Bulldog Health: Can the Bulldog Be Saved?

Given the current popularity of the English Bulldog (now in the top 6 most popular AKC breeds) and the short life span (6 years average) and immense health problems, is it right to keep breeding our beloved Bullies?

I have struggled with this question over the years because of the health issues my Bulldogs have had, how I see them suffer, and when I hear so many sad stories from my newsletter readers.

An in depth article in the New York Times Magazine goes into depth about the Bulldog breed, how the British have changed the standard to reduce some obvious health problems such as breathing and hip dysplasia.

Citing the University of Georgia Bulldogs, all named Uga, with their short life spans in the public eye, the article casts a dim view of some breeding practices.

Here are some excerpts:

The short lifespan.

Though there is no recent comprehensive study in this country comparing the life spans of different breeds, a 2010 British study published in The Journal of Small Animal Practice reported that the typical bulldog lives only slightly longer than six years. “The bulldog is unique for the sheer breadth of its health problems,”…

Why are they so popular?

“We have, to some extent, accentuated physical characteristics of the breed to make it look more human, although essentially more like caricatures of humans, and specifically of children,” he told me. “We’ve bred bulldogs for their flat face, big eyes, huge mouth in relation to head size and huge smiling face.”

On Bulldog breathing:

the human equivalent to breathing the way some bulldogs do “would be if we walked around with our mouth or nose closed and breathed through a straw.”

On the history of the breed:

Bulldogs get their name from their role in bull-baiting, arguably the most popular sport of the Elizabethan era…

Fighting bulldogs were leaner and higher off the ground than bulldogs today, and their muzzles were longer. They had smaller heads, fewer facial rolls and a long tail…

“Bulldogs today are not even a figment of what they used to be.”…

The bulldog might have disappeared into obscurity had 19th-century Victorian England not gone dog crazy…

the bulldog underwent a physical, temperamental and public-relations transformation.

On the uneducated owners of Bulldogs:


“A lot of people buy a breed like the bulldog without realizing just how compromised it is,” he said. “They also have no idea how to differentiate a ‘responsible’ breeder from an irresponsible one.”

I heard the same thing from Laurette Richin of the Long Island Bulldog Rescue. When she opened the doors to her rescue organization in 1999, Richin had 13 bulldogs that needed homes. Last year, she had 218. “This breed is so popular right now, and people fall in love with the dog’s face and buy it on impulse without doing their homework,” she said. “Then, when the dog ends up being too ‘needy’ or too expensive, people give them up.”

To read this compelling article on the Bulldog breed in it’s entirety:

Can the Bulldog Be Saved? – NYTimes.com.

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Natural Home Remedies For Fleas

I’d never heard of this simple remedy for fleas, but it’s certainly worth a try before subjecting your dog to strong chemicals.

To Eliminate Fleas

Try: Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. To kill fleas on dogs without using toxic chemicals, add a small amount of Dawn dishwashing liquid under running water to fill a sink or bathtub and give your dog a bath in the soapy solution. Work the lather into your pet’s coat and let it soak for more than 5 minutes. The soap penetrates the exoskeletons of fleas, killing them, and works more effectively than some prescribed flea shampoos.

Dog Health: Natural Home Remedies For Fleas | Prevention.com.

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What the Dogs Ate – X-Rays of Stuff in Dogs’ Stomachs

If you think your Bulldog won’t eat anything other than food, take a look at these x-rays of things dog ate from the annual contest called “They Ate What? 2011 X-ray Contest Winners” from Veterinary Practice News.  Bulldog lovers will like the last entry 😉

Pay attention to why the owners brought their dogs into the vet so you can learn some of the symptoms of your dog eating a foreign object.

I’m only showing the two Bulldog entries:

A 6-month-old bulldog, Tinkerbell, ate a training collar off another bulldog in their house.  The owners had no idea until she ate a second metal slip collar and then proceeded to become seriously ill.  Doctors were surprised to find two slip collars in her stomach.

And my personal favorite.

Prince Edward, a 9-year-old bulldog, ate his owner’s false teeth when he found them in a bowl that had ice cream in it. The teeth were returned to the owner and she is smiling again!

Bulldog that ate false teeth

To see the rest of the entries visit the Veterinary Practice News website

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Bulldog Vomiting Bile and Food

A French Bulldog owner contacted me concerning his health.  She did all her research into a good breeder
and it sounds like she had a very good one. But stuff can still happen.

