When the November 27, 2011 New York Times Magazine came out, I was elated. The cover article, “Can the Bulldog be Saved?” addresses the many health issues faced by the breed today. Finally people can read what I have been telling them for years now: that the bulldog, while adorable in its nature, is in fact an enigma. It is a breed that if not for mankind could not exist in its form today. On the cover of the magazine is the long laundry list of problems related to their anatomy and genetic line, including cherry eye, dry nose, corneal ulcers, elongated soft palate, dry eye, skin fold infections, hip dysplasia, inverted screw tail, elbow dysplasia, congenital heart disease, skin allergies, birthing difficulties, and inter-digital cysts. When I see a bulldog for an initial exam, I always suggest that the owner should invest in an insurance policy that covers congenital and inherited defects. I have seen many bulldog owners regret not having insurance on this breed.
The fact is that after a bulldog won Westminster, the bulldog has climbed on the top 10 list of most popular dogs. However, this is not a breed for everyone. They are a high maintenance breed. They constantly need to have their skin folds and ears cleaned. They need to be kept on the thinner side because of their bad hips and elbows. They should not go out in extreme heat because their airways are prone to overheating, which can create inflammation, cutting off the airway. They are also prone to respiratory distress and aspiration pneumonia. As a veterinarian, I advise looking for bulldogs with fewer folds, longer noses, and tails with looser spirals. This breed has many health issues and I have always found it ironic that owners get upset with the breeders and feel the pet was unfit for sale. This is a breed where ”buyer beware” is a true statement. Demand dictates supply. As long as people seek out these traits, breeders will continue to produce the bulldogs that have them. As a veterinarian, this knowledge is a double-edged sword. My goal is to educate and help people maintain a healthy bond with their pet. While I too find the bulldog to be adorable, I know their health pitfalls. My thanks to the New York Times Magazine for bringing the issue of the bulldog to our attention.