Bulldogs are friendly and courageous, with a happy disposition. A gentle family companion, no breed is more admired for its loyalty and determination, which is why you’ll often see it as the first choice for mascots, including for the United States Marine Corp.
Their low- to moderate-energy level makes them suited to any type of home, from an apartment to a house with a yard.
Unfortunately, the Bulldog’s unique head and body structure make the breed prone to health problems, particularly respiratory and joint difficulties. They have sensitive digestive systems and can suffer from upset stomach, indigestion, and gas. This breed benefits from a high-quality food that is free of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. In this article, we’ll talk about the best food for your Bulldog, and how proper nutrition can help you avoid these and other problems. And you also might want to check out our Ultimate Guide To Basic Dog Care.
Considerations for Bulldogs: Joints, Allergies, and Breathing Problems While Eating
Statistics from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals from 1979-2009 show that the incidence of hip dysplasia in Bulldogs was the highest among all breeds. Dysplasia occurs when the joint does not fit properly into the socket.
Bulldogs have a tendency to grow very rapidly, causing many unwanted problems in their hips and joints. They are considered to be “loose-jointed” dogs in general, and as puppies, they should be fed a large breed puppy food to avoid irregular bone growth during the first year of development.
Hip and elbow dysplasia can be worsened by slippery floors, over-exercising, jumping, and being overweight. Because Bulldogs are prone to joint problems, it is imperative that owners help their Bulldog maintain a healthy weight through proper nutrition, portion control, and activity.
Bulldogs are also prone to a condition called a luxating patella, which means the knee is out of place, or dislocated. Some dogs can tolerate this problem for many years, and some for all their lives. This weakness in the knee predisposes the knee to other injuries, especially torn cruciate ligaments. With advancing age, arthritic changes may take place in the joint resulting in pain for the dog.
Never free feed this breed. In other words, don’t leave food out all the time. Bulldogs are greedy eaters and will overeat if given the chance. Measure your dog’s food, and feed him twice a day. Because Bulldogs gain weight easily, they can quickly become obese if you don’t monitor their food intake. Extra weight just adds stress to already stressed joints. And because they are not highly active dogs, it can be very difficult to get extra weight off.
If your unsure whether your Bulldog is overweight, give her the hands-on test. Place your hands on her back, thumbs along the spine, with fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel, but not see, her ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, she needs less food and more activity. If your Bulldog is already struggling with being overweight, consider putting her on a weight management food like Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Weight Management Adult Dog Food.
If your Bully is experiencing joint pain, one accessory that can help alleviate pressure on and pain in your Bulldog’s joints is a cushioned dog bed. Our dog, Buddy, is currently obsessed with his Casper Dog Bed, which has two layers of foam – pressure-relieving memory foam, and durable support foam – that gives him the cushion his joints need but prevents the bed from sinking to the floor. It also has a durable cover that is machine washable.
When your Bulldog is enduring year-round itching and/or ear infections in addition to GI problems, a food allergy should be on the top of your list of things to rule out.
Many owners associate food allergy with grain, when in fact, it is usually due to the protein source found in meat. The most common allergens are chicken (60%), and then beef and fish. Also on the food allergy short list are corn, soy, wheat, and dairy.
The best way to diagnose a food allergy is an 8-12 week food trial on a strict hypoallergenic diet, with either a new protein (a protein the dog has not been exposed to before in their commercial dog food, like rabbit), or a hydrolyzed protein prescription diet.
In a hydrolyzed protein diet, the proteins are broken down into smaller parts – so small that the immune system no longer reacts to them. A hydrolyzed protein diet is generally by prescription only from your vet, and is a more expensive alternative to trying to eliminate specific ingredients from your dog’s food. We did find one hydrolyzed food that is available without a prescription and has great reviews. Check out WholeHearted Grain Free Skin and Coat Care Pea and Salmon Recipe.
Remember that if you try to go the first route of eliminating a specific ingredient from your dog’s food by switching to a different one, it is a process. When switching to a different food, you should do it gradually. Start day 1 with 25% new food, 75% old food, and gradually increase the new while decreasing the old until the transition is complete on day 10.
When trying to address allergy problems with your dog’s food, a limited ingredient option may be the way to go, like Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain Free.
If you choose a limited ingredient food, it’s important to read the label and be aware of what you’re trying to eliminate. Limited ingredient can mean more than one thing, as there is no standard in the pet food industry. It can mean it has only one protein source, as opposed to multiple protein sources. Or it may have only one carbohydrate or one fat source. It could also mean that it simply has a reduced number of ingredients compared to the company’s standard kibble products. Part of your detective work for determining your dog’s allergy will include knowing the ingredients in your dog’s food and how it differs from the food you’re considering switching to.
