte, to prevent dehydration,
o an anti-diarrheal, e.g., Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismo, or Metronidazole (Flagyl) pills to reduce fluid loss,
o hydrogen peroxide (3%) solution to clean wounds and delay poison absorption,
o Milk of Magnesia to calm stomach and slow poison absorption,
o a prescription diuretic, e.g., furosemide (lasix), to reduce fluid accumulation and an antihistamine, e.g., benedryl, (available both in pill and injectable forms) to reduce swelling in severe allergic reactions,
o epinephrine or solu-medrol (injectable) for severe allergic reactions,
o an instant ice pack (the kind you squeeze to chemically make the solution cold) to handle heat problems,
o rubbing alcohol to apply to feet and/or ears to reduce temperature in emergencies,
o aspirin suppositories, for use in rapidly decreasing body temperature when baths are not available,
o an antibiotic ointment, e.g., Panalog, to reduce the chance of infection,
o Neo-predef powder to reduce infection from superficial wounds and to handle itching and hot spots,
o Ascriptin pills for pain - never give aspirin products when bleeding is present (since they inhibit clotting), and
o oral antibiotics for emergency use, e.g., Cephalexin (Keflex) , Baytril, etc. Of course, you need to learn from your vet when each is appropriate,
o the phone number of your Vet and an emergency 24-hour Vet if one is available in your area.

Stopping Bleeding


Bulldogs are inquisitive and love to mouthe things. When this happens out of your presence, you may have to guess at the cause of the symptoms. Accidental poison caused by common household plants, chemicals, etc. is comparatively easy to prevent if thought and planning are give to arranging your house. If the poison is identifiable, a specific treatment may be recommended on the label or may be obtained by calling the local Poison Control Center or your Vet. They can advise you on the best treatment. If you are unsure, get to your Vet as soon as possible.

Inducing vomiting to rid the body of the poison is the usual action if the poison was recently ingested. Vomiting can be induced by giving your dog one teaspoon of Syrup of Ipecac for each 10 pounds of body weight or by giving between one and three teaspoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide every 10 minutes until three doses have been given.
An associated treatment is to then give the dog activated charcoal mixed in a solution of water (25 grams to 100 cc). Give five teaspoonfuls (25 cc) per 10 pounds. This is followed 1/2 hour later by two teaspoonfuls of Milk of Magnesia per 10 pounds.

Some house plants are toxic, causing severe reactions which should be addressed by a Vet quickly. Among this group are Amaryllis, Asparagus fern, Azalea, Bird of Paradise, Crown of Thorns, Elephant Ears, Ivy, Jerusalem Cherry, and Sprangeri Fern. Other plants can cause swelling of the mouth or tongue, both potentially life threatening conditions. Among these are Arrowhead Vine, Boston Ivy, Colodium, Drunk Cane, and Philodendrum.

Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is common, since dogs love to acquire tasty morsels left unguarded, even if they are in the garbage. Garbage should be kept securely covered. A painful abdomen and vomiting are initial symptoms, frequently followed by bloody, loose stool.

Medication Poisoning
Accidentally eating medicine prescribed for either you or your dog can cause poisoning from an overdose. Keep all medicines in cabinets since your dogs can destroy the plastic containers most come in. All medicines have side effects, Be sure you know the potential side effects of any medication bought over the counter or by prescription. Recognizing an adverse reaction to medicine may help save your dog's life.

If you need to give him pills at any point, rolling them in cream cheese, liverwurst or peanut butter usually works and he'll take it eagerly. If he's not interested, put the cream cheese with the pill in his mouth, tilt his head up and hold his mouth closed while you stroke his throat. The cream cheese will coat his tongue and he'll swallow the pill painlessly. Disregard the instruction in the books about how to give pills without cream cheese. Bulldogs love to trap pills in their cheeks and spit them out when you're not looking. Make sure you inspect his mouth afterwards to ensure he swallowed the pill.

A plastic eye-dropper works well for liquid medication. Open the mouth, tilt the head back slightly and squeeze it into the back of his mouth. If you can't get the mouth open fully, you can squirt it into the back of his cheek pouch. In either case, he won't be able to do much else but swallow it. It's fast and painless.

Digestive System

The digestive system breaks down nutrients so your dog can absorb them, helps prevent toxins from entering general circulation and eliminates waste. Most digestive system diseases are reflected in familiar symptoms - diarrhea, gas, constipation, vomiting, poor appetite and weight loss. Although not illnesses themselves, they all indicate the possibility of an underlying problem. While treating the symptom will frequently eliminate the problem, you should be careful not to overlook a hidden problem.

