English Bulldog health problems

Breathing problems

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

The brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is very common among the brachycephalic breeds and derives from a specific number of abnormalities of the upper airway system of these dogs, which affect their ability to breath normally. More specifically, the abnormalities that can be diagnosed are stenotic nares (narrowed nostrils), elongated soft palate, extended nasopharyngeal saccules and a hypoplastic trachea.

English Bulldogs can suffer breathing problems as a result of one, or a combination, of these abnormalities. The result of these issues is that they decrease the amount of air that the dog can receive with every breath and increase the amount of breathing effort. A lot of brachycephalic dogs breathe easier through their mouth.

The symptoms of BOAS can vary from mild cases, characterized by noisy breathing and exercise intolerance, to severe cases, with increased respiratory effort even when sleeping and possible collapse after mild exercise. Generally, dogs that are diagnosed with many abnormalities tend to show more severe signs of the disease. If you notice that your pet shows any signs of the brachycephalic syndrome, you need to consult a vet immediately and design a proper treatment plan.

From there, your vet will thoroughly examine your pet and inspect the upper airway features. For a full examination, general anesthesia is needed and it’s usually combined with any other needed procedures, to avoid repeating anesthesia that might increase the risk of complications.

The treatment of choice in most cases is surgical correction of the anatomical abnormalities, to enhance the flow of air in the airways and improve the breathing pattern. The outcome depends heavily on the stage of the syndrome, the clinical signs observed and the amount of secondary effects that it has already caused, like abnormalities in the lungs, laryngeal and bronchial collapse, changes in the gastrointestinal tract and gastrointestinal reflux.

Dogs with milder symptoms at the time of presentation, along with dogs at a young age, have usually better prognosis compared to more severe cases. Furthermore, a good diet to avoid obesity, and the management of any other health problems that the dog suffers from, will improve the outcome and enhance the welfare of your pet.

Additionally, brachycephalic dogs are usually prone to overheating and need a lot of care, especially during the summer when the temperature is high. Remember to walk them outside early in the morning and late in the evening and avoid the rest of the day. Also, make sure they have access to fresh water and cool places all day long. Care is needed during transportation and car rides, as well, remembering never to leave your dog in the vehicle.

English bulldog

Skin conditions

Skin disorders are very well recognised health problems among English Bulldogs. The most common skin problems are skin-fold dermatitis (Intertrigo), pyoderma, pododermatitis, alopecia, pyotraumatic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.

Skin Fold Dermatitis (Intertrigo)

Dogs with many and heavy wrinkles, as well as inverted and tight tails, are predisposed to skin fold dermatitis, which can appear in any body place if there is friction due to skin to skin contact. The facial area of brachycephalic dogs is prone to skin-fold dermatitis, due to the presence of many and heavy wrinkles. The condition causes inflammation and potentially overgrowth of microorganisms, in the area between the skin surfaces.

The clinical signs are usually characteristic of the disease and they include redness of the skin, bad odour and the presence of viscous fluid. A full diagnostic investigation will include some laboratory testing, to reveal the presence or not of bacteria in the lesion. The treatment includes medical management of the condition, aiming to decrease the inflammation and remove the microorganisms. There are different products available in the market and your vet will guide you to choose the right ones for your pet.


Pyoderma is a bacterial infection that affects a dog’s hair follicles and the surrounding skin which results in itchy, flaky and crusty skin with white pus-filled pimple-like spots. Poor nutrition, certain medication, trauma, bites, mites and allergies can all increase the risk of your pet developing pyoderma.

The treatment prescribed by a vet will look to clear the infection and address the underlying cause.


Pododermatitis is the inflammation of the skin between a dog’s toes and footpads which causes them to have swollen, red and itchy feet. There are several different reasons a dog might develop pododermatitis so a vet will need to take a look at your pet’s medical history while evaluating the clinical signs you’ve observed.

Treatment will depend on the cause, but most dogs respond well to the plan if followed properly.

Eye problems

Cherry eye

The prolapsed nictitans gland (cherry eye) is the most common eye problem seen in Bulldogs. Cherry eye is indicated by the misplacement of the nictitans gland in the median canthus area. The correction is surgical and in case of medical management, usually the gland will reappear in the canthus area after the end of the treatment. Generally, this can cause redness of the eye, ocular discharge, lesions and ulceration on the surface of the cornea, as well as pain and intense blinking. If you notice any problem on the eye of your dog, you need to consult a vet immediately.


Entropion is a genetic condition where the dog’s eyelid rolls in towards the eyeball. It’s a painful problem that can lead to other health problems and, if left untreated, cause blindness and even the loss of an eye.

Bulldogs tend to develop entropion near the nose, which requires a different procedure to be corrected.

Corneal ulcer keratitis

The cornea is the transparent part of the eye that makes up the front of the eyeball. Corneal ulcer keratitis is an inflammation, wound or damage on the front of the eye. There are several different causes of eye ulcers in dogs and they can appear suddenly and rapidly get worse, so if you notice any problems with your dog’s eye it’s important to seek veterinary treatment immediately.

While some ulcers are caused by an existing health condition, you can take some precautions to prevent your dog’s eye from being injured. Make sure your Bulldog isn’t able to run into hedges or sharp corners and protect your pet’s eye from trauma that might lead to other health conditions.

Ophthalmological conditions

Ophthalmological conditions can progress quite quickly and if left untreated, they can cause permanent damage, even loss of eyesight. Your vet will perform a full ophthalmological examination and measure some ocular parameters during the consultations, after which they will recommend the right treatment for the specific problem of your dog.

As the owner of a Bulldog and knowing the specificities of this breed, it is advisable to pay attention to your dog’s daily routine and behaviour, and consult a vet regularly from a young age, to maintain good health for your pet.

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