Straight bull on bulldogs

June 9, 2016
Ross Clark, DVM
Ross Clark, DVM

Veterinary Economics Practice Management Editor, Ross Clark, DVM, founded Woodland West PetCare Centers in Tulsa, Okla., and the National PetCare Centers. He has served as a judge for the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference for more than 20 years.

You can still be bullish on bulldogs without ignoring a few medical issues these beloved dogs sometimes experience.

Editor's note: Breed details are reprinted with permission from Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Risk Factors of Bulldogs. And you can click here for details on Dr. Clark's entire series on dog breeds.

(Photo Getty Images)

When bull baiting and dog fighting became illegal in 1835, this favorite English breed was preserved by eliminating its signature fierce nature over time. Today, the ferocious appearance of the bulldog belies its calm, friendly temperament. But its compact size and massive head bring some medical issues.

Breeding and whelping

Because of the bulldog's short, massive, compact body, accomplishing a tie during breeding is difficult. Frequently, the dog and bitch must be held together during mating or artificial insemination must be used.

The gestation period for the bulldogs is usually 60 days, although in extremely small litters, gestation may exceed 63 days. The average litter size is five.

Bulldogs have such a high incidence of dystocia that scheduled cesarean sections are the rule rather than the exception. Bulldog bitches have an unusually hard time whelping. Routine cesarean section is recommended for two reasons. First, the dogs have been bred to have large heads and small pelvises, making whelping difficult, and second, since they are a quiescent breed, their muscle tone is poor.

Although many bitches can expel one or more puppies, they can rarely sustain the muscle contractions necessary to empty the uterus. An exhausted bitch is a poorer surgical risk for a cesarean section than a bitch who has not been in labor for many hours.

 

(Photo Getty Images)

Brachycephaly

Brachycephalic airway syndrome is most serious in the bulldog. This condition consists of stenotic nares, tortuous turbinates and caudal maxillary displacement with elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules and collapsed tracheal rings-which all conspire to compromise the upper airway of the affected dogs. This results in decreased blood oxygen saturation, increased incidence of sleep-disordered breathing and a predisposition toward heat stroke. All bulldogs must be intubated when placed under general anesthesia. Hypoplasia of the trachea has also been reported in this breed.

Intertrigo

The wrinkled face and tail conformation of the bulldog predisposes it for intertrigo or skin-fold dermatitis. Inflammation is caused by the mechanical rubbing of the skin. This physical characteristic plus their predisposition for atopy account for the increased incidence of pyoderma in the breed.

 

Wry mouth

In standard conformation of the bulldog's skull, the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw. The lips must cover the teeth. Malocclusion and an extra incisor are often present. The bulldog is also reported to be at increased risk for dentigerous cysts. The mandibular first premolars are most often involved in this disorder.

Hip dysplasia

Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in the incidence of hip dysplasia.

(Photo Getty Images)

Editor's note: Breed details are reprinted with permission from Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Risk Factors of Bulldogs. And you can click here for details on Dr. Clark's entire series on dog breeds.

Ross Clark, DVM, founded Woodland West PetCare Centers in Tulsa, Okla., and the National PetCare Centers. He is the author of Open Book Management.