Vomiting -- This is one of the most common symptoms you will see. This makes it harder to know what is means. Occasional vomiting may be due to excitement, overeating, or digesting cold water quickly following a meal. Dogs who eat grass will also vomit. You can see the cause, so you don't need to worry. Vomiting once or twice in an otherwise healthy appearing dog is generally no cause for alarm. If your dog is vomiting and looks listless and sick or if he vomits blood, you should see your Vet.

Diarrhea -- Diarrhea is a symptom, not a disease. You must be sure to treat the underlying cause as well. Sometimes it's something simple like a change of food, other times it can be caused by an infection of the intestine. If he has loose, unformed stools for more than a day or two, especially if he appears listless or doesn't want to eat, be sure he sees a Vet quickly. It's not unusual to see a trace of bright red blood in the stool with diarrhea. If there is a lot of blood or if its dark red, or if he is vomiting or has a fever with the diarrhea, get the dog to a Vet immediately.

For non-serious cases, withhold food and water for 24 hours. Give him small amounts of ice cubes to eat if he seems thirsty. Keep Kaopectate on your medicine shelf. Use dosages appropriate for his weight as noted on the bottle. Dunk something he loves into the Kaopectate (small pieces of chicken) and feed him until he's had the entire dose. Repeat after every bowl movement until the stool is solid. His stool may change color until the medicine is out of his system. Pepto-Bismol also works for this and nausea. It turns the stool dark.
When you feed him, give him equal parts of rice and chopped meat with the fat drained off, or cottage cheese and pasta, instead of his regular dog food until his stool is back to normal. Gradually mix dog food back into the meat/rice mixture until he's back on his normal feed. Prescription diets are available from your Vet. Check under his tail and keep the area scrupulously clean. Use Panalog if it's sore - as it almost certainly will be.

Constipation -- Constipation exhibits itself as the inability of the dog to pass stool. Most dogs have a stool one or two times a day - going for two days without one is not unusual. You should get to know your dog's routine so you can see if it changes. It can be caused by poor diet, eating indigestible substances and voluntary retention. Poor diet can be addressed through Milk of Magnesia or mineral oil as a laxative and feeding a high residue diet.

Eating indigestible substances can cause fecal impaction. The dog will pass watery or blood-tinged stool, forced around the blockage . Your Vet can give the dog an enema to expel the block. Surgery might be required if nothing else works.

Voluntary retention occurs when a dog refuses to have a stool. The dog seems to be "holding his breath" as humans do when a bathroom is not available. This is common when a dog is away from his home environment and the cues for acceptable locations are absent. A mild laxative, like mineral oil, can help lubricate the dry stool and ease passage. You should give your dog several chances a day to eliminate if you think this is the cause.

Passing Gas -- You couldn't write about Bulldog digestive problems without mentions passing gas. Diets high in fermentables (beans, cabbage, etc.), milk or meat can make the condition more likely. Bulldogs seem prone to it. It's something you learn to live with. You can try a course of antibiotic therapy followed by cultured yogurt or buttermilk for a while to create "good" bacteria in the intestine.

Gastritis -- Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining following its irritation. Its principle symptom is vomiting. Acute gastritis is accompanied by diarrhea, which should be treated as explained above. Chronic gastritis exhibits sporadic vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy. You should have your Vet determine if there is some illness which should be treated or whether a change to a special diet is required.

Bloat -- Bloat, or acute gastric dilation-torsion complex, is a life threatening illness. Luckily this is not frequently seen in Bulldogs. While acute gastric dilation can be treated at home, immediate response by a Vet is essential for torsion to keep your dog alive. He will have to relieve the gas or turn the stomach to permit normal digestion. Gastric dilation, and related torsion of the stomach usually, occurs in older animals and is caused by gas or fluid build-up. The symptoms are abdominal distension coupled with dry heaves - retching without being able to vomit.

Cleft Palate -- Cleft palate, which is an opening in the oral and nasal cavity, is a common birth defect in Bulldogs. It which permits food and liquid to pass between them. It is difficult for the puppy to create enough suction to nurse. Almost all puppies you see will not have this problem, since they will not have survived until that age. Those who do will usually have easily visible clefts. It can be surgically corrected if the dog can sustain itself. Once corrected, the dog can live a happy life as a pet.

