7 Bulldog Common Health Issues [+Signs and Prevention]

Published on
Fluent Woof is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
bulldog dressed like a doctor

 Although English Bulldogs’ flat faces, underbites, and stout bodies are endearing, these dogs can also suffer from various health issues.

When you understand the most common conditions Bulldogs face, you’ll be equipped to recognize potential problems. This can help you prepare for potential medical expenses for your furbaby.

There’s no guarantee your Bulldog will suffer from any of these conditions. However, most dogs will deal with one or more health challenges in their lifetime. The list below simply includes some of the most common issues for this breed.

The most common health issues that Bulldogs face include brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), orthopedic issues, eye problems, allergies, skinfold dermatitis, pulmonic stenosis, and cancer. 

In this article, I’ll share 7 common health issues that Bulldogs suffer, when they usually occur in the life cycle, and how Bulldog health compares with other dog breeds. After that, I’ll provide you with a list of health signs to watch out for and offer tips for prevention and general healthcare.

Common health problems

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS)

Bulldogs were selectively bred over many years to have a characteristic flat face. Unfortunately, the face leaves them vulnerable to developing Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).

Brachycephalic breeds, including Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pugs, are predisposed to BOAS.

While Bulldogs are born with anatomy that causes BOAS, signs of the condition usually become more pronounced in adulthood.

The Bulldog’s flat face comes from anatomy in the airway and throat that includes narrowed nostrils, an elongated soft palate, and a narrow windpipe. These features interfere with your dog’s breathing.

Signs of BOAS include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Noisy breathing/snoring
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Pale gums
  • Collapse

Without treatment, bulldogs with BOAS can experience difficulties with breathing, worsening symptoms, and possible collapse.

You may be able to prevent problems with your Bulldog by helping him maintain a healthy weight, keeping him inside when it’s hot and humid, and limiting your dog’s exercise/exertion.

Treatment options for BOAS include:

  • Trimming the soft palate
  • Surgically widening the nostrils
  • Removing everted laryngeal saccules

Orthopedic issues

Because of their frame size and shape, Bulldogs are predisposed to developing hip dysplasia, joint/ligament injuries, and arthritis.

Large breed dogs, including Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, and Doberman Pinschers, are prone to orthopedic issues. Their genetics, rapid growth, and larger frame size all contribute to these conditions.

Other than joint and ligament injuries, orthopedic issues are usually degenerative in nature and take time to develop. Therefore, you will most likely see orthopedic problems in adult or senior dogs. Injuries can occur at any age if your Bulldog exercises too vigorously.

Bulldogs with hip dysplasia have deformities in the hip joint when they’re born. The structural abnormality causes extra joint movement, which irritates the cartilage. The long-term result of repetitive joint trauma is degenerative arthritis. Because Bulldogs have a boxy frame and bowed legs, they are also prone to joint and ligament injuries if they exercise too vigorously. 

Signs of orthopedic problems include:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty or reluctance when climbing stairs, getting in the car, or getting on furniture
  • Difficulty rising
  • Sensitivity to touch around the hip joint
  • Swaying gait
  • Chronic pain

Leaving orthopedic conditions untreated usually causes continued joint degeneration. Over time, your dog will experience increasing pain and decreasing mobility and quality of life.

Your first line of defense for hip dysplasia is your breeder. Purchase dogs that have been screened for hip dysplasia. Once you own a Bulldog, feed him nutritionally balanced food and supplements to help support joint health. Additionally, maintain a healthy weight and provide your dog with appropriate exercise.

Treatment for orthopedic conditions in Bulldogs usually involves medical management with anti-inflammatory drugs,   supplements, weight reduction, joint fluid modifiers, physical therapy, and restricted activity.

Eye problems

Bulldogs suffer from a variety of eye problems, including brachycephalic ocular disease, cherry eye, dry eye, entropion, and distichiasis.

Brachycephalic breeds, including Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, and French Bulldogs, have distinctive facial features that also make them vulnerable to certain eye problems, including cherry eye, dry eye, and entropion.

Bulldogs are born with shallow eye sockets that predispose them to entropion and distichiasis. Dry eye and cherry eye can occur at any age. However, signs of these conditions usually take time to develop and are more likely to manifest in adulthood or the senior years.

When Bulldogs have entropion, the eyelid rolls inward, and the hairs rub against and irritate their eyes. With cherry eye, the ligaments that hold the tear gland in place weaken, allowing the tissue to pop out and swell. Dogs develop dry eyes due to a lack of tear production.

Symptoms of these eye conditions include:

  • Squinting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye redness
  • Blinking or holding the eye shut
  • Yellow or green eye discharge
  • Tearing (except dry eye)
  • pinkish/red tissue bulge in the corner of the eye (cherry eye)

Leaving these eye conditions untreated can cause corneal ulceration and other eye damage. Long term your Bulldogs may suffer permanent blindness.

