If you are thinking about adopting an English Bulldog and want to know how to care for them, there is no one simple answer. English Bulldogs do require routine maintenance, and they need to be treated as a family member.  Being one of the most popular dogs in the American Kennel Club comes with its expectations for these wonderful companions.

Are English Bulldogs high maintenance?  English Bulldogs have health issues that other dogs, and treating those issues can lead to higher expenses.  In other ways, English Bulldogs maintenance needs are not higher maintenance than other breeds.  

This chart gives an overview of the maintenance levels of bulldogs compared to other breeds in the same AKC class.

Trait High Med Low
Grooming Pekingese Poodle Boston Terrier English Bulldogs
Training Difficulty Chow Chow English Bulldog Boston Terrier
Exercise intensity Dalmatian   English Bulldog
Dietary Tolerance American Eskimo English Bulldog Chow Chow
Medical risk English Bulldog American Eskimo Golden Retriever
Calmness English Bulldog Boston Terrier Dalmatian

There are also a ton of different bulldog types, which we go over in this post.

English Bulldogs are some of the most loving, sweet, and humble breeds around. They make excellent guard dogs and even better companions. They do come with their specific needs, not more than most dogs; however, the English bulldog does have some unique characteristics that can add to the peskiness of caring for a dog.  If you take the proper preventative measures for your canine, they will not be a high maintenance dog.

Are English Bulldogs Suitable for First-time Owners?

The real question should be how much time and energy you are going to invest in your new family member.  Knowing how much time and effort it takes to raise a dog alone, an English Bulldog is not necessarily a simple choice.   They do require a little more added maintenance in comparison to a golden retriever.

Understanding the breed of dog that you are thinking about adopting is key to knowing whether it would be a good pick for your home.  English bulldogs require a specific type of lifestyle, and you should be able to provide that lifestyle to that canine.

Having a dog is adding to your family, think of it in terms of adopting a family member that cannot speak, read, or write but still has genuine needs. The English bulldog needs attention, food, water, medicine, toys, and other things that the English Bulldog would be prone to using regularly. 

Instead of asking are English bulldogs good for first-time owners, the real question should be, is the English bulldog the right dog for me? Whether you are a first-time owner, or a 35-year veterinarian, if you don’t understand the breed, or have the resources to care for them, then it is not the right dog for you.

Heart Disease

All dogs can develop any number of heart conditions. Because of the Bulldogs added weight and short, stout congestive heart failure is one of many concerns. Congestive heart failure comes in two forms; one affects the right side, and the other affects the left side.

Hypertension is another concern for your English bulldog. High blood pressure can be controlled by adjusting the canine’s diet. You want to check with your veterinarian to determine what exactly to feed your dog.

Heart disease is either congenital or acquired in dogs. The Prestige Animal Hospital explains heart disease in canines extensively. Congenital heart disease is hereditary, and the dog will be genetically predisposed to the disorder.

Left Right
Blood leaks from pumping into the circulatory system Poor blood return to the heart
Fluid backs up into lungs Fluid accumulates in the abdomen region
Coughing is the most common symptom Hardened stomach and lethargy are the most common symptoms.

Dietary needs

English bulldogs can quickly become obese if fed too much or given too many treats during training. A Veterinarian approved raw meat diet is okay to feed; however, the proportions must be correct. You also don’t want to feed your dog and human foods that are unsafe for dogs.

If the English bulldog’s dietary needs are not met adequately, they can develop Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, skin diseases, and other illnesses. As with most cases of obesity in mammals, it can shorten your dog’s life by 25%!  

You need to limit in-between-meal snacks.  Limiting excessive eating can help your bulldog maintain an ideal weight of around 50 pounds. Providing your dog with a proper eating schedule is not only suitable for developing a positive and consistent relationship with your dog, it also helps keep them healthy.

As tempting as it may be, limiting the number of chews that you give your bulldog will also help cut down on the caloric intake that they receive. The American Kennel Club has a list of low-calorie alternatives that can be a healthier choice for your canine(some of them you can even freeze, and they will go nuts for them).

Dry Kibble

Due to the shape of an English Bulldogs snout, special dietary needs are more likely to exist than not. English Bulldogs will sometimes require a unique kibble blend made exclusively for them. These kibble bits are cooked and sized in a manner that easily allows the English Bulldog to pick up and chew their food.

If your English Bulldog does require a particular food, this is not a bill that you can shortchange. Other conditions also might exist for your English bulldogs, such as stomach issues, or even difficulty breathing when eating a specific type of Kibble.

Some vets recommend using the Bulldog’s stool to determine if the correct amounts of Kibble are being fed as well as the right type of kibble.  Diarrhea or soft stools suggest that your bulldog is eating too much or having problems digesting its food.

