An in-depth look at the bulldog
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
“Calm, courageous, and friendly; dignified but amusing” are words used to describe the bulldog in the breed standard. Originating in the British Isles, the bulldog was recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1886. Over the years bulldog breeders have made changes, bringing them from the bull baiting ring into our living rooms and hearts.
The bulldog has a “heavy, thick-set, low-swung body, massive short-faced head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs.” With the wide shoulders, bulldogs are bred with artificial insemination and born via caesarian section. A medium-sized dog, bulldogs are heavier than they look, with males being around 50 pounds and females around 40 pounds.
Perhaps the most distinguishing bulldog feature is the head. Known as brachycephalic, the face “should be extremely short (with) the muzzle being very short, broad, turned upward. … The nose should be large, broad, and black, its tip set back deeply between the eyes. … The nostrils should be wide with a well-defined line between them. … The chops or ‘flews’ should be thick, broad, pendant, and very deep. … They join the underlip in front and almost or quite cover the teeth, which should be scarcely noticeable when the mouth is closed. … The jaws should be massive” with “the lower jaw projecting considerably in front of the upper jaw and turning up. The teeth should be large and strong with the canine teeth wide apart.”
Another main feature is the wrinkles. “The skin should be soft and loose, especially at the head, neck, and shoulders. The head and face should be covered with heavy wrinkles,” and, “From jaw to chest, there should be two loose pendulous folds, forming the dewlap.” Unfortunately, these features require care. The folds must be kept clean and dry to prevent infection. Bulldogs can also suffer from allergies, which can make skin issues worse.
Many people equate bulldogs with the sounds they make: snores, snorts, and gassy noises. While these noises are thought to be typical, they can indicate a problem. Narrow nostrils or a small trachea may impede breathing. Short-nosed dogs frequently have elongated soft palates that can also block airways. Surgeries are available to help the soft palate but none for the trachea. These problems are part of the reason bulldogs are so sensitive to hot, humid weather.
Other health considerations with bulldogs include elbow dysplasia; hip dysplasia, which can lead to cruciate ligament injury; congenital deafness; loose kneecaps, known as luxating patellas; and eye problems. Eye issues can include retinopathy; “cherry eye,” the eversion of the third eyelid; entropion, rolling in of the eyelids; and distichia, inward growing hairs. Research on the breeders and a pup’s ancestors will hopefully help reduce the chance of purchasing a dog with these problems.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.