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Why Your Bulldog is Always Scratching and How to Help

Why Your Bulldog is Always Scratching and How to Help

Like many other purebred dog breeds, Bulldogs are prone to a whole host of health issues. We are only going to be discussing one of them in this article. As one of the most common health conditions that Bulldog owners encounter, itchy skin can signify more complex health issues. Excessive scratching will be a tell-tale sign that your Bulldog may be suffering from a skin condition of some kind. Their cute wrinkled skin can hide irritations from you, so it can be hard to catch major problems early on, especially if you’re a new owner. 

Why your Bulldog is always scratching and how to help: Bulldog genetics cause their immune systems to be much weaker than that of mixed dog breeds. Their genetics, combined with their wrinkled skin, makes Bulldogs the perfect target for many skin conditions and food allergies. Both can cause excessive scratching due to itchy skin and infections.

Noticing that your Bulldog has been scratching a little too much is one of the first signs that your Bulldog may suffer from a skin condition or allergy — after that, diagnosing and treating the problem should be a priority. In this article, we will discuss the most common skin conditions and their causes. As well as go over various treatment options, how to prevent skin problems in the future, and the usual signs and symptoms.

Why Your Bulldog is Always Scratching and How to Help

Although Bulldogs are predisposed to skin conditions and allergies that cause scratching, they are treatable, and more importantly, preventable. Just like with our skin, our pet’s skin is susceptible to genetic, environmental, and dietary stressors that can cause rashes, infections, chronic conditions, and allergies. Once you know what those stressors are, you can better address the skin problems your dog has.

Bulldogs have an additional stressor outside of their genetics, though. The cute, wrinkly skin that all Bulldog owners love so much actually can cause friction related skin irritation and also hide or worsen other skin conditions. A part of keeping your Bulldog’s skin healthy starts with keeping their wrinkles clean and monitoring the health of their skin. 

Healthy Bulldog Skin Check

An important way to ensure your Bulldog has healthy skin or to identify if there is a condition irritating them is to know what healthy Bulldog skin should look like. 

Here are some identifiers of healthy Bulldog skin: 

  • It is soft and smooth but not oily 
  • There are no obviously cracked or dry spots
  • Their coat is short and evenly distributed (not patchy)
  • Their coat is pleasant looking and to the touch
  • Their skin has no odor, especially in their ears, by their eyes, and near their genitals

For most Bulldog owners, it can be useful to get in the habit of doing a daily spot check. This check should include the areas most prone to skin infections and irritation. This list includes the areas to check for any irregularities your Bulldog may be experiencing and is not limited to only their skin. 

  1. Snout
  2. Wrinkles and Folds
  3. Eyes
  4. Ears
  5. Teeth/Gums
  6. Chin
  7. Skin/Coat
  8. Genital Area / Anal Glands
  9. Paws
  10. Weight

Many owners may start to get into the habit of cleaning their Bulldog’s wrinkles and face on a regular basis in an attempt to avoid irritation. Finding time for all of this care seems daunting, but if you include wiping them clean in their daily check, it won’t seem like much effort at all. 

When you do your daily checks on your Bulldog, it can also be helpful to know precisely what kinds of skin conditions you’re looking for and what symptoms they commonly display. We will explain these in more detail in the next section.

Common Skin Conditions in Bulldogs

Knowing what the most common skin conditions are is an excellent first step in understanding their itchy skin and scratching habits. Bulldogs are not the only dogs that can suffer from these skin conditions, but they are one of the more likely breeds to develop them. Also, keep in mind that our list is not a comprehensive list of all the skin conditions Bulldogs can develop. We only put together a list of the conditions Bulldogs most commonly display.

Listed below are some of the most common skin conditions and their descriptions: 

Eczema (Canine Atopic Dermatitis): Likely the most common skin problem that Bulldog’s face. It is a non-parasitic infection that causes dry, itchy skin. Allergies, stress, and insect bites can all lead to eczema. It will display as scaly bumps or open sores and tends to be worse in warmer weather and during the summer months.  

Hot Spots: This skin condition is often referred to as acute moist dermatitis. Hot spots are caused by an allergic reaction to insect bites, food, or sometimes parasites. Anal gland problems can also cause hot spots to appear. Hot spots appear as round, hairless, itchy sores on the skin. 