Anal Sacs -- Anal Sacs are scent glands located at the base of the tail under the skin. They normally empty into the very end of the rectum when the dog evacuates his bowels, marking his territory. They can get impacted or clogged in Bulldogs. You can tell that your dog has impacted anal sacs, worms, or allergic dermatitis if he sits strangely on his rump and rocks back and forth or if he drags his rump on the ground. Clogged anal sacs are easily emptied by the Vet. It's easy to do and he can show you how if you're interested in doing it yourself (We are not, thank you).

Liver Disease -- Liver disease can be caused by many factors, including infection, bile duct obstructions, cancer, heartworms, and poisons. The symptoms vary, but usually include loss of appetite, loss of weight, nausea, and jaundice. Treatment by a Vet is essential and can require hospitalization.

Intestinal Worms -- It's possible to see some types of worms in the dog's stool. A dog with worms should be taken to the Vet for treatment since it's important to make sure you're treating the right kind of worms. The treatment and medication vary for different worms. The treatment of worms is generally easy and not messy. To eliminate the worms, you will give your dog pills according to a schedule the Vet will set. They are usually gone quickly. Puppies are sometimes born with worms, even when the mother was dewormed. This can occur since the dewormers are not effective against larvae encysted in the tissues. During pregnancy, the larvae may mature and migrate to the puppies in the uterus.

Roundworms -- Roundworms are acquired through eating soil containing the eggs. Roundworms look like gray or whitish strands in feces. Potbellied puppies, not just healthy fat ones, may harbor worms. A stool sample should be checked by your Vet during the puppy's first visit since a severe infestation can lead to death. The larval forms of the worm travel throughout the body and can cause dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. Since the worms can be transmitted infrequently to humans, caution is required.

Tapeworms -- Tapeworms look like grains of rice in the stool and dried segments looking like brown rice can be found around the tail or in areas which the dog sits. It is acquired by eating raw meat or fish or from swallowing infected fleas. Since the mature worm feeds in the intestine, your dog will eat large quantities of food without any weight gain. Mild diarrhea, weight loss and loss of appetite are the major symptoms. Be sure to clear up any flea problems associated with the dog as part of the tapeworm problem to prevent reinfestation.

Hookworms -- Hookworms are contracted from the infected feces of other dogs or cats. They attach to the intestinal wall and take blood from the dog. Puppies can get them through the bitch's placenta or her milk when nursing. Puppies with severe cases require veterinary action. Microscopic examination of the feces is best to identify the presence of these parasites. A dog with hookworms is listless, has a black or bloody stool, with a poor appetite and unexplained weight loss. Severely infested dogs can die if not treated.



Eye problems are potentially serious. Minor problems can become major ones if not addressed. See your Vet if the problem does not correct itself or with home remedy within a day.
To administer ointments to the eye, pull down the lower lid and place the ointment on the inner surface. Then rub the eyelid gently over the eyeball to spread the medication. Applying it directly to the eyeball can be dangerous if the dog jerks his head. Eye drops can be placed directly on the eyeball. Hold the eyelids open momentarily while the drops are applied.

Eyelashes -- Some Bulldogs develop a congenital condition in which extra eyelashes grow from the lid and rub against the cornea. The irritation may range from hardly noticeable to very severe with heavy tearing. The hair can be removed by plucking - it's not as hard as it sounds and the dogs adjust to it. The condition may improve in time so treatment is no longer needed. In severe cases, the hairs can be removed by electrolysis. However, your dog will have to undergo general anesthesia, so the procedure is a serious one. If left untreated, continued irritation of the eye in a severe case can lead to corneal scarring or blindness.

Entropion and Ectropion  --  In the normal structure of the eye, the lid should be shaped like a globe. It should not be rolled in or out. Entropion is the condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing irritation to the eye. It is more common among Bulldogs than some other breeds. If caused by a spasm or mechanical irritation, it can be corrected through medication. If structural, the condition can be corrected by a simple operation. Failure to correct the condition can lead to ulceration of the cornea and possible loss of sight.
Ectropion is a condition where it is rolled out, resulting in the third eyelid (or haw) being visible. This is more common in Bulldogs than in some other breeds. Its presence is undesirable in a show dog and a potential health problem because of the ease which foreign matter can enter the eye.

Cherry Eye -- This is created by an enlarged and prolapsed tear gland on the inner surface of the third eyelid, generally caused by infection. It shows itself as a red, cherry-like growth protruding from the inner corner of the eye. It usually occurs in puppies and young dogs. It is more common among Bulldogs than some other breeds. It is usually treated surgically. This can be done by removal of the gland, with the need for only local anesthesia, or can be done by tacking the eyelid under general anesthesia. The choice of procedures and alternatives should be discussed with your Vet.

