CVMA-ACMV

Inherited Health Disorders of the English (British) Bulldog

September 11, 2013

Health disorders are common in English Bulldogs. Efforts are being made to eliminate many of the following disorders, which are are believed to have an inherited basis, or are known to have a predilection for bulldogs (“breed predisposition”). 
 
Most Important
These disorders are relatively common in this breed, and where possible, efforts are being made to eradicate them. The following disorders will seriously affect the health of your pet and may require medical or surgical intervention.
 
  • Brachycephalic syndrome: Selection for exaggerated features (shortened face) has resulted in respiratory difficulties in brachycephalic breeds. Breed standards for the English bulldog specify that the face should be very short, as should the distance between the tip of the nose and where it is set deep between the eyes. This leaves little room for the structures involved in normal breathing.
  • Hip dysplasia: A painful degenerative hip joint disease causing lameness.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca: An eye disease caused by abnormal tear production (“dry eye”).
  • Pulmonic stenosis: A birth defect causing a narrowing of a region of the heart (the pulmonic valve).
  • Ventricular septal defect: a defect (“hole”) in the muscular wall that separates the two main chambers of the heart.
 
Other disorders which have an increased incidence in this breed 
The following disorders occur less commonly or are less devastating than those mentioned above.
 
  • Subaortic stenosis: A birth defect that partially blocks the outflow of blood from the heart.
  • Cleft lip/palate: developmental defect in the lip or roof of the mouth.
  • Cryptorchidism, retained testicle: failure of one or both testicles to descend into scrotum.
  • Deafness: inherited in one or both ears due to degeneration of sensory inner ear structures.
  • Demodicosis/Demodectic mange: immune system defect that allow generalized mange (skin parasite) to develop.
  • Entropion: inward rolling of the eyelid causing chronic irritation of the surface of the eye.  Entropion is one of the eye conditions that is a result of selection by breeders and a demand by the public for such features as excessively prominent eyes and heavy facial folds.
  • Eyelash abnormalities: abnormal growth of the eyelashes causing chronic irritation of the surface of the eye.
  • Fold dermatitis/pyoderma: excessive skin folds/wrinkles causing skin inflammation and infection.
  • Hemivertebra: abnormal development of the backbone which can cause pain, weakness and inability to walk.
  • Histiocytoma: common, benign tumours in young dogs
  • Hydrocephalus: abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid that can lead to brain damage
  • Hypoplastic trachea: abnormal growth of the trachea resulting in a narrowed airway (windpipe)
  • Hypothyroidism: decreased thyroid hormone production causing a wide range of clinical signs
  • Spina bifida: abnormal development of the backbone that can lead to weakness, paralysis
  • Tetralogy of Fallot: rare but serious combination of heart defects that can shorten lifespan
  • Third eyelid (nictitating membrane) abnormalities – “cherry eye”: third eyelid abnormalities cause chronic eye irritation
  • Urolithiasis (stones): crystals in the urine combine to form stones that can cause urinary tract obstruction
 
Disorders Associated with Breed Standards
These disorders are directly related to the conformation or standards for the breed. Although these conditions have in many cases become so common that they are accepted as normal for the breed, they can still cause serious physical problems and discomfort for the dog. One component of responsible breeding is to breed away from the extremes of conformation that cause these physical problems.
 
  • Brachycephalic syndrome: Selection for exaggerated features (shortened face) has resulted in respiratory difficulties in brachycephalic breeds. For example, breed standards for the English bulldog specify that the face should be very short, as should the distance between the tip of the nose and where it is set deep between the eyes. It is hardly surprising that this leaves little room for the structures involved in normal breathing.
  • Fold dermatitis/pyoderma: excessive skin folds/wrinkles causing skin inflammation and infection
  • Hypoplastic trachea: abnormal growth of the trachea resulting in a narrowed airway (windpipe)
 
This information on the inherited disorders of the English (British) Bulldog has been reprinted from the Canine Inherited Disorders Database (http://ic.upei.ca/cidd/), a joint initiative of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.