Seborrhea: This skin condition will cause one of two extremes, excessively oily or dry skin. Bacterial or fungal infections can cause this skin condition to manifest and will display as inflamed patches of skin that can emit a foul odor. This infection needs antibiotic treatment. 

Pyoderma or Staph: Allergies, insect bites, or too much moisture can cause either one of these infections, and it commonly appears in their skin folds. These are bacterial skin infections that can affect the skin’s surface but can also penetrate deeper layers of the skin. 

Acne: Just as humans can develop acne, bulldogs can struggle with acne on their skin. Bulldogs are especially prone to it when they are young, adolescent dogs. The acne is caused by dirt entering and clogging the pores of their skin. It will appear as pimples or blackheads that are usually located on their muzzle, lips, and chin. 

Symptoms of Common Skin Conditions

Although we listed how each of the conditions above commonly manifests, there are some other signs and symptoms that you should look out for. Not all skin conditions will appear in the same ways or have the same causes. 

Keep in mind that it is worth having your Bulldog checked by a veterinarian even if their skin just looks irritated. Catching a skin condition in the early stages can help save your pup some discomfort and help save you future vet bills. You may be able to identify skin conditions eventually, but you should try to get a diagnosis for the specific condition as early as you can.

Here are some of the symptoms caused by the skin conditions we listed above:

  • Excessive scratching, biting, licking, or chewing specific areas of their skin
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Skin that looks scaly or is peeling 
  • Hair loss (this can be isolated or involve their entire body)
  • Superficial Pyoderma in skin folds or wrinkles 
  • Skin lesions (may have an odor)
  • An obvious infection 

Some of these symptoms will not appear until their skin condition has worsened and possibly penetrated the skin at a deeper level with secondary infections. Since the chance of the skin condition worsening is so high for this breed of dog, having a daily routine of health checks and skincare should be a priority. 

Causes of Common Skin Conditions

Bulldogs are not the only dog breed that can suffer from skin irritations. However, they are highly prone due to their lack of immunity to disease and the wrinkles in their skin. Many dog breeds can experience conditions such as acne and eczema. Bulldogs, on the other hand, can develop both of those plus the other we listed earlier. 

What is interesting is that all of these skin conditions have similar causes. For Bulldogs, an infection is likely to arise in areas that are difficult for them to clean, such as their wrinkles, groin area, face, and ears. Infections and irritation in their wrinkles and folds are often due to moisture, darkness, and overall friction. The likelihood of infection grows when in a warm climate. The heat will cause more irritation over time. 

Skin irritation can also quickly arise due to bug bites, fleas, or mites. Once your Bulldog gets a bug bite, no matter how small, they will begin to scratch, lick, and bite it. This bug bite can cause a sore to develop and, eventually, an infection. You can easily avoid infection by doing daily checks and extra skin checks when your Bulldog begins to scratch new areas. On top of that, if you notice they have a bug bite, try to soothe the area with a topical treatment to prevent them from scratching it.

Another common but often forgotten reason that many dogs develop dry and itchy skin is due to allergies. These could be seasonal allergies, allergies to specific irritants, or they could be allergies to food. Just like humans, dogs can develop allergies to almost anything (food, detergent, air fresheners, perfume, etc.), especially dogs that have a predisposed weakened immune system like Bulldogs. In the next section, we will discuss common Bulldog food allergies and how they impact your dog’s skin. 

Bulldog Food Allergies That Cause Skin Issues

Recognizing that your Bulldog has an allergy of any kind can be difficult to identify. Many of the symptoms will present as other skin conditions but will not go away with oral or topical treatments. A visit to your veterinarian can mitigate this confusion if you are unable to treat the condition at home and lead you to a faster diagnosis. 

Some of the most common foods that cause skin related allergic reactions in Bulldogs include: 

  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Chicken
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Dairy

All of these foods are frequently used as fillers or as a protein source in commercially produced dog food. Identifying the ingredients in your dogs food will be a helpful step in knowing possible allergies they may have. Still, it may seem strange that a dog would be allergic to chicken and dairy as we assume dogs should we used to eating those types of foods. However, they are both prevalent allergens for Bulldogs and other purebred dog breeds. 