Dry Eye -- This is a disease, usually of the older dog, which results from inadequate tear production, sometimes from the surgical treatment of Cherry Eye. The eyes appear dull and listless and the eye has a thick discharge. This can lead to infection or corneal ulcers if left untreated. Fortunately, this is an easy disease to treat if not a severe case. There are many artificial tear products in the drug store which can be used several times a day to relieve the condition. In more severe cases, an an immunosuppressive drug can be used in the eye or an operation may be required to transplant the salivary duct to the eye to maintain the flow of fluid.

Conjunctivitis  -- This is a common disease of all domestic animals (including humans, where "pink eye" is an infectious form). Its cause can vary from an infection to allergies and environmental irritants. Blinking and squinting caused by mild eye pain and tearing are the main symptoms you will notice. Your Vet can diagnose the cause and prescribe appropriate medical treatment (sometimes eye drops or scraping the conjunctiva) to clear up the condition easily and rapidly.

Corneal Problems -- Corneal ulcers are dangerous and should receive immediate medical attention to avoid potential loss of the eye. Large ones are visible with the naked eye as dull spots or depressions on the corneal surface. Smaller ones can be seen under a special light after staining by the Vet. Corneal abrasions are scratches which usually will heal in a day or two if no foreign body is present in the eye. The eye should be carefully checked to ensure removal of any foreign body present. Failure to act quickly can result in an ulcer or inflammation of the cornea.



Genetics of Deafness in Dogs
-- adapted from Dr. George M. Strain, Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Congenital deafness in dogs can be either acquired (i.e., caused by intrauterine infections, ototoxic drugs like gentamicin, liver disorders, or other toxic exposures before or soon after birth) or inherited. Inherited deafness can be caused by a defect in a single gene locus or may involve multiple genes. It is usually not possible to determine the cause of congenital deafness unless a clear problem has been observed in the breed or carefully planned breedings are performed. Congenital deafness has been reported for approximately 40 breeds, Bulldogs among them.

It can potentially appear in any breed. The deafness has often been long-established in a breed but kept hidden from outsiders to protect reputations. The disorder is usually associated with pigmentation patterns, where increasing amounts of white in the hair coat increase the likelihood of deafness. Two pigmentation genes in particular are often associated with deafness in dogs: the merle gene (not found in Bulldogs, but seen in the Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Dappled Dachshund, Harlequin Great Dane, American Foxhound, Old English Sheepdog, Norwegian Dunkerhound among others) and the piebald gene (found in the Bulldog and Bullterrier, Samoyed, Greyhound, Great Pyrenees, Sealyham Terrier, Beagle, Dalmatian, and English Setter). Not all breeds with these genes have been reported to be affected.

The deafness, which usually develops in the first few weeks after birth while the ear canal is still closed, normally results from the degeneration of part of the blood supply to the cochlea. The nerve cells of the cochlea subsequently die and permanent deafness results. The cause of the vascular degeneration is not known, but appears to be associated with the absence of pigment producing cells (melanocytes) in the blood vessels. The function of these cells is not known but appears to be critical for survival of the cells supplying blood to the cochlea.

Deafness may also occur later in life from causes such as toxicities, infections, or injuries: these forms of deafness almost never have a genetic cause in animals and thus do not present a concern in breeding decisions.

The incidence of congenital deafness in different breeds is seldom known because of the limited number of studies. In the Dalmatian, where the incidence is highest, 8% of all dogs are bilaterally deaf and 22% are unilaterally deaf. The incidence of all types of deafness in the general dog population is low, reported to be 2.56 to 6.5 cases per 10,000 dogs seen at veterinary school teaching hospitals. Recognition of affected cases is often difficult because unilaterally deaf dogs appear to hear normally unless a special test (the brainstem auditory evoked response, BAER) is performed; facilities to perform the BAER are usually only available at veterinary schools. A unilaterally deaf dog can be as great a genetic risk for transmission of deafness to its offspring as is a bilaterally deaf dog.

The method of genetic transmission of deafness in dogs is usually not known. There are no recognized forms of sex-linked deafness in dogs, although this does occur in humans. The disorder has been reported to have an autosomal recessive mechanism in the Rottweiler, Bullterrier, and Pointer. References usually state that deafness transmission in most other breeds is autosomal dominant, but there is reason to believe that this is not always true. Pigment associated inherited deafness is not restricted to dogs -- similar defects have been reported for mice, mink, pigs, horses, cattle, cats, and humans.