Royal Canin has a unique shaped S kibble that makes feeding time a breeze for your English Bulldog. You can usually find the bags of food in your local pet store, or online here.  The odd-shaped kibble seems to be more comfortable for the English bulldog to pick up in comparison to the Square Kibble.

Taste of the Wild also gives an excellent mix of protein and other dietary needs in their proprietary blend.

Exercise

English Bulldogs require routine exercise regularly. The Bulldog needs regular walks, but not too much exercise because they don’t need to overheat.  You want to be careful during the heat and even more cautious in humid environments.

Swimming is not a recommended activity for the English Bulldog. They do like to wade in the water on a hot day. The American Kennel Club supports to not leave your English bulldog unsupervised in water more than knee-deep.

If you live in an appropriate climate, you can put them in a playpen outside for some time so that they can run around. Putting a kiddy pool in the playpen works wonders (Remember little water), and many chew toys.

Stairs and ramps are not a bulldog’s friend. They are not sporting dogs, but they are excellent watchdogs and house sitters. Their lives are better spent in front of an air conditioner, rather than being left outdoors.

Grooming

Brushing two to three times per week is going to be ideal for your English bulldog. They do shed regularly and brushing them will help control the amount of fur your pup leaves on your floors. You can find a good brush online; We recommend the Furminator treatment along with Brushing.

The Bulldogs nails need to be trimmed regularly; every two weeks is ideal. You can usually find a good grinder nail clipper to use. If you prefer to use the original style nail clippers, be careful not to clip the quick of their nail.

Cleaning the ears and underneath the tail needs to be kept clean and free of debris and feces. Infections can occur in these areas if not properly taken care of. Cleaning the anal glands will lower when they are irritated is necessary; if you don’t, they will start dragging their behinds on the ground, trying to empty them.  You can do this when you give them their regular bath or have the grooming salon do it.

Cleaning the wrinkles every week is a task that will help save you many vet bills. Food can get stuck in between their facial wrinkles and irritate the skin. You can take a cotton swab dipped in peroxide to clean the surface of the skin. You can also use corn starch to aid in drying their skin. You want to avoid the eye area with both peroxide and the corn starch.

Training

Bulldog puppies are inquisitive and will explore almost anything they can get their jaws on. Being one of the most curious breeds; The English bulldog needs to be taught to drop whatever is in their mouths on command.  They also need to be used to people touching their food while they eat.

Bulldog puppies need to be socialized at a young age, enrolling them in a training class is going to get them started in puppyhood. These classes will teach your dog basic obedience training and socialization skills.  

Since your canine companion will need to go outside to use the restroom, picking up a set of potty bells wouldn’t hurt.  You hang the bells on your back door and teach them to paw at the bells when they need to use the restroom.

Training your pooch to sit is going to be another critical step in keeping your dog happy and obedient. These easygoing pups will have short bursts of energy where they are incredibly excited in spurts. It is essential to curb any negative behavior early on.

Check out this video on training your dog.

Medical care

English bulldogs require routine medical care. They are going to need regular flea, heartworm, and tick treatments. (All Dog need these). Taking preventative measures to ensure that your English bulldog is in optimal health is the only way to limit the number of medical conditions that do occur.  You can usually find these medications over the counter online.

Vaccinations are critical to a happy, healthy puppy. Your English bulldog is going to need vaccines against parvo, distemper, hepatitis, rabies, to name a few. Some other vaccines are not part of the core packages of diseases, such as Lyme Disease, And Kennel cough. The American Kennel Club has a list of vaccines and recommended doses.  The secondary vaccines have a lot to do with the area you reside in.

The AKC recommends cardiac exams, patella evaluations and a tracheal Hypoplasia radiographic evaluation for your English bulldog. The three exams are crucial to your pet’s health and wellness.

Aside from your routine checkups, English bulldogs are prone to many health concerns. Some are not life-threatening at all; others can be drastic if they occur not only in the pocketbook but on the family as well. 

English bulldogs can develop any of the following:

  • Stones in the Urinary Tract
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Mange
  • Eye Problems
  • Bone and Joint Issues
  • Hemivertebra
  • Dental Issues

Stones in the Urinary Tract

English bulldogs are prone to getting kidney, or Bladder stones in their urinary tract. The stones are more of an issue in male dogs simply because they can block the urethra. If the urethra becomes blocked, then the dog needs to go to an emergency Veterinarian.

The bladder stones are a progressive condition; Veterinarians mostly find them while doing other check-ups on your dog. It is recommended to have them removed to avoid further complications for your pet. Your dog can become ill as bacteria stays on the stones, and even mimic a Urinary Tract Infection.