For a great list of foods to give to bulldogs with allergies, check out this list.

Sometimes allergies, especially to food, will come on suddenly and will change over time, much like they do for people. Even if your dog has eaten the same dog food for months or even years, it doesn’t mean that they will not develop an allergy as they age. 

Symptoms of Dog Food Allergies

Although allergies can manifest in ways that look similar to other skin conditions, there are some allergy specific signifiers that your dog will display. 

Here are some of the things to look for if you suspect your Bulldog has an allergy of any kind: 

  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Dryness surrounding the eyes
  • Excessive snot production 
  • Oozing sores that appear suddenly 
  • Swollen paws
  • Dryness of nose and paws
  • Dry skin (commonly affecting their entire body)
  • Dandruff

Any of these symptoms can appear, and they will often appear suddenly. Many dogs will develop allergy symptoms after a period of eating food and appearing healthy. The lack of immediate symptoms is another reason why daily skin/health checks can be necessary. 

On top of that, it may take some time to realize it is an allergy and not a different skin ailment. If you have tried most other skin treatments and your dog’s skin condition does not improve, it may be time to consider that their food is the most likely culprit. 

Choosing the Right Food

Taking the time to understand the needs of your pet often starts with what they eat. We want to trust dog food companies to construct healthy recipes, but that is not always the case. Large dog food corporations will sometimes cut corners in the quality of their product in order to produce is for a lower price. For your dog’s benefit, do your research and always read the ingredient lists on any dog food that you purchase. 

You will also want to use caution when changing your dog’s food. If you have been feeding your Bulldog the same food for an extended period, changing their diet suddenly can make them ill and disrupt their digestive system. It is best to mix the new and old foods for some time and then slowly wean them off to integrate the new diet to their system. 

If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy, it can also be beneficial to keep a food journal for your pet. This should include the ingredients in their main meals as well as any treats they are given throughout the day. Identifying the ingredients can help you to narrow down the list of possible triggers to the allergy. If you just started a new diet, record the date you introduced it in case they experience a reaction later down the line. 

Many Bulldog owners choose to feed hypoallergenic dog food to their Bulldog when they suspect a food allergy. This dog food helps to detox their system and gives you a clean slate to start to integrate other types of food into their diet again. Then, once their symptoms have cleared, you can begin to test different foods to see what they’re allergic to. 

Homemade Bulldog Food

Another great way to treat a food allergy is to skip the dog food fillers altogether. Many dog owners have begun to make their dog’s food using whole foods and have seen amazing results. Many commercialized dog foods undergo extensive processing that can involve chemicals and dehydration that removes most of the nutrients in the food. 

Deciding to compose your Bulldog’s diet from homemade dog food is something that should be discussed with your pet’s vet. Finding the proper balance of cooked and raw foods as well as calories, proteins, minerals, and vitamins can be difficult to do with limited knowledge. It may take some trial and error to find the right balance for your pet, but when it is done right, your pet will benefit. 

Many dogs can also benefit from a vegetarian diet. This may seem strange to consider as we often think that all dogs are carnivores when, in fact, domesticated dogs are omnivorous. This can be especially important for breeds such as Bulldogs that commonly are allergic to specific protein sources. 

Keep in mind when you decide to move your dog onto a homemade food diet that dogs are not humans. They cannot eat all of the same things that we do! The diet that you give your dog should be comprised of no more than 25% protein and also involve other whole foods such as brown rice, sweet potato, oats, some fruits, and some vegetables. Certain foods that we love, such as avocado, grapes, and onion, are toxic to dogs. Also, remember that you are trying to help your dog avoid processed foods, so you should not be feeding them processed human food either. 

For some healthy homemade dog food and treat recipes, check out this cookbook. Consult with your veterinarian before making drastic changes to your dog’s diet and especially before attempting to make their food yourself. 

How to Treat Your Bulldog’s Itchy Skin

Depending on the severity of your Bulldog’s skin condition, you may be able to treat it at home. However, it is best to get a professional’s opinion to be sure their itchy skin does not worsen into an infection. 