We have been in contact with the breeder several times, and visited her house prior to the day we got to take him home. She also made a few surprise visits to our house to check on his progress.

I am still very concerned for his health however. He has been vomiting occasionally.  We have been keeping him on a diet of red meat or chicken necks and some dried food.

He usually eats twice a day, which we have recently changed to just dried food, a smaller meal in the morning and a larger portion at lunch time. We also give him an occasional “natures energy treats”. They are just a dried food treat, and he probably has 2 of these a day.

He will sometimes get up in the middle of the night to be sick (according to my son) and I will sometimes find vomit around the place, which appears to consist of bile. He has vomited entire meals up almost immediately after eating on occasion. He has been off and on his food recently, and he appears to have lost a little weight and his energy levels seem to be a little low, which I can only assume is from a lack of food. The dried food seems to suit him a lot better, and since we’ve switched to that he seems to be holding it down. We are trying to find meals that suit him, and if you could offer any advice, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance ,

Marisa

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Hi Marisa,

From your description it sounds like Jean-Baptiste may have a couple things going on: vomiting bile and one of the esophageal disorders that are fairly common in Bulldogs.

Since the French Bulldog is a dwarf English Bulldog there is a high probability of these disorders. A bulldog puppy vomiting yellow bile in the morning is fairly common and not usually cause for concern.  It happens because the dog hasn’t eaten for a while and stomach acids have accumulated overnight.  These acids irritate the stomach lining and cause him to vomit.

Try giving him an evening meal and see it this helps with this.

In my French Bulldog Health book I go into detail about the esophageal disorders. They sounds scary but there may be an easy fix.  First of all, there is a difference between vomiting and regurgitation. If your dog is simply throwing up food right after eating, food that has not been in the stomach, it is probably simple regurgitation from the esophagus (throat).

Bulldogs tend to gulp their food and sometimes eat so fast that the food can’t get down the esophagus properly and so they throw up.

There is a condition common in Bulldogs called esophageal motility disorder, where the normal constrictions of the esophagus don’t work properly and cause the bulldog to not “swallow” properly and often regurgitate.

There is a simple way to alleviate this condition that I recommend in my book.  Elevate your bulldog’s food dish.  This lets gravity take over and help get the food down his throat.

To soothe an upset stomach you can feed him a little canned pumpkin with his food – be sure it is pure pumpkin and NOT pumpkin pie mix which is loaded with sugar.

You can also feed him more frequently, smaller meals and see if he holds it down better.

There are, however, other things that can cause vomiting, including food allergies, metabolic disorders, ulcers, or even obstructions in the throat, or if he has something lodged in his stomach like a rawhide bone or teddy bear.

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Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleanings- Beware

I recently saw an ad for “anesthesia-free dental cleaning” at my local dog specialty store here in Colorado and signed up because I fear putting my Bulldog Archie under for a dental cleaning.  He tolerated the procedure well but I have to say I was not that impressed with the cleaning.  And the cost was high: $155.

Today I read this!  And now I’m convinced it was not a wise decision.

I recently saw an ad posted on a billboard for a local feed supply company: Anesthesia Free Dentals $155. Two things struck me about this announcement:

1. The questionable legality of the procedure

2. The cost

Colorado (and most states as far as I’m aware) place dentistry under the classification of the practice of veterinary medicine. This means that only a licensed veterinarian, or a technician under the supervision of a veterinarian, can perform dental procedures on pets.

Posing as a “typical” dog owner, I called the feed supply company to ask a few questions and was given the name of the organization that provides this service for them. I looked up their website and learned that a veterinarian is on their staff, so if she were to be performing the procedures, they would be legal. The other employee that is listed underwent some training in anesthesia-free dental cleanings, but as far as I could tell was not a licensed veterinary technician. If she were to clean a pet’s teeth under the supervision of a vet, I think it would be legal (the language in the statute is kind of vague … the technician needs to be “trained” but I can’t find where he or she definitely needs to be “licensed.”) If she were to be treating dogs and cats without a veterinarian present, however, she would be on the wrong side of the law.

Even if these clinics are legal, they have questionable value to the pets that partake in them. The most important part of a dental cleaning is the removal of plaque and tartar from underneath the gums and the complete examination of the entire mouth (including probing for pockets underneath the gum line and even radiographs in many cases). While the website claims that their operators can clean underneath the gum line, I find it very hard to believe they can do this with any kind of thoroughness in an awake dog … to say nothing of an awake cat! The website makes no mention of probing and admits that they cannot take X-rays. Without these diagnostic tools, very serious diseases that “hide” under the gums will be missed.

