The Top 5 Biggest Health Problems in Bull Breeds (Plus Prevention Tips)

According to OFA (the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals),  bull breeds share a number of common potential diseases. Those include hip dysplasia, cardiac, skin and eye problems, as well as allergies. Some of them can be prevented, while others can be at least delayed if treated in time. Those are:

1. Hip dysplasia What is it? Hip dysplasia happens when the cartilage that lines the femoral head deteriorates. This results in malformations of the ball and socket joints of the hip. Hip dysplasia might lead to severe pain and crippling, if not diagnosed in time. For instance, the Orthopedic Foundation of America states that, “the English Bulldog has the highest incidence of hip dysplasia of all breeds, 74% are dysplastic”.

The Cause of it In the first 60 days of life, some bull breeds develop their bones faster than their muscle tissues. This makes their hip joints become loose, which later leads to the deterioration of the femoral head cartilage. Genetics are the main cause of the condition. Other factors that increase the risks of the condition are: - Genetic vulnerability for hip laxity or looseness - Obesity – more body mass results in more pressure on the joints - Nutrition – a high calorie diet is associated with faster growth, which greatly increases the risks of hip dysplasia.

How to Prevent It While there are some ways to reduce the risks of developing hip dysplasia, there’s no known way of preventing it. Genetics remain the main cause of the condition. Therefore, if you’re looking to buy a bull breed puppy, make sure it has one of the following certificates: OFA Evaluation, or OVC Evaluation, or PennHIP Evaluation. Secondly, it’s important to keep the dog in its optimal weight. Obesity contributes to joint wear. According to, “Research also shows that puppies with constant access to food have a higher incidence of hip dysplasia than their counterparts who eat 25 percent less food”.

The Cost to fix it According to Dr. Patty Khuly, a practicing veterinarian, there are only two kinds of treatment, worth considering. - Total Hip Replacement (THR) – the entire joint is replaced by synthetic components.

That’s by far the only decent way to overcome severe hip dysplasia symptoms. The price starts from $3,500 per joint. - Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) – if the disorder was diagnosed when the pup was younger than 16 weeks old, then this method can be used to prevent hip dysplasia from developing. The costs go from $1,000 to $3,000 per hip.


2. Heart Disease What is it? Bull breed tend to suffer from congenital heart disease. It can affect one or both sides of the heart and it may take years to develop. English Bulldogs in particular are susceptible to subaortic and pulmonic stenosis, mitral valve disease and septal defect.

The Cause of it While some dogs are born with heart defects, others develop them over the years. Heartworms infection is also considered a common cause of congenital heart diseases.

How to Prevent It There are several ways to prevent them, which include: - If you’re planning to buy a puppy, make sure it has either a Congenital Cardiac Exam OR an Advanced Cardiac Exam certificate. - Make sure you supply your dog with ivermectin or any other appropriate heartworm preventing drugs monthly.

Why it happens? Congenital heart diseases happen when by some reasons the heart can no longer pump the needed amount of blood to the dog’s brain and other organs. While the causes range from congenital issues, age, or heartworm infection, the results are always the same.

The Cost to fix it - The cost to treat adult heartworms ranges from $300 to $1,000 or more. The most expensive procedures include X-Ray analysis, which allows a more appropriate and safe treatment. - In the case of heavy heart murmurs, an operation should be considered. The costs start from $7,000 and can easily reach the $15,000 mark. skinissues

3. Skin Problems What is it? Bull breeds might experiment different skin problems. While some of them are caused by bacterial infections, there are many cases when the reason behind itchy skin is flea.

The Cause of it - Eczema – it’s a non-contagious condition, which involves an itchy and dry skin. It might have many causes, which include allergies, hormonal problems and hot climate. - Seborrhoea is another problem, common for bull breed. This condition makes the dog’s skin to become either excessively greasy or dry. It also might be secondary to other skin disorders. - Acute Moist Dermatitis – also known as “hot spots”, are red, circular, hairless and itchy lesions. Those are allergenic reaction to different stimulus, including some kinds of food, flea bites, mange (parasites) and anal gland problems.

How to Prevent It In order to prevent most of those diseases, it’s essential to keep the dog clean. Poor hygiene is the main cause of skin problems.

Why it happens? Yeast and bacteria is often trapped in the skin folds of bulldogs. Once there, the microorganisms quickly develop and might end up causing a skin infection.

The Cost to fix it In the case of flea infection (or any other skin parasite), the Frontline dog spray might help to eliminate the infection. That’s one of the cheapest DIY ways to deal with the issue. In the case if the condition is aggravated with bacterial infections and the dog starts to lose lots of hair, it’s better to ask vet for help. The cheapest Frontline spray bottle costs $35. allergies

4. Allergies What is it? Just like humans, bull breeds might be allergic to certain products. Once the allergy is triggered, they will either start itching, scratching or biting something. The might also sneeze or shake their heads.

The Cause of it There are three categories of allergens: - Atopic allergies. Boxers and Bulldogs are listed among the breeds that are susceptible to atopic allergies, which mean that they are prone to react to pollen, dust or mold. - Flea allergies. - Food allergies. The most common allergenic foods include dairy products, grains, meat and fish.

How to Prevent It The only proven way to prevent allergies is to keep the dog away from the allergen. In the case with food, it’s a good idea to find an alternative which would have the required proteins. In the case with flea, it’s a good idea to try the Frontline spray or its alternatives.

Why it happens? The overexposure to any of the mentioned allergens might lead the dog to develop an allergy. Genetics also affect the probability of that to happen. The

Cost to fix it While the best way to easy the allergenic reaction is by eliminating the presence of allergens, there are other ways to deal with the problem. Most veterinarians recommend antihistamines. According to Dr. Eckholm, “Allergy shots have up to an 80% success rate”.  Another alternative are immune-suppressants, such as Apoquel. A bottle of Apoquel costs $336.

5. Eye Problems What is it? Brenda Bonnett, a consulting veterinary epidemiologist stated that, according to the results of her study of Swedish dog-insurance data from 1995 to 2006, “bulldogs are significantly more likely than other dogs to suffer from a wide range of health issues, including ear and eye problems”. There are four common eye problems for bull breed, each of them having a different cause and solution.

The Cause of it - Cherry Eye is the infection of the bulldog’s third eyelid. When the gland under the eyelid gets infected, it will become swollen and part of it will become visible. - Dry Eyes (or KCS) is often caused by an untreated cherry eye condition. The malfunctioning gland doesn’t produce enough tears, which leads to lack of eye humidification. - Entropion is caused when part of the eyelid rolls in the eye. That causes irritation and might lead to further complications. - Corneal Ulcers are little fissures in the transparent part of the eye that fail to heal. This makes the dog to squint or rub its eyes at first, and might potentially lead to many complications, including vision loss.

How to Prevent It The best way to prevent complications is to have the dog checked by the wet at least once a year. It’s also important to observe your dog and notice if it is always tearing, rubbing his eyes or squinting.

Why it happens? Cherry Eye and Entropion are often genetic problems. The formation of the eye and eyelids makes it possible for those two conditions to happen.

The Cost to fix it The cost to fix Cherry Eyes starts from $100 per gland. That’s quite not a lot, compared to Corneal Ulcer surgeries, which start from $1,000 on the early stages.

The Bottom Line Bull breeds require a lot of care and attention. It’s also important to buy puppies from certified kennels that can provide all the needed documentation. Since most of the mentioned problems have genetic roots, it’s important to be sure that the puppy has a healthy lineage.



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