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Health advice for bull breed dogs

We've put together useful information on some common health problems which affect bull breed dogs. Find out more about the symptoms and treatment for each of these problems, as well as what you can do to prevent your dog or puppy from being affected.


Mange is caused by infestation of mites that live in hair follicles. It may be related to your dog’s immune system, meaning that your dog may also have another medical problem at the same time – you must seek veterinary advice if you suspect your dog has mange.

Spotting mange on your dog

  • It can sometimes be itchy – your dog may scratch much more than usual
  • You might find your dog is losing its fur in patches or in severe cases, all over it’s body
  • Your dog's skin may appear red and sore, particularly around the feet and eyes    

Treating mange

  • You must consult a veterinary surgeon in order to treat this problem successfully
  • Mange is diagnosed by taking samples of your dog’s skin – this is a very simple procedure. Any mites present can then be seen under a microscope
  • Mange can be difficult to diagnose so your veterinary surgeon may want to try treatment even without proof that mange mites are present
  • For minor cases where veterinary care is sought quickly, a liquid medicine that is easily applied onto your dog’s skin should be all that is required
  • More severe cases may require weekly baths in a special medicated shampoo until repeated skin sampling shows that no mites remain    

Important information

  • Mange can easily be passed to other dogs that your dog comes into contact with, so ensure you seek treatment as soon as you notice any signs developing
  • It would be a useful to teach your dog to enjoy being held and examined all over its body
  • It would be useful to teach your dog that having a bath is nothing to worry about!
  • Allergies may also cause your dog to have skin problems similar to the appearance of mange – your veterinary surgeon will be able to give you advice if your dog is diagnosed as having an allergy

Parvo virus

This is a deadly disease which could kill your dog or puppy. It causes damage to the gastrointestinal tract. Parvo virus can be prevented by ensuring your dog is fully vaccinated – an initial course of vaccinations followed by annual boosters will keep your dog protected from this virus.

Symptoms of parvo virus

The symptoms of parvo virus may lead to collapse and sudden death:

  • Horrible smelling diarrhoea that may have blood in it
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Dehydration

Treatment of parvo virus

  • You must consult a veterinary surgeon in order to treat this problem
  • Your dog will need medical care in order to recover from this virus
  • Your dog may require hospitalisation and intensive care

Ligament damage

Damage to the ligaments surrounding the knee joint is commonly seen in bull breed dogs. It may be due to natural wear and tear but there is a chance this condition may have been passed down to your dog from the mother or father.

Signs of ligament damage

  • Lameness
  • Not wanting to put a paw to the floor – holding the affected paw off the ground and walking on three legs
  • Generally seeming quieter than usual and less interested in exercise
  • Affected leg may be painful when touched  

Treating ligament injuries

  • You must consult a veterinary surgeon
  • Immediately rest your dog
  • Your dog may require xrays to assess whether a ligament is damaged or torn and may need an anaesthetic and hospitalisation for this to happen
  • Your dog may require surgery to have the damage repaired
  • Be prepared that your dog may need long periods of rest, especially following surgery – even energetic dogs can be rested but you will need to think about keeping your dog mentally stimulated while he can’t physically exercise
  • Your veterinary surgeon may also need you to practise some simple exercises with your dog while he is recovering to help him to use the leg again and to help strengthen the repaired ligament and stabilise the knee    

Important information

As this condition may be passed on from parents to their puppies you should consider having your dog neutered to avoid passing this condition on. Dogs can live happy lives and have just as much fun and activity after surgery. Another problem in young muscular bull breed dogs is that the shin bone (the tibia) sometimes breaks or becomes damaged – if this has happened your dog will have the same signs as ligament damage and will require xrays and surgery to repair the problem – so you must seek veterinary advice for any signs of lameness.

Ear problems

Your dog may suffer from very painfully sore ears which may be due to a simple anatomical abnormality where the internal ear canals are just narrower than usual so normal wax cannot drain properly. Narrow ear canals provide the perfect warm, moist environment for bacteria to live in and grow –  so ears can easily become infected. Allergies may also be a factor in general soreness to skin, including that around the ear. The presence of mites will also cause problems and the ear is likely to be very itchy .    Some dogs may need lifelong ear cleaning and treatment. You may find your dog's ears get worse at a particular time of year – monitor this and seek veterinary advice as soon as you notice anything abnormal

Signs of an ear problem

  • Ears may be itchy and your dog may be scratching at them
  • Your dog may shake his head a lot and seem uncomfortable
  • Ears may look red and sore
  • Ears may smell unusual
  • You may see excess build up of brown discharge
  • You may see a yellowish discharge
  • Ears may look crusty
  • Your dog may not like being touched around his head area and may object to having his lead or harness put on if you have to touch him around his head to do this

Treating ear problems

  • You must seek veterinary advice
  • For minor cases the veterinary surgeon will examine the ears and may prescribe a simple cleaner or some drops to get rid of mites
  • Your veterinary surgeon may need to take a swab from the ear to send away to a laboratory in order to find out what the infection is and which treatment to use to fight it – this may take a couple of days so the earlier you consult your veterinary surgeon the better
  • For more severe cases your dog may require a general anaesthetic to have the ears completely flushed through and cleaned – this may have to be repeated again and again until the problem has cleared up
  • For very persistent recurring ear problems the veterinary surgeon may recommend surgery to removal the affected ear canals, this would require hospitalisation and intensive care   


Lungworm is a parasite carried by snails and slugs which can be passed to your dog if he eats snails or slugs. Once infected, lungworm live in your dog’s heart and also affect the blood supply to the lungs. Lungworm can be fatal and cause serious health problems if left untreated. If your dog eats snails/slugs he may be at risk. An infected dog’s faeces will have lungworm larvae in it so if your dog eats faeces, grass or drinks from puddles then he may also be at risk. A monthly liquid spot-on treatment is available which can help prevent infection if your dog does eat lungworm larvae. The treatment is applied to the skin, and often has the benefit of also treating for fleas and other parasites too. Talk to your veterinary surgeon about which treatment is best for your dog, and remember to use it each month.

Signs your dog may have lungworm

  • Your dog may have difficulty breathing
  • You may notice that your dog’s gums appear to be bruised or bleeding – as the lungworm interferes with blood clotting
  • Your dog may seem generally unwell, tired and disinterested
  • Your dog may not want to do the normal things he enjoys such as going out for walks, playing, or even eating
  • Your dog may develop seizures   

Treating lungworm

  • You must seek veterinary attention as this condition is treatable if caught early. The earlier veterinary help is sought, the greater chance your dog has of survival
  • For minor cases caught early, a veterinary surgeon can prescribe a liquid medicine that is simply applied to your dog’s skin – this can be used monthly to prevent infection
  • For severe cases, hospitalisation and intensive care may be required to get rid of the infection or infestation

Important information about lungworm

  • If your dog is a ‘snail/slug-eater’ talk to your veterinary surgeon about using a suitable treatment to prevent infection
  • If you have other dogs in the household consider treating them all for lungworm
  • Make sure you pick up your dog’s faeces from all public places and keep your own garden clean too