Another concern is that dental instruments are sharp! I shudder to think of what might happen to a pet’s mouth if he or she were to move suddenly while a dental scaler was being used.

I am sure that a dog or cat’s teeth look better after one of these procedures, but I doubt that their mouths are actually much healthier. The website I looked at recommends that the anesthesia-free procedure be repeated every 3-12 months, depending on a pet’s condition. For a purely cosmetic procedure, $155 is a lot to spend that frequently. I think these pets would be better served if their owners saved the $155 and sprung for a real dental cleaning when they had enough in the bank.

Anesthesia is scary, I understand that. But, under most circumstances (even when pets are being managed for some types of chronic disease), it can be done very safely. Veterinarians can use nerve blocks so that the level of general anesthesia needed is actually very light, even if teeth need to be removed. This helps pets maintain good blood pressure, cardiac output, etc., and decreases the risk of complications.

If you want to talk to a dental specialist about your pet’s care, take a look at listing of board certified veterinary dentists provided on the American Veterinary Dental College’s website, or ask your primary care vet for a referral.

Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleanings | petMD.

Granted the cost of anesthesia cleaning is higher but it is much more thorough and vets are much more mindful of Bulldog issues now that the breed is so popular.  Next time I’ll just take Archie to my vet or to Fort Collins vet school.

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Bulldog Seizure Management

This article casts new light on an old problem of seizures in dogs.  Many Bulldogs display “head nodding” or “head bobbing” behavior that is usually just a phase and can be treated with a little glucose (see this post).

If your Bulldog has a seizure disorder it’s a different and painful process finding medications that work.  This article is a repost from Dr Jennifer Coates:

Do you have a dog or cat that has seizures? If you do and the problem is serious enough to warrant treatment, chances are you are giving your pet phenobarbital or potassium bromide, either alone or in combination. In the majority of cases phenobarbital and potassium bromide do a great job of reducing seizure frequency and severity to acceptable levels (at least with dogs; seizures in cats can be really bad news). Up until recently, however, pets that did not respond well to these medications were out of luck. Thankfully, that situation is changing.

First, a bit of background. A seizure is a symptom, not a disease in and of itself. Sometimes veterinarians can find an underlying cause for a pet’s seizures. Electrical activity in the brain may be disrupted by tumors, inflammatory diseases, infections, metabolic abnormalities, and more.

If this is the case, treatment should be aimed at the primary problem, although medications to control seizures may also be necessary for either the short or long term. If no underlying cause for a pet’s seizures can be found, he or she will be diagnosed with primary epilepsy, in which case seizure control (not eradication – this is rarely possible) is the main goal of treatment.

Phenobarbital and potassium bromide have long been, and still are, the go-to drugs for seizure control in veterinary medicine. But they don’t work well in all situations. The problems associated with the drugs typically fall into two categories:
1. Pets continue to have frequent and/or severe seizures despite having serum levels of these drugs that fall at the high end of the therapeutic range.

2. Pets have unacceptably severe side effects, typically sedation, ataxia (difficulty walking), increased appetite, thirst and urination, or pronounced elevations in liver enzymes.
When phenobarbital and potassium bromide are not suitable options, it is time to look to the newer drugs like felbamate, gabapentin, levetiracetam, pregabalin, topiramate, and zonisamide. These have the advantage of fewer side effects even when used at the relatively high doses that may be needed to control a pet’s seizures. They can be used alone or in conjunction with phenobarbital and potassium bromide, in which cases the doses of the older drugs can often be lowered dramatically, which reduces their adverse effects.

But don’t run out and ask your vet for a new prescription if your pet’s seizures are well-controlled on phenobarbital and/or potassium bromide. I strongly believe in the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach, and most vets have so much experience with these older drugs that we know what problems to look for and how to deal with them if they arise. The same cannot be said with the newer medications that we are “borrowing” from the human medical community.

The newer meds are also more expensive than phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Thankfully, some are now available as generics, which puts them within financial reach for many more pet owners.

If your veterinarian is unfamiliar with or uncomfortable using these newer anti-seizure medications, ask whether a consultation with a veterinary neurologist might be in your pet’s best interests.

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