Bully Dog Health Issues

What Is a Bully Dog?

The term “bully” has nothing to do with the dog’s personality but reflects the dog’s heritage as descending from the bull-baiting dogs of the 19th century.

Bully dogs typically have flatter faces and stocky builds. Most of these dogs are loving, clownish, and protective of their families. They are strong dogs and need to be trained well to make sure they don’t become aggressive.

Bully breeds include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Bullmastiffs
  • Boston terriers
  • American pit bull terriers
  • Boxers
  • Staffordshire terriers
  • English bulldogs
  • Cane Corso Italiano
  • American Bulldog


These breeds and mixes of these breeds can make wonderful pets for the right family, but bully dogs can have specific health issues related to their body structure and breeding.

You should be aware of these health issues before you bring a bully dog home so that you can be prepared if they happen.

5 Common Bully Health Issues

Dogs tend not to be subject to the same types of diseases that make humans sick, but that doesn’t guarantee a clean bill of health. Even if you take care of your dog 100% correctly, they may get sick and there are certain health issues that bully breeds are specifically prone to.

Breathing Issues

The flatter the face of your bully dog, the more likely they are to have breathing issues called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).

The risk for BOAS seems to be related both to skull shape and genetics.

These symptoms of BOAS include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Breathing noisily
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Gagging
  • Easily overheating

Sometimes if a dog has BOAS it might need surgery to fix the structural issues around having a short face.

Dr. Jennifer Coats says about BOAS: “Since we brought about the problem, it is our responsibility to do what we can to fix it. Surgery to widen a dog’s nostrils and/or remove extra tissue from the soft palate and larynx can greatly improve an affected dog’s quality of life.”

Hip Dysplasia

If you’ve ever had a dog you might know that hip dysplasia is a real problem in certain breeds. It’s not just Bully breeds that are affected by this disease, but it is commonly found in both boxers and pit bulls.

This is a hereditary condition, so it’s important to know the health of your dog’s parents to assess how much risk you face from hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia happens as a dog grows. The bones develop more quickly than the muscles resulting in loose hip joints that wear as the dog ages.

Ask your vet if your dog might be prone to hip dysplasia. If they are, it’s best to treat the disease early. You can do this by getting your dog check-ups monthly, starting at 8 weeks of age.

Your veterinarian can keep their eye on the potential development of this disease and offer options for treating it.

There are currently surgeries that are available for hip dysplasia. Surgeries are often recommended for puppies and can save total hip replacements later.

Always consult with your veterinarian for what is right for you and your dog.

Hereditary Heart Disease

A common hereditary heart condition in dogs is called pulmonic stenosis (PS). This disease is the most common in bulldogs.

PS is caused by a narrowing of the blood supply from the right side of the heart to the lungs. Because pulmonic stenosis can be mild, you may not even know that your dog has it. Severe cases are often the only ones that cause signs like fatigue, exercise intolerance, and fainting.

To determine if your dog has PS you’ll want your vet to check for a heart murmur. If the veterinarian finds a heart murmur then they may follow up with a color-flow Doppler ultrasound to confirm whether or not your dog has pulmonic stenosis.

If your dog has pulmonic stenosis, then they might be helped by a procedure called balloon valvuloplasty, although this doesn’t work in all dogs.

Because PS is hereditary, when you buy a bulldog, it’s important to know the medical history of their parents to give your dog the best chance of avoiding this disease.

Eye Issues

Bulldogs are more likely than many other breeds to get a condition called cherry eye. Cherry eye affects the third eyelid of dogs. When the gland of the third eyelid moves out of place the dog will get a red and swollen mass near their lower lid.

Cherry eye is a problem that happens in young dogs that are under two years old. If you see that your dog has symptoms of cherry eye, you need to get them to the vet right away so that they can be treated.

Symptoms of cherry eye include:

  • A red and inflamed area that protrudes from the third eyelid
  • Excessive squinting
  • Too much tear production
  • Dry eye
  • Can occur in both or just one eye

Bully breeds are also susceptible to their eyelids rolling inward and dry-eye. If you see that your dog is having any eye problems then you should consult your vet for a treatment plan.

Skin Problems

Dogs and humans often share the same types of skin problems. Bully breeds are most likely to get seborrhea and eczema – which humans can also get.

A dog with eczema will have dry and itchy patches of skin. A dog with seborrhea will have either very dry or very oily skin.

A bully also may end up with hotspots on their skin. These are areas of skin irritation that can be treated by good grooming and a good diet.

The most common form of eczema in dogs is also known as atopic dermatitis and there are many treatment options available. One of the most common treatments is to use glucocorticoids over the short term. If the skin condition persists other treatments may become necessary.

Always consult with your veterinarian if your dog has any sort of persistent skin condition.

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