Treating Minor Skin Conditions

For minor skin conditions, you will likely be able to manage them at home. These would often include things like hot spots or less severe wrinkle infections. Anything that is not to the stage of infection, you have a chance of treating at home, unless it requires treatment of an antibiotic (like Seborrhea does). 

Once you notice this minor irritation, you can use a clean cloth and medicated soap to clean the area. You can also consider providing a bath with medicated soap. Just be sure to remember that moisture can cause infection in their wrinkles, so take care to dry them when you’re done. 

Another major thing you can do to help the condition heal is to prevent your Bulldog from scratching, licking, or biting at the area. This can be difficult at times, especially if you are not home with them. However, you can purchase a cone from your vet. It can be tempting to use clothing to cover the area so they cannot lick it. However, this can prevent airflow to the skin, making the condition worse. 

Treating Allergies

If the allergic reaction is not severe, you will be able to handle it at home. You may need to consult your vet if it is a food allergy, and they will help you come up with a safe course of action. If it isn’t a food allergy causing the skin irritation, the best course of action may be to give your Bulldog a medicated bath. The water will soothe their skin and wash most of the irritants and dead skin away in the process. 

If a food allergy is suspected, see the food allergy section written above for more details. 

Treating Severe Skin Conditions

Some skin conditions get to the point of infection, or the home remedies you’ve tried just aren’t doing the trick. When it comes down to it, the vet is the greatest resource in your Bulldog’s health and recovery. 

One of the best things your vet can provide you with is a diagnosis of the skin problem. While you may be able to do some research and come up with an educated guess, the vet will be able to take a skin scrape or blood test to determine the issue at hand. 

Depending on the location and severity of the condition, your vet will prescribe you topical or oral medication. For some wrinkle related issues, the vet may consider performing surgery to tighten up the skin and reduce the wrinkle depth. If the problem involves parasites, the vet may need to remove the parasite and give a vaccination along with other treatments. 

Products to Help Cure and Prevent Dry or Irritated Skin

Other than changing your dog’s food, there are some other supplements and skin topical treatments that you can consider incorporating into your Bulldog’s life. They can help make minor irritations heal faster and also can help to prevent them from occurring as frequently. 

Some of the best preventative care products for the skin of your Bulldog include:

One product that is a stand-alone must for Bulldog owners if coconut oil. You may already have some in your pantry that you use yourself, but have you considered using it for your dog yet? Adding one tablespoon of coconut oil to your dog’s diet can help clear up dandruff and some dry skin conditions like hot spots. Not only that, but coconut oil can be used on minor cuts and skin irritations after they have been adequately cleaned. 

Coconut oil is not a cure-all product for bulldog owners, but it can help you get through some minor skin irritations without a vet visit or buying a fancy bulldog specific cream. Many bases for dry skin products is coconut oil. So, if your Bulldog is suffering from dry paws or a cracked nose, you can consider applying coconut oil to let it heal. Beyond being able to help with dry skin, coconut oil contains monolaurin. This compound is known for its ability to eradicate viruses, fungus, and bacteria. 

While you may not need all of those products for your Bulldog, having some on hand can make treating skin conditions much more manageable. Once you’ve found out chronic conditions your dog may have, then you can consider the best products for your dog!

Keeping Your Bulldog’s Skin Healthy

While the best thing to do for your Bulldog’s skin is to take preventative measures, that doesn’t mean that they won’t experience irritated or infected skin at some point in their life. Bulldogs are predisposed to an array of health issues, and skin infections are just a part of that. 

If you have noticed any of the obvious signs that your dog may be suffering from a skin condition, consider taking them to a vet or try a few home remedies if it is minor. Having a routine of skincare and skin checks can be an essential preventative measure as well. If you can catch skin conditions, especially those in their wrinkles, early, then they are less likely to lead to infection. 

It is also important to remember that dogs can often suffer from allergies. Skin conditions caused by allergies may present in many different ways and will require different treatments if they’re food-related. 

The most important take-away from all of this may only be knowing how to recognize if your Bulldog is suffering from a skin condition. You may notice them scratching now, but the skin condition can become something much more if left untreated. 

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.