Genetic Predispositions for Bulldogs
Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Brachycephalic syndrome is a pathological condition affecting short-nosed dogs and cats which can lead to severe respiratory distress. There are anatomical abnormalities that contribute to the disease like the soft palate (the soft part at the back of the roof of the mouth)being too long and hangs down into the airway. The nostrils are often too small, and sometimes the trachea, or windpipe, is narrow and undersized. All of these components make it more difficult to breathe, in situations of exercise, stress, or heat. This leads to distress and further increases respiratory rate and heart rate, creating a vicious circle that can quickly lead to a life-threatening situation. They are more likely to develop other problems, such as flatulence from the excessive air intake, pneumonia from aspirating food, or heat stroke. In severe cases, surgical correction may be recommended. Dogs experiencing a crisis situation due to brachycephalic syndrome typically benefit from oxygen, cool temperatures, sedatives, and in some cases more advanced medical intervention including intubation.
Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Bulldog’s elbows or hips may become a problem, especially as they mature. Thet may begin to show lameness or difficulty getting up from lying down. Arthritis can be managed if started early, be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian at your pet’s yearly check-up. Radiographs, at 1 year of age or at the time of their spay or neuter will help determine if your pet has dysplasia. Remember, overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, shortened to NCL, is a progressive neurologic disease found in several breeds, including your American Bulldog. Clinical signs usually appear in younger dogs, between around one to three years of age. In the early stages, rear leg weakness and imbalance can occur. It can progress to weakness involving all four legs, and some dogs also lose vision. There is currently no effective treatment for this disease, but a genetic test is available. Dogs carrying the mutation should not be used for breeding since it is readily passed to future generations.
Bulldogs are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
Dry, flaky, itchy skin is a common problem for many dogs, but bulldogs, in particular, are prone to a severe flaking skin condition called ichthyosis. Named for the large dry flakes that resemble fish scales, this problem usually arises very early in life, with most affected puppies born with abnormal skin. Several palliative treatment options like special shampoos and fish oils give variable levels of relief, but there is no definitive cure for this inherited disease.
Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea (surface of the eyeball). This is an extremely irritating and painful condition that can ultimately lead to blindness. It can happen in any dog breed; however, your Bulldog is especially at risk for this heritable disorder. Surgical correction is usually successful if performed early.
“Cherry eye” is a disorder of the third eyelid in some younger Bulldogs and other breeds of cats and dogs. The defect in this gland causes it to prolapse and protrude from the eye as a red fleshy mass. This can lead to “dry eye” or in severe cases Keratoconjuctivitis sicca (KCS) as the gland becomes exposed to a air. This can be treated surgically when your Bulldog is young to prevent chronic issues.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Bulldogs. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque, meaning they look cloudy instead of clear. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Demodex is a microscopic mite that lives in the hair follicles of dogs. All dogs have them. Normally a dog’s immune system keeps the mites in check, but some breeds, like your Bulldog, develop an overabundance of these mites. In mild cases, pet owners may notice a few dry, irritated, hairless lesions. These often occur on the face or feet and may or may not be itchy. Secondary skin infections may occur. Prompt veterinary care is important to keep the disease from getting out of hand. Many pets seem to outgrow the problem, while others require lifelong management.
Bladder or Kidney Stones
There are a few different types of stones that can form in the kidney or in the bladder, and American Bulldogs are more likely to develop them than other breeds. Yearly urine check can tell if crystals are forming in their bladder. Also be sure to watch for some signs indicating the presence of kidney and bladder stones like blood in his urine and difficulty during urination. If your pet is staining or cannot v urinate, it is a medical emergency.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your Bulldog, please contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008.