Blue eyes resulting from an absence of pigment in the iris, is common with pigment-associated deafness, but is not in and of itself an indication of deafness or the presence of a deafness gene. In humans, deafness is sometimes associated with a complex of symptoms within an autosomal dominant disorder with incomplete penetrance -- which means that individuals that inherit the disorder may not show all components of the syndrome - i.e., they may not be deaf. Incomplete penetrance of a defect greatly complicates the determination of mode of inheritance. At present there is no documentation that incomplete penetrance is a factor in any canine deafness.

In simple Mendelian genetics, each dog carries two copies of each gene, one from each parent. The possible outcomes of breedings can be demonstrated with tables showing the genotype of both parents and the possible combinations of their offspring. If deafness is carried as a simple autosomal recessive gene (d), the breeding of two carriers (Dd) will result in 25% of the pups showing the disease (dd), 25% free of the defect (DD) and 50% carriers of the disease (Dd). The breeding of a carrier to a dog free of the defect will result in no affected dog, 50% free and 50% carriers. Finally the breeding of an affected dog to a dog free of the defect will result in 100% carriers and no affected or free.

If instead deafness is carried as a simple autosomal dominant gene (D), the breeding of an affected dog (Dd) to a free dog (dd) would result on average in 50% affected and 50% free. Dogs with the genotype DD would be unlikely to occur unless two deaf dogs had been bred. All of the above assumes that incomplete penetrance is not acting. If more than, one gene (recessive and/or dominant) is involved in producing deafness, the possible combinations become much more complicated. It is estimated for humans that there are 10-15 different autosomal recessive deafness genes, so that children of two deaf parents can be unaffected but carry both genes. If deafness in dogs results from more than one recessive gene, the possible outcomes of breedings are more numerous and determination of the mechanisms of transmission will be difficult.

As stated above, deafness is often associated with the merle (dapple) gene, which produces a mingled or patchwork combination of dark and light areas. This gene (M) is dominant, so that affected dogs (Mm) show the pattern which is desirable in many breeds. However, when two dogs with merle are bred, 25% will end up with (MM) genotype. These dogs have a solid white coat and blue irises, are often deaf and/or blind and are sterile. Breeders of these dogs know not to breed merle to merle. In this case the deafness is neither dominant nor recessive, but is linked to a dominant gene that disrupts pigmentation and secondarily produces deaf dogs.

Genetic transmission of deafness in dogs with the piebald (Sp) and extreme piebald (Sw) pigment genes, such as the Bulldog, is less clear. These genes affect the amount and distribution of white areas on the body. Deafness in Dals does not appear to be a simple recessive disorder: we have twice bred pairs of deaf Dals and obtained mostly hearing puppies, when all should have been deaf if it was recessive. These findings might be explained by a multi-gene cause, the presence of two different autosomal recessive genes, or a syndrome of incomplete penetrance. Further studies will be required to determine the mechanisms.

So what should breeders do when deafness crops up? The most conservative approach would be not to breed the affected animal and not repeat the breeding that produced deafness. As a general rule bilaterally deaf puppies make poor pets, are prone to biting, frequently die from misadventure (cars), and require excessive care. 
Unilaterally deaf dogs can make good pets but usually should not be bred. When deafness is uncommon in a breed, affected dogs should not be bred, but this does not mean that all related dogs are a risk and must be retired from breeding. An understanding of simple autosomal recessive and dominant patterns, as explained above, can allow the breeder to make informed decisions and likely avoid future deaf animals without sacrificing a breeding line that has been shaped over many years. However, extreme caution must be used when line breeding of dogs related to deaf dogs, whether the deafness is unilateral or bilateral. To make these decisions in an informed manner for breeds with known deafness, it is important that advantage be taken of hearing testing facilities at veterinary schools. Unilaterally deaf dogs cannot be detected by other means, and these dogs will pass on their deafness genes. 


Interdigital Cysts -- Interdigital cysts are fluid filled, swollen sacs between the toes, usually on the front feet. The area is sore and painful. The dog will lick or bite at the area trying to break the cyst to relieve the pressure. It can be treated in several ways.
First, you can use a tweezers to remove any ingrown hairs from the underside of the cyst. Then apply pressure to the cyst to expel any fluid you can. This will usually work quickly. If it doesn't, try bathing the foot several times a day in an Epsom salt solution until the swelling bursts. If the area is red and swollen, use a cold water solution; once the redness disappears, use a hot water solution. An antibiotic ointment, like Panalog, placed between the toes helps to prevent infection once it bursts. In severe cases, your Vet may need to inject a cortisone-related drug to reduce swelling or to cut the cyst to permit it to drain.