The above conditions are caused by your Bully’s brachycephalic anatomy, so they’re difficult to prevent. 

Treatment for cherry eye, distichiasis, and entropion involves surgical correction.  Dry eye is usually treated with eye drops that help to replace tears and keep the cornea lubricated.


Bulldogs are genetically predisposed to developing allergies from environmental triggers, certain foods, or flea bites. 

Allergies commonly affect various dog breeds, including Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Bichon Frises, and Maltese.

Because allergies are an immune-based response, symptoms usually appear after repeated exposure to the trigger substance. Therefore, your Bulldog will probably develop allergy signs as an adult.

When your Buly contacts a trigger allergen, the body releases histamine, which causes an inflammatory response. Allergy symptoms in Bulldogs usually occur in the skin.

Signs of allergies in your Bulldog include:

  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Extreme itchiness
  • Rubbing or itching the face/ears
  • Constant licking/scratching, especially the paws
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Foul or yeasty odor

The immune response to allergens tends to grow worse with repeated exposure. If your Bully shows signs of allergies, talk to your veterinarian about treatment and prevention. Any time you notice sudden itching, hives, and swelling around the face, immediately take him to the emergency clinic.

Allergy prevention involves trying to avoid known triggers. However, this can be difficult if your Bully is sensitive to environmental allergens. If he has any food allergies, talk with your veterinarian about hypoallergenic diet options.

To treat allergies in your Bulldog, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs, or steroids. If there are secondary skin infections, your veterinarian will also use antibiotics.

Skinfold dermatitis

Because of their loose, folding skin, Bulldogs are prone to develop skinfold dermatitis.

Dog breeds with loose skin, including Bulldogs, Shar Peis, French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Basset Hounds, are prone to skinfold dermatitis.

Although dogs can develop signs of skinfold dermatitis at any age, the condition is most likely to manifest in adulthood. 

When dogs have extra, loose skin, the folds can develop pockets. Moisture and heat buildup in the pockets, and this creates an ideal environment for bacterial and yeast growth. 

Signs of skinfold dermatitis include:

  • Incessant itching/scratching
  • Red, thickened skin
  • Greasy skin
  • Licking the affected area
  • Rubbing
  • Yeasty or foul odor

Without treatment, your Bull’s dermatitis could become more severe and cause chronic infections.

You may be able to prevent skinfold dermatitis by grooming your Bully and checking his skinfolds regularly. Clean the pockets weekly using a salt solution made using 1 tablespoon of salt dissolved in 1 pint of water. Dry the skin completely after wiping it with the salt mixture. 

Treatment for skinfold dermatitis may include topical antibiotic or antifungal ointments, anti-inflammatory medications, and cleaning with a prescription antimicrobial shampoo.

Pulmonic stenosis

Bulldogs are prone to a genetic defect of the semilunar valve known as pulmonic stenosis.

Pulmonic stenosis is genetically linked in several dog breeds, including Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Jack Russel Terriers, Samoyeds, and Labrador Retrievers.

The valve defect is present from birth, and your veterinarian may be able to detect a murmur during a puppy exam. However, clinical signs usually don’t develop until dogs are over 1 year old.

With pulmonic stenosis, the valve between the right atrium and pulmonary artery is fused or thickened, causing a narrower opening. The stricture impedes normal blood flow and can lead to heart failure.

Many dogs with pulmonic stenosis won’t develop clinical signs but may have a heart murmur. However, if your Bully’s pulmonic stenosis is severe, you may observe:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse
  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart failure

If your Bully has moderate to severe pulmonic stenosis, leaving it untreated can lead to heart failure and death.

Because pulmonic stenosis is a congenital condition that’s probably genetically linked, the best way to prevent it is to buy your Bulldog from a reputable breeder.

Dogs with mild or asymptomatic pulmonic stenosis may not require treatment. Moderate to severe cases are treated medically with beta heart blockers or surgically with balloon valvuloplasty.


Bulldogs have a predisposition for developing certain types of cancer, particularly lymphoma and mast cell tumors.

Breeds that are predisposed to developing various types of cancer include Bulldogs, Boxers, German Shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Labrador Retrievers.

Cancer is a progressive disease that usually manifests in middle-aged to senior Bulldogs.

When tissues or cells in the body demonstrate uncontrolled growth, it causes cancer. The two most common cancers in Bulldogs are lymphomas, which involve the lymph system, and mast cell tumors, which affect the mammary glands.

Signs of cancer include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Change in appetite
  • Visible lumps on or under the skin

Without treatment, tumors can continue to grow and may spread to other body systems. 

