Whether you own a Pit Bull Terrier, a Bulldog, or an American Bully, you know first hand how smart, energetic, and loyal bully breeds are. Bully breeds share a common ancestor called the Molosser dog. Their genetic relationship means more than having a similar name; they also share several physical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics that make them prone to certain health issues. For example, having droopy eyes makes them more susceptible to eye problems than other breeds. Their genes also carry a risk for the development of heart disease.
Being aware of which health conditions affect bully breeds most commonly will help you know what to be on the lookout for, and it will allow you to provide the best care to your best friend as soon as you possibly can.
Keep reading to learn more about which health conditions your pup is predisposed to and how to keep them healthy.
Hip Dysplasia in Bully Breeds
According to the Orthopedic Foundation of America, up to 74% of the English Bulldogs suffer from hip dysplasia, being that this breed presents the condition most commonly. Hip dysplasia is a congenital (something your dog is born with) disorder in which the bones forming the hip joint develop abnormally. This irregular formation of the hip leads to mobility issues and pain.
The signs of hip dysplasia in dogs start to show at a young age and may worsen over time if not treated early. During your first visit to the vet with your bully breed puppy, ask them for a hip dysplasia evaluation. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the prognosis. There are several treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs. Your veterinarian will make recommendations based on the severity of the disease as well as other factors.
It is important to recognize that hip dysplasia is a heritable condition, so if your French Bulldog has been diagnosed with his dysplasia she should not be bred.
Controlling your dog's weight and physical activity level is essential to prevent hip dysplasia from worsening. Take your dog on daily walks and avoid overfeeding them. If you are unsure about how much food she should eat, you should ask your vet for specific diet recommendations. Make sure that you and your vet keep track of your dog's weight.
Heart Disease in Bully Breeds
Dogs of any breed can suffer from different heart conditions. Some heart conditions develop over time and are most common in older dogs, while others arise from congenital abnormalities of the heart's valves or chambers. These defects may be subtle and go unnoticed for years, or they may be quite significant and require immediate surgical intervention.
English Bulldogs have shown susceptibility to various cardiac conditions including, mitral valve disease, subaortic and pulmonic stenosis, and septal defect.
Just like with hip dysplasia, early detection of heart conditions is vital to prolonging your bully breed dog's life. Make sure that your dog receives cardiac examinations at least twice per year.
Skin Problems in Bully Breeds
One of the most common reasons why dogs visit the vet are skin diseases, which may include allergies, bacterial infections, and parasitic infestations (e.g., fleas and ticks). Some of the most common skin issues seen in American bullies and other bully breeds are:
1 - Skin fold dermatitis. French Bulldogs and other dogs with wrinkles tend to suffer from bacterial infections and inflammation of their skin folds. This condition can be prevented by paying particular attention to these areas; they should be kept clean and dry at all time. Most dogs do not like it when people touch their faces, and they won't be happy with having you clean their face wrinkles unless they have grown accustomed to it. Get your dog used to having their wrinkles cleaned at an early age to make the process easier for both of you. Ideally, you would clean your bully dog's wrinkles with a dry cloth twice per week or more.
2 - Fleas allergies. Dogs can be allergic to a wide range of environmental agents, but fleas are probably the most common culprit. Fleas can cause severe skin irritation and itching, and they should be avoided at all cost. The best way to prevent flea allergies in dogs is by using a flea preventive on a regular basis.
3 - Acute Moist Dermatitis. Bully breed dogs are prone to what is commonly known as “hot spots.” These red, circular, hairless and itchy lesions are appropriately called acute moist dermatitis and are usually secondary to allergies, flea bites, and other skin conditions. Hygiene and flea control may prevent hot spots, but when allergies are the cause, the problem may be harder to control. Your vet will advise you on how to pinpoint what is causing the allergies and how to prevent further episodes.
Eye Problems in Bully Breeds
The distinctive droopy eyes of French Bulldogs and other bully breeds make them especially susceptible to certain eye conditions including cherry eye, entropion, and corneal ulcers.
1- Cherry eye. Prolapse of the third eyelid, or "cherry eye," is probably the most common problem eye condition of bully breeds. Cherry eye occurs when the dog's third eyelid (a membrane that covers the dog's eyes when they close) moves out of its place and becomes inflamed. The inflammation of this structure can damage the tear-producing glands leading to dry eyes. Cherry eye requires a surgical intervention which should be performed as soon as possible to prevent secondary complications.
2 - Entropion. Bully breed dogs are also susceptible to having their lower eyelid rolled towards the eye; this is called entropion. When the eyelid rolls, the contact of the eyelash with the eye's other layer (the cornea) leads to it irritation and possible ulceration. Entropion should be corrected surgically.
Recommendations to Keep your Bully Breed Healthy
- Keep their weight under control.
- Visit the vet at least twice a year.
- Clean your Bulldog's wrinkles twice per week or more.
- Use flea and tick preventives.
- Check their skin and eyes regularly to detect abnormalities early.
About the author
Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz practices mixed animal veterinary medicine and she has a special interest in shelter medicine and animal welfare. Stephanie enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, reading, writing and traveling.