Cut Pads  -- Be prepared; cut pads bleed profusely. It usually looks worse than it is. Be sure the wound is clean and no foreign object - glass, for example, is present. Do not use peroxide on a fresh wound and do not wipe a wound which has stopped bleeding. Both will make bleeding harder to control. Once you are sure the wound is clean, apply firm and steady pressure on the pad until the bleeding stops. This may take some time. Then bandage the foot and get the dog to the Vet as quickly as possible . Cut pads will usually heal without a trace of the injury.

Musculoskeletal System

Osteochondritis -- This disease affects rapidly growing puppies between the ages of four and 12 months. This defect in the cartilage covering the head of the long bones usually affects the shoulder joints. The signs are gradual lameness and pain upon flexing the joint. Confinement to reduce potential strain on the cartilage and encourage healing is the preferred treatment. Pain pills should be avoided since it encourages the dog to be more active. In severe cases, surgery can remove the damaged cartilage.

Panosteitis -- Panosteitis, also called "wandering lameness," occurs in puppies between five months and one year old. The cause is unknown. It exhibits itself by pain and lameness shifting from one location to another over time. Since there is no known cause, treatment consists of pain relief. Dogs tend to recover fully from mild cases on their own. In severe cases, full muscle strength may never be regained.

Hips --  Bulldogs are a dysplastic breed. The Bulldog Standard calls for the dog's movement to be ". . . peculiar, his gait being a loose-jointed, shuffling, sidewise motion, giving the characteristic "roll". The action must be, however, be unrestrained, free and vigorous." Bulldog hip sockets are shallower and the head of the femur does not fits as well in the socket on average as in most other breeds. It is this looseness that contributes to the characteristic roll seen in the breed. However, a healthy bulldog should not be a cripple. As the standard requires, the dog should be able to move vigorously and freely with being restrained by the peculiarity of his construction.

Cruciate Ligament Problems --  

Patellar Dislocation -- A dislocated kneecap can occur through injury or be inherited. Pain in the stifle, difficulty straightening the knee, and a limp are signs of this problem. Conditions created by injury may heal themselves if the dog gets enough rest. Inherited problems can be treated by surgery.

Vitamin Overdose -- In an effort to encourage growth in a healthy puppy, some people feed vitamin supplements in addition to a fully balanced commercial dog food. These dog foods supply all the nutrients your dog requires as long as your puppy eats well. When you give your dog extra Vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus, his normal growth can be harmed. Supplements may be needed for dogs who are poor eaters . Consult your Vet before giving your puppy supplements.

Urogenital System

Mono/Cryptorchidism -- A cryptorchid is a fairly rare condition in which both testicles are absent. A monorchid has only one fully visible testicle. Usually the testicle is present, but not descended. Occasionally hormones can cause the testicle to descend to a normal position. Dogs who are cryptorchid are sterile and can't be bred; monorchid dogs can reproduce, but most people don't breed them since the trait can be passed on. These dogs should be sterilized for health reasons, since the retained testicle may result in an increased risk of cancer.

Pyometria -- Pyometria is a potentially life-threatening abscess of the uterus. A vet should be seen immediately if you suspect this condition. The infection may either drain from the uterus or collect there, causing painful enlargement. A hysterectomy guarantees full recovery. For a potential brood bitch, there is a course of treatment with prostaglandin, which can sometimes eliminate the infection. Since, there is always the possibility of recurrence, the bitch should be bred on her next heat.


Demodectic mange is caused by mites which live in hair follicles and feed on sebum. Since sebum production increases at puberty, it is most prevalent at that time. Most dogs have these mites without exhibiting any symptoms. Susceptibility to the disease appears to be genetically transmitted. It causes the loss of hair and a spotty looking coat, with no signs of itching. In severe cases, the skin first becomes red, thickened and scaly. It then becomes oily and begins to smell. This should be treated quickly. There are both topical and systemic treatments for this. You should consult your Vet for the right remedy. With appropriate treatment, you dog can be free of this disease.

Sarcoptic mange
is caused by a different mite. Your dog will scratch and bite at himself consistently. Scabs, crusting areas and hair loss are common. There are several dips which will control the problem. Your Vet can give you cortisone to control the itching and you can use Panalog to soothe the infected area.

