Common health problems with English Bulldogs

June 7, 2024 - 4 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Bulldog laying on his belly with tongue hanging out

Bulldogs are popular worldwide thanks to their distinct looks, charming personalities and fun, clownish attitude. They're ideal if you want a dog that's going to give you a lot of affection and laughs.

But like any purebred, they're prone to certain health issues. Below, we discuss the most common health issues in Bulldogs, how vets diagnose them and how to care for them.

The most common health conditions in Bulldogs

English Bulldog

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

Flat-faced dogs, like Bulldogs, tend to suffer with BOAS. The condition affects the ability to breathe due to narrowed nostrils, elongated soft palate, extended nasopharyngeal saccules and a hypoplastic trachea. Basically, there's less room for air to move around.

Bulldogs can suffer breathing problems and need increased breathing effort due to one, or a combination, of these abnormalities. The symptoms can vary.

For mild cases, you'll see noisy breathing and exercise intolerance. In severe cases, the dog will need increased respiratory effort even when sleeping. There's a risk of possible collapse after mild exercise. But they still need an exercise regime to stay on top of issues like obesity.

These dogs are also prone to overheating even in mild heat. It's due to the inefficiency of cooling mechanisms in the airways. It means they're prone to life-threatening heatstroke, meaning careful management in summer.

Treatment is surgical and outcomes are better if treated earlier in puppyhood.

Skin fold dermatitis (Intertrigo)

This is a problem in this breed due to the many heavy skin wrinkles with inverted and tight tails. It predisposes them to skin fold dermatitis, which can appear in any body place if there's friction. The facial area is commonly affected due to the many wrinkles on a short-nosed face.

The condition causes inflammation and recurrent skin infections in the area between the skin surfaces.

Treatments can include:

  • Managing infections

  • Regular preventative cleaning

  • Surgical removal of excessive skin folds

Eye conditions

Bulldogs are sadly prone to damage and recurrent eye disease due to the conformation of their head and protrusion of their eyes. Cherry eye, entropion, corneal ulcers, and dry eye (KCS) are common complaints that Bulldogs suffer from.

These conditions can progress quickly. If left untreated, they can cause permanent damage, even loss of eyesight. It's why we recommend quick intervention as soon as you notice any problems with your dog’s eyes.

Cherry eye involves the nictitans gland falling out of place. It's the most common eye problem in this breed. The gland lubricates and protects the eye from infection, and its displacement prevents normal eye health. Manual replacement of the gland is nearly always unsuccessful. Vets will usually perform surgical replacement and interventions.

Another condition is entropion, where the dog’s eyelid rolls in towards the eyeball. It’s a painful problem that can lead to other health problems and, if left untreated, cause blindness and even the loss of an eye. Surgical correction protects eye function.

Dry eye or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) and corneal ulceration are other common problems.

Orthopaedic problems

Bulldogs often suffer from inherited conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia. It's due to their short stature and the stresses this puts on their limbs.


Want to learn more about Hip Dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of the hip joint. Usually, it’s a hereditary condition that dogs inherit from their parents, but it can be caused by trauma. Read more in our post.


Hip dysplasia is where your dog’s hip joint don't fit together properly. It causes bones to rub on each other, leading to inflammation (swelling), pain and arthritis. Some dogs are affected with mild discomfort. Others experience severe disability and discomfort.

Elbow dysplasia is the most common cause of forelimb lameness in dogs. It refers to several abnormalities that can occur during the development of the elbow joint. If a vet diagnoses either of these conditions, they'll help identify an appropriate treatment plan involving:

They may recommend surgical intervention.

Conformational abnormalities

Bulldogs have large shoulders relative to their smaller hindquarters and pelvic bones. This can lead to various orthopaedic complaints as well as reproductive consequences.

Bulldogs have problems giving birth naturally. It often needs medical intervention for a safe birth.

How to care for an English Bulldog

Brown English Bulldog lying down looking up into the camera

Genetic testing

Some eye conditions like entropion, KCS and cherry eye, are hereditary. It means adult dogs with these conditions shouldn't be bred, and that's why genetic testing is key to maintaining the breed's health.

Selective breeding

You need to take care when breeding Bulldogs. For example, when breeding those with excessive skin folds, puppies will likely have similar issues. Those with BOAS, orthopaedic disease, and conformational abnormalities shouldn't be bred either. Selective breeding stops passing on extreme traits to offspring.

Long-term, it'll help revert to a healthier, older type of Bulldog that needs less medical and surgical intervention to live a healthy life. That's why picking a responsible breeder is one of the most important steps you can take.

Regular exercise and weight management

Despite the presence of BOAS, you should still regularly exercise your Bulldog and manage their weight to prevent obesity.

How dog insurance helps

English Bulldog insurance has all you need to stay prepared for the unexpected and protect your pet. Learn more!

A close-up of a concerned yellow Labrador Retriever with a gentle expression, receiving an examination by a veterinarian whose hands are shown holding a clipboard, in a clinical setting.

Top-ranked* dog insurance

Coverage from "boops" to "oops."

You're in it for the long haul, and your dog insurance should be, too. Get a quote for your pup today. *According to Forbes Advisor’s “Best Pet Insurance of 2023”

A close-up of a concerned yellow Labrador Retriever with a gentle expression, receiving an examination by a veterinarian whose hands are shown holding a clipboard, in a clinical setting.