Why Do English Bulldogs Have a Short Lifespan?


There are many types of bulldogs and the English bulldogs are among the most favored ones. They ranked as the fourth most popular breed in America. Although they are well liked by many pet parents, some veterinarians actually warn against buying them. Find out the reasons why you should think twice before bringing one home.

Know about English Bulldog Origin

As the name suggests, English bulldogs were first developed in the British Isles as a cross between the mastiff and the pug. The original purpose of breeding them was to have a dog that can be used for bull-baiting. In fact, their low center of gravity was intentional so these dogs could stay out of the range of a bull’s horns.

Bulldogs were considered an important part of the English culture. They were very popular during the Middle Ages until the sport was banned in the early 1800s due to issues of animal cruelty. Dog fighting is now illegal in all states and comes with different levels of implementation.

These days, the English bulldog is still well-accepted, not for the cruel sport but by people who want a companion animal. They are actually great as family pets because they are affectionate, easygoing, and good with kids. The only inconvenience about owning them is their susceptibility to a number of diseases, which makes them one of the unhealthiest breeds of dogs.


An English bulldog’s physical features have something to do with their health. Starting with their face, it is noticeable that they have a flat face or a short snout. In vet terms, it’s called brachycephalic. Their facial structure makes it more challenging for them to pant or cool down.

Panting is equivalent to sweating in humans. Brachycephalic dogs often suffer from dyspnea or breathing difficulties especially during the summer months. If you own an English bulldog, you need to provide extra care during the warmer months to prevent dyspnea.

Selective breeding is the reason to blame for the bulldog’s compact bodies. As you will notice, they have stubby little legs but heavily built bodies. An English bulldog’s average weight is around 18 to 25 kg while they stand at only 31 to 40 cm. They are heavier than French bulldogs which weigh only 7 to 12 kg on average.

English Bulldog Average Lifespan

An English bulldog can live from 8 to 10 years. When well taken care of, English bulldogs can live up to 12 years or more. There are a few that even managed to live longer than 15 years like Guhrka, an English bulldog from Southern California who was 16 years old as of 2014.

Unfortunately, many English bulldogs begin to display signs of aging when they are around six years old or before reaching their senior year. The common signs of aging in dogs are changes in behavior, age-related disorders, and joint stiffness. The median age of death for English bulldog was 6 years and 3 months.

Common Health Issues

Pulmonic Stenosis – a report from the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Scientific Committee revealed cardiac arrest to be the leading cause of death in English bulldogs. The most common specific causes of cardiac arrest are heart attacks and heart failure.

English bulldogs are actually predisposed to Pulmonic Stenosis, a condition that obstructs normal blood flow due to the narrowing of the pulmonary blood supply from the right ventricle to the lungs. It is diagnosed through physical examination and heart ultrasound. Canine Pulmonic Stenosis is characterized by fainting, intolerance to physical activities, and fatigue.

Lymphoma – this kind of malignant cancer is the second leading cause of death among English bulldogs. General lymphomas in dogs are characterized by swollen lymph nodes under the jaw. Swelling may also occur on other parts of the body such as the face, legs, shoulders, and the area behind the knee. Dogs suffering from lymphoma find it difficult to control their thirst and eventually their urination. Although it has the largest impact on the animal’s immune system, it can also affect any organ of the dog’s body.

Respiratory failure – short-nosed breeds including bulldogs are at high risk of developing a pathological condition called brachycephalic syndrome. There are several factors that make it hard for them to breathe, which include having a soft palate and everted laryngeal saccules. Aside from brachycephalic syndrome, dogs can also suffer from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome due to pneumonia, serious infections of the lungs, and other serious illness.

Liver diseases – English bulldogs suffering from liver diseases often suffer from jaundice or yellowing of the eyes, tongue, or mucous membranes. These are some of the first signs that there is a problem with the dog’s organ. Aside from the unusual color of their eyes and tongue, these dogs also exhibit other symptoms like vomiting, intense weakness or lethargy, and unsteady gait.