Hot Spots
-- This is a weeping sore or moist dermatitis associated with hair loss. It can result from the dog's scratching itself continually. You need to catch this quickly, since it can rapidly spread over the dog's coat. Treatment consists of shaving and thoroughly cleaning the effected area and applying a topical antibiotic and anti-itch powder or ointment. A drying agent, like hydrogen peroxide, may be beneficial. After bathing the effected area, application of a hydrocortisone cream is helpful. Recovery is usually fast. If the dog is in severe pain, tranquillizers may be helpful. If the dog can reach the effected area, an Elizabethan collar can be used to prevent licking or biting the sores.

-- Fleas, which feed on blood, are the most common parasites on dogs. The presence of fleas can be observed from black and white flecks about the size of grains of sand in your dog's coat. The white are eggs and the black are flea feces. Of course, you may also see the fleas. Flea eggs incubate on your rugs and furniture, so if there are fleas, you should have your entire house professionally treated to eliminate the problem.

A temporary infestation which is quickly caught can be handled by spraying, dips, use of a flea collar, or flea powders. We do not use flea collars because of the danger the dog could chew each other's and poison themselves. This is not a problem in an only dog household. Dips and sprays are quick, effective and long lasting. You must treat both the dog and the environment or the problem will only reoccur. Once the fleas are eliminated, theyre are monthly medications which can successfully keep your dog flea free.
Some dogs are allergic to the flea's saliva and develop a rash and itching. Since fleas tend to gather around the tail, you may notice your dog scooting or backing up against things to rub his bottom on. Cortisone treatment by a Vet, coupled with dipping and use of topical antibiotics is effective in treating the allergic reaction.

Ticks -- Ticks live in wooded areas from Spring until mid-Summer (depending on the weather). Adult ticks attach themselves to you dog for two to four days of feeding on their blood. You should check for ticks daily if your dog is outside, especially in wooded areas. In bad seasons, you may find 10 to 20 ticks on your dog each day.
Ticks carry many diseases, among which are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease, which can affect both animals and man. Therefore, you should remove ticks quickly and safely. The tick can be killed by applying alcohol or fingernail polish directly to it with a cotton swab. After several minutes, it will die and be ready for removal. Grasp the dead tick with a tissue as close to the skin as possible and apply steady pressure until it comes loose. In more rural areas, where severe tick problems are more prevalent, sprays or dips can be used. Be sure to treat the dog's sleeping quarters when you treat him. As with any poison, read the label carefully and seek your Vet's advice on treatment.

Ringworm -- Ringworm gets its name from the appearance - a red ring at the margin of a rapidly spreading ring of hair loss. It is not cause by a worm, but a fungus living on the skin. Microscopic examination of skin scrapings and fungus cultures is best for diagnosis. For minor infections, the hair should be clipped away from the effected area and the area bathed with Betadine shampoo or whatever your Vet prescribes. More severe cases can be handled with prescription drugs.

Respiratory System

If your dog is overheated and/or over excited, it is critical to calm him down, bring down the body temperature, make sure the throat is free of mucous, and minimize the swelling. Fast action is essential and you generally will not have a real problem if you act quickly rather then letting problems build. It is better to err on the side of caution with these problems: you won't harm the dog with water, ice and aspirin he doesn't need, but you can kill a dog by not acting when he needs help.
Many Bulldogs gag and/or vomit when excited. If this happens and he seems to be having a problem, clear the dog's throat of mucous with your finger and squirt lemon juice down his throat. (Real Lemon squeeze lemons are wonderful). He will gag and act like your torturing him (unless he's like the dog we had who loved lemon). Don't worry about it. Then give him ice cubes and hold his mouth shut to make him chew them if necessary. Get him to a spot where he can calm down.
Don't leave him outside in the hot sun. Don't have him sit around on a leash without access to water while you're socializing if it's warm. Never leave him in an enclosed car in the summer - cars turn into ovens really easily.

You should be aware of the sound and rhythm of the dog's normal breathing and panting. Bulldogs are normally noisy, so don't let that scare you . If he's over excited, his breathing will be abnormally fast and hard. If the dog is hyperventilating, his tongue will have a bluish cast instead of the normal pink and it will hang out unusually far. His panting will be heavy, probably with a rasping sound and he may look wild eyed. To treat him, you will need to use some or all of the following: water, ice, lemon juice, and aspirin suppositories.

You can immediately place him in a tub of cold (but not ice) water or in a cold shower. If you're outside, pour water over him - straight from a garden hose if possible. He won't like it, but do it anyway. It's important to get him wet down to the skin so evaporation of the water can speed bodily cooling. Then get him into the shade. You can clear then his throat with lemon juice. Give him ice cubes and hold a compress of ice cubes on his genitals and/or head. If he's overheated, give him an aspirin suppository.