There are different types of stones, some of which can be dissolved by merely changing the dog’s diet; others require surgical removal of the stones.

Some common causes of kidney and bladder stones are:

  1. Improper Diet
  2. High Alkaline Urine
  3. High Steroidal use
  4. Urinary Tract Infection
  5. Genetic Pre-disposition

Here is an informative video that explains Bladder stones in Dogs and the seriousness of the issue.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome

The English Bulldogs has a shorter snout and an elongated jaw, this can cause Brachycephalic Syndrome (A Fancy way of saying Doggy Asthma). The English bulldog has the same parts as a dog with longer snouts, but they are crammed into a smaller space.

When the cartilage blocks the airways, a poor puppy can’t breathe. English Bulldogs and other flat-nosed breeds can have an intolerance to exercise, or even develop other heart and kidney problems from a lack of oxygen.

You’ll want to keep a close eye on your dog and monitor their breathing. Trouble breathing could also be a sign of more severe conditions. Due to the size and shape of the English Bulldog is can be challenging to determine what is normal breathing and what is abnormal. It would help if you studied your dog to get this information.

One sure sign that something is seriously wrong is blueish gums. Blueish gums mean that the canine is not getting enough oxygen in the bloodstream. In severe cases, this can even cause organ failure and severe blood loss. If you notice blue gums in your dog, you should get them to the Vet as soon as possible.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal Paralysis is a common condition in older bulldogs. The laryngeal muscles stop working and fail to close off the trachea when your pup breathes. Because of the Bulldogs broad chest and odd shape, they are unfortunately more prone to this condition.

Sometimes the cause is unknown and could be genetic; Conditions such as Hypothyroidism or Cushing disease also contribute to the Canine experiencing Larynx failure. Krista Williams; A licensed Veterinarian at VCA Hospitals, States that Neuromuscular illness in one of the first signs of Disease.

Krista also points out that it is easy to miss the symptoms as it often is only a cough or shortness of breath. Since the signs mock other conditions, this one is hardly diagnosed. Laryngeal Paralysis can also occur at an early age in most breeds that are prone to getting it.

Surgery is often recommended, although mild cases can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. If your dog is diagnosed with this, you will want to avoid hot areas, and give them a loose collar (Or use a Harness instead).

Mange

Mange can affect all dogs; however, dogs with shorter coats are more prone to getting severe symptoms than others. All dogs receive the mite from their mothers at birth, and most pups don’t ever show any signs of discomfort.

There are different types of mange, the most common is the demodicosis, which lives in the hair follicles, and a weakened immune system can allow a severe reaction to occur in the puppy. There are two primary types of Demodicosis, localized and Generalized. The localized and caused scabby spots on the infected areas. Generalized is often embedded more in the skin and can cover a larger area.

Sarcoptic Mange is caused by mites that prefer hairless skin; the intense itching can make your dog extremely miserable. This type of mange requires Treatment from Shampoos and creams given by a licensed Veterinarian.

The best way to ensure that your English Bulldog does not get Mange is to give them regular check-ups, spay or neuter them, and feed them a healthy diet. Dogtime.com does a great job of explaining how mange affects all breeds on their site here.

The following table shows some of the different types of mange and their symptoms.

Localized Generalized Pododermatitis Sarcoptic Mange
Demodicosis Demodicosis Only affects the Paws Affects entire body
Spots on the face or front legs Can affect the entire body Demodicosis Sarcoptic mites
Usually resolves itself unless there is an Immune deficiency Usually resolves itself unless there is an Immune deficiency Usually resolves itself unless there is an Immune deficiency Scraping test required
Progressive Progressive Non-progressive Intense Itching
Scabies can be passed onto other dogs.
Prefer Hairless Skin
Quarantine Required.

Eye Problems with English Bulldogs

English bulldogs get Dry eyes more than other breeds. This condition occurs when the tear ducts Dry up and no longer produce their salty tears. The Dry eye condition is known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or KCS for short (We think the short version is better too).

The lack of tears causes the eyes to develop Ulcers in the eyes, inflammation of the eye, and eventually blindness. KCS is a severe condition that will most likely require a lifelong commitment to helping your English bulldog live comfortably. Cyclosporine is the most common medication prescribed to a dog that suffers from Dry eye.  You can find treatments online without a prescription here.

The drops that are purchased without a prescription are not a replacement for a prescription of eye treatment for your canine.  Vet4Bulldog has some useful tips and tricks for dealing with Dry eye and your English bulldog.