The best way to prevent cancer in your Bulldog is to select puppies from a reputable breeder. Other measures include checking for lumps when you groom your Bully and spaying or neutering your furbaby to reduce the risk of mammary cancer.

Cancer treatment depends on the tumor type and severity. Whenever possible, growths are removed surgically. Other treatments may include chemotherapy or radiation treatments. The prognosis is significantly better when you catch cancer early.

Bulldog Health issues across the lifecycle

Truly, Bulldogs can struggle with various health issues. Some of the conditions, like certain eye conditions, pulmonic stenosis, and skinfold dermatitis, may manifest early in life, while others, including arthritis and cancer, take time to develop.

Bulldog Puppy Health Issues

Bulldog puppies can be born with certain anatomical defects that predispose them to health issues. Pulmonic stenosis is a congenital defect that may manifest as a heart murmur in your puppy. Bullies are also born with the anatomy that sets the dog up for hip dysplasia, but you usually won’t see symptoms until later in life.

Certain eye conditions, such as distichiasis and entropion, can also appear in Bulldog puppies. The flat face and shallow eye sockets that characterize this Brachycephalic breed predispose Bullies to these eye conditions.

Adult Bulldog Health Issues

Many of the common health issues of Bulldogs manifest in the adult years. Difficulty breathing and other signs of BOAS usually become noticeable as Bulldogs mature. Likewise, signs of hip dysplasia may surface in adult or middle-aged dogs. 

Several health conditions in Bulldogs take time to develop, so they tend to show up in adults. Pulmonic stenosis, allergies, and skinfold dermatitis usually manifest in mature pups. Cherry eye and dry eye are also more likely to appear as health issues in adult dogs.

Senior Bulldog Health Issues

Certain health issues that Bully’s face take time to develop or grow. Arthritis from hip dysplasia and other joint issues becomes progressively worse in senior dogs. Cancer is also more common in older Bullies. 

Bulldog Health Issues and Average Lifespan

On average, the average lifespan of Bulldogs is about 8-10 years. 

The Bulldog’s physique and genetics make the breed particularly vulnerable to developing health issues that can shorten or reduce its quality of life. Compared to other large breeds, Bullies tend to have a 30% shorter lifespan.

The most likely conditions that could impact your Bulldog’s length or quality of life are breathing issues from BOAS, heart failure due to pulmonic stenosis, and cancer. 

Health Signs Bulldog Parents Should Beware Of

One way to help your Bulldog enjoy a longer, fuller life is by being well-informed. When you know the top signs of common health issues, you’ll be better prepared to take action and get care for your furbaby as soon as possible.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Noisy breathing/snoring
  • Exercise/heat intolerance
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty or reluctance when climbing stairs, getting in the car, or getting on furniture
  • Difficulty rising
  • Squinting/blinking
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye redness
  • Yellow or green eye discharge
  • Extreme itchiness
  • Rubbing or itching the face/ears or licking the paws
  • Foul or yeasty odor
  • Red, thickened skin
  • Greasy skin
  • Heart murmur
  • Collapse
  • Arrhythmias
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Visible lumps on or under the skin

Bulldog Health Care Tips and Prevention

If you have a Bulldog, you may be able to prevent certain health issues or at least positively impact his quality of life by providing quality health care. 

  • Prevent respiratory distress by protecting your furbaby from heat and humidity. Keep him indoors during extreme temperatures and provide a shaded area when he has to be outside in the summer.
  • Ensure your pooch maintains a healthy weight. Bulldogs should weigh about 40-50 pounds. Talk with your veterinarian about an appropriate feeding schedule.
  • Schedule regular health checkups and vaccinations to support your Bulldog’s health. 
  • Give your Bulldog supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health.
  • Buy your Bulldog from a reputable breeder and confirm that the parents don’t have a history of health issues.
  • Groom your Bulldog at least once a week. Use a grooming mitt to remove dead skin and loose hair. Check and clean his skinfolds and ears.
  • Exercise your Bully daily—moderate-level activities such as a short walk or some swimming. 
  • Invest in an orthopedic dog bed as your Bulldog enters his middle-aged or senior years.

The Final Woof

Years of selective breeding for Bulldogs not only resulted in the characteristic flat face and body structure it also left the breed vulnerable to certain health issues like BOAS, orthopedic issues, allergies, pulmonic stenosis, cancer, and more. Your dog may not suffer from any of these conditions, but they are fairly common in Bullys. 

Some health conditions in Bulldogs occur in puppies, but many of them surface as the dogs mature. Other issues build over time and are more likely to be an issue in the senior years. Understanding the signs of common health issues in Bulldogs can help you to respond and seek appropriate care quickly. You can also support your Bully’s health with some basic preventative and healthcare practices. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

Leave a Comment