Skin diseases – English bulldogs are at high risk of skin infections because their folds and facial wrinkles easily attract dirt. It is important to clean these areas of the skin to prevent infections. It is also important to dry the folds thoroughly because any left moisture can lead to infections of the skin. Brushing and bathing your pooch are simple and effective ways to keep the skin free from infections. It will also help to prevent fleas that can cause itching and hair loss.

English Bulldog Caring Tips

Feed your dog the right amount of food. You can offer pure kibble or mix it with home cooked meals or raw food. When choosing a kibble, make sure it’s made of high-quality ingredients and does not contain preservatives or animal by-products.

Brush their coat twice a week. English bulldogs require low levels of coat maintenance, which means they don’t require daily brushing unlike breeds with a long coat. For these dogs, the best brush to use would be a combination of pin and bristles brush. A bristle brush is the most recommended brush for dogs with short hair because it is not harsh on their coat. Despite of that, remember to be extra gentle when brushing your pet’s coat and choose a tool made of soft bristles.

Maintain healthy dental hygiene. The problem with English bulldogs is that you need to provide extra care in keeping their teeth clean. This is because they have very compressed jaws. Hence, a lot of pet parents find it challenging to brush their dog’s teeth in a calm manner.

There is already a chew toy that somehow helps a dog brush his own teeth. It looks like a stick except that it comes with a flattened base that lets dogs soothe it using their paws. What’s even better with this kind of chew toy is that it comes with a delicious meat flavor that makes your pet want to keep chewing. It can be a good alternative if you are having a hard time brushing your dog’s teeth.

Clean the folds daily. English bulldogs have folds around their tail which need to be cleaned regularly. Like the folds on the tail, the wrinkles around their face should also be wiped every day to keep rubbish and dirt away. You don’t need any concoction to do the trick. Simply wipe the dog’s skin with cotton balls dipped in warm water.

However, if your pet is prone to skin infections or actually suffering from one, your vet might prescribe medicated wipes and gels for cleaning your English bulldog’s wrinkles. You can buy online pre-moistened pads formulated with natural ingredients like cucumber and chamomile. These wipes are usually developed with veterinarians and do not have parabens, phosphates, and detergents.

Exercise regularly. English bulldogs are prone to obesity. One of the ways to combat this is to ensure your pet gets regular exercise. This way, he can maintain a healthy weight and prevent obesity. This breed only needs around 20 minutes of exercise per day. But keep in mind that your brachycephalic dog will find it more difficult to breathe properly so avoid too much physical activities, especially during summer. A short walk daily is the best kind of exercise for the English bulldog.

Provide a comfortable bed for your pup. These dogs are often mistaken for being lazy because they love lying down or binge-watch TV with their “hoomans.” But these dogs simply love a leisurely lifestyle. Hence, it is important to find the best personal space to make your English bulldog feel safe and more comfortable. An oval-shaped mattress bed is the best type to use for dogs that like curling up. There are dog beds made of water-resistant fabric, which are perfect if your pooch likes relaxing outdoors. This kind of bed is ideal during hot summer days.

Wear cooling collars or bandanas when going outdoors. You can find dog collars that are created using a cooling fabric or comes with a frozen gel insert. The fabrics can be soaked in water for a more cooling effect. These bandanas or collars can make your pooch more comfortable even during the hottest temperatures. These dog accessories often come with a cooling vest, too.

Always have water on hand. These dogs can easily become overheated and that is why they always need access to water. Water helps English bulldogs cool down especially during the summer months. When going outside, always bring a water bottle with you so your dog stays hydrated at all times. There are dog water bottles that are foldable, lightweight, and convenient for travel. In general, dogs should drink between 20-70ml of water per kilogram of weight per day. Make sure your dog gets to drink enough water for his weight.


English bulldogs have many health issues and based on studies, it is not easy to improve their health from their existing gene pool. They are also expensive given the care required in breeding them. Developing these dogs will always require human intervention because 90% of the time they require C-sections in delivering their pups.


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