Cherry eye is also a common issue with English bulldogs. Dogs have a third eyelid that can sometimes become inflamed. When the third eyelid becomes inflamed or sore, it can sometimes become exposed and dry up. Sometimes ointment is an option; most of the time, surgery is the most common treatment.

Check out this video of Dry Eyes in Dogs.

Bones and Joint Problems

The bones and joint issues are common amongst most larger dog breeds.  The English bulldog will get around 40-50 pounds after being fully grown. They have shorter legs and stand only 14-15 inches tall. The excess weight added onto their hips and joints makes then prone to cartilage wearing down on the joints.

As the English Bulldog grows, the cartilage in the joint may not correctly attach to the bones. This condition would require surgery to care for the dog. You can avoid this issue by feeding your English bulldog the proper foods and proportions as recommended.

The most common problem is going to be Hip Dysplasia in dogs. If your dog has Hip Dysplasia, you should seek treatment from a licensed veterinarian. Hip dysplasia is not a terrible as it sounds, and most patients do not need surgery; they do, however, need a diet change.  It can also be a genetic disorder that the dog is born.  Here is a neat video that explains hip dysplasia in canines.

The American Kennel Club often recommends a treatment of Glucosamine and Chondroitin to help curb the symptoms of Hip Dysplasia. While the Glucosamine and Chondroitin will not rebuild the bone, it will help strengthen the cartilage and joints in the dog.  

You can find a ton of dog treats that have Glucosamine and chondroitin in them online for smaller doses. If your dog needs a larger treatment, we recommend a Kibble mix made for hip and Joint health.

The Prestige animal hospital explains bone and joint issues in English Bulldogs thoroughly on their site here.  

Hemivertebra

Some English Bulldogs are pre-disposed to “butterfly,” or Hemivertebra. It is congenital disinformation of the spine that resembles a butterfly. The Bulldog only has about 10-15 vertebrae in their spine. Signs can be spotted early on in their lives.

During the third or fourth month of puppyhood, their hindlegs will become weak, and they may even lose bladder control. As the condition worsens, so do the symptoms leading to paralysis eventually if not corrected.

If by month nine, the puppy is not paralyzed, the symptoms will taper off and be bearable at least for the immediate future. The spine at this point is fully developed and should not pose any more issues. Issues can arise with no symptoms at all, as well.

Hemivertebra can show up even in later scans while your bulldog is fully grown. Steroidal injections can help relieve some of the pain. It is essential to take note of the symptoms and get your dog checked regularly. Vet4Bulldog.com explains in detail all the medical complications with hemivertebra in bulldogs.

Dental Care

Dental care for your Canine friend may come as a surprise but is extremely important in an English bulldog. The Dental care of your canine is a preventative measure to ensure that your pet’s life isn’t cut short by infections in their heart, liver, kidneys, and other vital organs.

Tater buildup can cause tooth decay and rot, and once that happens, the English bulldog is at risk of losing their teeth. The infections can also spread to other organs in the body and lead to further health concerns with your pet.

English bulldogs are more susceptible to getting dental diseases due to their snout shape.  An English bulldog’s snout is short, and they have an underbite; this condition is known as Brachycephalic.  It would be best if you cleaned their teeth regularly to limit infections in their gums and teeth.

It helps to be consistent with their brushing, whether you complete them weekly or daily, the consistency is what is going to improve your English bulldog live longer and have fresher breath. You need to know what is normal in your dog’s mouth instead of what is not healthy; this will allow you to spot problems early on. You can find the right toothbrush and toothpaste combo online Here.

Here is a quick video that shows you how to brush your dog’s teeth.

Final Thoughts/ Conclusion

Dogs are a special kind of family member, no matter which breed you choose, they will all have their moments. All dogs will have their medical issues, dietary needs, and regular treatments. This comes with adopting a dog. The things that we can’t explain is how the goodwill always outweigh the bad with any dog.

We can’t explain the moment when you’re having a bad day, and your English bulldog comes into your room and plops on your lap. The time when your dog slides across the kitchen floor trying to get the food that missed the trash can. We can’t provide you with the emotional part of owning the English bulldog.

English bulldogs are some of the friendliest canines around, as well as some of the most protective in their environments. You’ve never had a friend like an English bulldog.

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.” – John Grogan (Author, Marley & Me)

Learn More

If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.

Author

The Eyerly Family is a tight knit family from Texas. Married for 10 years Dane and Deena are the parents to six awesome kids! In 2021 the Eyerly's are leaving normal life behind to travel full-time throughout the United States in their Double Decker Bus which has been converted to a tiny home. They've been featured in Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Style, Medium, and Latestly. Learn more about The Eyerly's here.

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