If your intention was to find a breed with lots of genetic issues, you hit the jackpot with the English bulldog. It's hard to resist that squished-in face, those wrinkles and the dog's easygoing disposition, but many bulldogs suffer from serious health problems that are often hereditary in nature. Find a veterinarian familiar with the breed to help maintain your pet's health.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
Bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed, meaning they've got short snouts. Along with their small muzzles, they have small nostrils, formally known as stenotic nares, as well as elongated soft palates, narrow windpipes and small larynxes. Those physical issues add up to dogs who struggle with breathing problems from a young age, with the situation getting worse as time goes by. This entire package of respiratory distress is called brachycephalic airway syndrome. Surgery can correct some of these defects, but English bulldogs require special care during hot, humid weather, when their breathing is most affected.
If your bulldog starts favoring his hind legs and limping, he might have hip dysplasia, a common orthopedic issue in the breed in which the ball of his hip joint doesn't stay within the socket. The bulldog likely requires surgery to repair the ball and socket, allowing him to move without pain.
Pulmonic stenosis, or narrowing of the heart's right ventricle, is considerably more common in English bulldogs than any other breed. Dogs born with this congenital defect don't receive normal blood flow into their lungs. While mildly affected bulldogs might not show obvious symptoms, severely affected dogs experience shortness of breath, lethargy and fainting episodes. Dogs with the condition can die from heart failure. If your bulldog show signs of heart failure, your vet can treat the disease with diuretics.
An English bulldog's eyes are vulnerable to problems ranging from entropion -- a congenital defect in which the eyelid turns inward, constantly irritating the eye -- to keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, to third eyelid prolapse; corneal ulcers and retinal dysplasia. The latter condition, also present from birth, eventually causes partial or complete blindness.
Other Genetic Diseases
A relatively high percentage of male English bulldogs are cryptorchids. One or both of their testicles did not descend. Dogs with only one descended testicle are capable of breeding but should not, as this is a hereditary condition. While the English bulldog's wrinkles are part of his charm, they're also a hotbed of bacteria. Without regular cleansing, your bulldog is prone to acne, hot spots and other skin issues. Allergies often plague bulldogs, resulting in hair loss, foot inflammation and constant scratching.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.