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4 common health problems in bully breeds

Most of us are probably familiar with the iconic English Bulldog and American Pit Bull Terrier, but the “bully” breeds actually include over 16 dog breeds, such as the American Bulldog, Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Mastiff, Bull Terrier, and Cane Corso. Known for their muscular build, intelligence, loyalty, and tenacity, the bully breeds have become favorites of dog lovers worldwide. These dogs are generally healthy and gregarious, but as with any breed or breed group, the “bullies” are vulnerable to certain health problems that you, as an owner or prospective owner, should know about.

4 Common Health Issues In Bully Breeds

Hip Dysplasia

As in humans, the hip in dogs is a ball-in-socket joint, where the head of the femur (thigh bone) rotates in the cuplike socket of the pelvis. Hip dysplasia occurs when the cartilage that protects the femoral head begins to deteriorate, resulting in bone-on-bone friction and subsequent deformation. In severe cases, pain and loss of hip function are common.

Hip dysplasia is most often genetic in origin. In some bully breeds, bones develop more quickly than the muscle required to hold them in place. The resulting “loose” hip joints can contribute to deterioration of the cartilage protecting the femoral head. Conditions such as obesity can add strain to the hip joint and exacerbate discomfort and bone deterioration. While there is no preventive measure for hip dysplasia, the condition can be treated symptomatically (through weight control and pain management) or surgically (through hip replacement).

Congenital Heart Disease

The bully breeds, especially the English Bulldog, are vulnerable to several types of congenital heart disease including subaortic and pulmonic stenosis, mitral valve disease, and septal defect (disorders that affect the valves and interior walls of the heart). These conditions are often genetic in origin but can be exacerbated by obesity or the presence of parasites such as heartworm. Diet management and regular heartworm prevention can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk for severe disease.

Skin Diseases

Eczema and seborrhea—two skin conditions often seen in humans—are also seen in the bully breeds. Eczema is characterized by itchy, dry patches of red or flaky skin, whereas seborrhea (a dysfunction of the glands that provide moisturizing oil to the skin) can result in either excessively dry or excessively oily skin. These conditions are usually treated symptomatically.

The bully breeds are also prone to hotspots—irritated areas of the skin that can result from over-grooming, parasites, or allergies. Characterized by hair loss in the affected area and a moist, raw appearance, hotspots can be treated by regular bathing, parasite prevention, and antibacterial agents.

Eye Issues

There are several common eye disorders to which the bully breeds have shown enhanced vulnerability. Cherry Eye, for example, is a condition affecting a dog’s nictitating membrane (or third eyelid). In dogs with this condition, the tiny fibrous structure holding the third eyelid in place fails, causing the gland attached to the eyelid to move out of position (prolapse) and appear as a large red obstruction in the eye. Cherry eye can be treated surgically, by removal of the displaced gland.

Other common eye disorders affecting the bully breeds include entropion (a condition where part of the eyelid rolls inward), dry eye (often from insufficient tear production), and irritating ulcers on the cornea. All these conditions require veterinary care and/or surgical repair.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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