Nostrils -- Breathing problems can start where the air first comes in - at the nostrils. Collapsed nostrils are seen more frequently in short-nosed breeds like the Bulldog. In this condition, the nasal cartilage of puppies is too soft and collapses under the pressure of breathing. Surgical enlargement of the nostrils will solve the problem. Nostrils of older Bulldogs come in a variety of sizes, some of which are too small to admit enough air. When coupled with problems in the soft palate tonsils or trachea, this can lead to problem breathing. Fortunately, this is not usually a problem. Nostrils can be surgically enlarged to increase air flow, but it is infrequent that it is necessary. Ideally, a Bulldog should have large, well-opened nostrils.

Soft Palate -- The next potential point of air blockage is the soft palate. The front part of the roof of the mouth is the hard palate and the rear, up until the windpipe, is the soft palate. When the soft palate is elongated, as it frequently is in brachiocephalic dogs, it can partially block the airway when the animal breathes. Treatment will depend on the amount of tissue, its location and the dog's temperament. A calm dog, with a slight elongation of the soft palate may need nothing more than extra attention during hot weather (when throats tend to swell).

By the age of four or five months, the Vet should be able to tell you if the soft palate is elongated. If he doesn't have it by that age, he won't suddenly develop it later in life. If it is elongated, by 6-8 months of age you'll know about how long it will be and whether it's a problem depending on your dog's activity level and your lifestyle. The soft palate can be surgically shortened if it causes serious problems, especially if the animal is excitable. This is because an excitable animal will breathe and pant harder, which causes swelling of the throat, which is already partially blocked by the soft palate.

Where surgery is indicated, it will generally be performed after the puppy has reached full growth - after 10-12 months. You must wait this long for two reasons. First to determine whether this is a real problem - you don't want your dog to have unnecessary surgery. Second, if done much earlier, it's harder to predict the final head size and the Vet may take off too much or too little.

Tonsils -- Yes, your dog has tonsils just like you do and they are subject to the same potential problems. Some dogs never have problems; some get tonsillitis and, if antibiotics don't work, have their tonsils taken out because of infection. Tonsils which are too large can be removed - it's a relatively minor operation. The dog can be home the same day and won't spend more than a night with the Vet.

Trachea -- The size of the trachea (windpipe) also varies. While a large windpipe makes breathing easier, dogs can do quite well with narrower openings. Bulldog windpipes are generally smaller compared to the size of the dog than in other breeds. The size of the windpipe cannot be corrected surgically. As long as the windpipe is big enough for the dog to function, it's not a big issue for you. For the Vet, the issue will center on the best way to anesthetize the dog if surgery is required for some other condition. You can discuss this with your Vet.

Bulldogs have relatively narrow windpipes for their size. The unusual construction of their nasal passages and soft palates, coupled with the narrower trachea, makes them exceptionally vulnerable to breathing problems in the heat. Over excitement, and the resulting hyperventilation, causes similar problems. This can result from swelling of the soft palate tissue, poor tissue tone, or too long a soft palate, each of which can block off the windpipe. In addition, prolonged problem breathing can cause eversion of the laryngeal saccules, causing them to close over the windpipe during breathing.

Reverse Sneezing --- This is a frightening, but harmless, condition seen fairly frequently in Bulldogs. When this happens, the dog pulls air into the nose fiercely, producing an incredible racket. It seems as though he was trying to clear his nasal passages. After the first few times, you will get used to this. The dog is entirely normal afterwards and no treatment is needed.

Allergic Reactions -- If the dog breaks out in welts or looks as though he has hives he is probably having an allergic reaction. Take him to the Vet without delay. He'll probably get shots to alleviate the problem. Then you have to identify the cause. Common causes are flea bites (some dogs are allergic to fleas). As a precaution, you can have your house sprayed for fleas twice a year by a professional. It doesn't cost much and provides a long lasting remedy for a potentially unpleasant problem. If you keep the flea population under control, you should reduce the chance of allergic reactions.

Some dogs are allergic to chemicals used to clean rugs or floors. One of our dogs was allergic to a supermarket brand of rug cleaner, so be careful of such things. Of course, one of our dogs likes to chase wasps and bees, whose stings cause an allergic reaction in her, so you can never be sure. If he is allergic, you have to be especially careful, since an allergic attack sometimes produces respiratory problems. Most Bulldoggers have an assortment of medications like Lasix and Benedryl and Depo-Medrol to administer in case of allergic reactions.