Breathing Problems While Eating – Brachycephaly
Bulldogs fit into a class of dogs called brachycephalic dogs, which are basically short-faced dogs. Their skull bones are pushed in, jaws are shortened (but must still fit the same amount of teeth!), have slightly crushed, smaller nostrils, and a shorter trachea. And even though the snout is shortened, the soft palate on the inside of the roof of the mouth is not, and as a result, hangs down and partially blocks their airway.
The overcrowding of teeth in the Bulldog’s jaw can further complicated chewing, and lead to additional problems that come with premature dental decay.
As you can imagine, this can make eating a stressful activity for bulldogs. The shape of their flat muzzle can make picking up and chewing food a challenge, and they may also have trouble taking in enough air while they eat.
One easy solution is to try a tilted dog bowl, like the Enhanced Stainless Steel Pet Bowl, or the AngleWare Tilted Pet Bowl. Tilted bowls allow the kibble to gather at one end, making it easier for your flat-faced dog to access the food. This is a much more desirable alternative to them just pushing the food around inside the bowl, and potentially pushing and flipping the bowl entirely. A tilted bowl also allows for easier breathing as your Bulldog is no longer having to press his nose flat against the bottom of the bowl to try to reach each piece.
Some experts have proposed that the shape of the kibble may be important, in that some shapes are easier for Bulldogs to pick up than others.
Whatever the case may be, a Bulldog’s unique facial and head structure does pose challenges while trying to eat and breathe at the same time. As I think of how miserable I am trying to chew and swallow when I have a horrible head cold and no air can pass through my nose, I have a newfound respect for the Bulldog’s stoicism in the face of trying to complete this basic and necessary daily activity.
The Best Dog Food For Bulldogs
Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Bulldog Adult
This exclusive breed-specific diet is uniquely formulated for your Bulldog with specific nutrients to help them thrive. The unique wave-shaped kibble is specially designed for your Bulldog’s unique jaw, making it easy for them to pick up and chew. Highly digestible proteins, precise fiber content, and high-quality carbohydrates support healthy digestion to decrease gas and unpleasant stool odors. Exclusive nutrients reinforce your Bulldog’s skin barrier to help protect skin folds from irritants and maintain a healthy coat. And optimal levels of EPA and DHA support bone and joint health, while helping your Bulldog maintain an ideal weight.
Please note that Royal Canin also makes a Breed Health Nutrition Puppy Formula that meets the needs of your Bulldog puppy from 8 weeks to 15 months old.
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Large Breed Adult
CORE products are 100% free of grain, animal by-products, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Wellness CORE uses higher amounts of protein (34% protein, 12% fat), and real chicken is the #1 ingredient. CORE also supplements glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health. This nutrient-dense recipe is formulated with optimum fat and calorie levels to help large dogs maintain a healthy weight, and after cooking, each kibble is coated with probiotics to help support a healthy digestive tract. It also feature a larger kibble size for large breed dogs. Wellness CORE is made in the USA.
Please note that Wellness CORE makes a Reduced Fat option with the same high-quality ingredients that Wellness is known for. Protein to fat ratio in their Reduced Fat food is 33% protein, 10% fat.
WholeHearted Grain Free Skin and Coat Pea and Salmon Recipe
This food is geared toward a dog with a protein food allergy. It uses hydrolyzed salmon to help reduce potential allergic reactions thanks to its smaller protein molecules. This protein can also offer greater delivery of amino acids to help build their skin’s natural barrier. This formula is power-packed to provide maximum nutritional benefits with Omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, canine probiotics to help maintain digestive health, antioxidants for immunity, and essential vitamins and minerals. None of the WholeHearted recipes contain corn or wheat.
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free
If your dog is highly allergic, a limited ingredient food may be the way to go. This formula includes only a single animal protein source. Unique to this brand are Blue Buffalo’s exclusive LifeSource Bits, containing a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are cold-formed. This means that they minimize the amount of heat exposure to these bits to prevent the important nutrients from being destroyed in the manufacturing process. This food is comprised of high-quality protein, easily digested carbohydrates, a healthy blend of vitamins and minerals, and Omega 3 & 6. They use no poultry by-product meals, no corn, wheat, soy, dairy, or eggs, and no artificial flavors or preservatives.
Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Weight Management Formula
Purina developed their FOCUS line to address a dog’s specific needs, which in this case, is weight management for your plump pooch. The FOCUS formula contains high-quality chicken as the #1 ingredient, and features 25% protein and 8% fat to help your Bulldog maintain an ideal weight and body condition. They add Omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine to support your Bulldog’s joint health and mobility, and prebiotic fiber to support digestive health. Reviewers overwhelmingly agree that this product is 5 star for weight loss success and maintaining a healthy weight into the future.
Please note that Purina Pro Plan’s FOCUS line also includes a Large Breed Puppy Formula that is great for those fast growing Bulldog pups.
Given their predisposition to health problems like hip dysplasia, joint problems, and allergies, more than anything, it’s important to feed your Bulldog a high-quality diet. We hope these choices help you pick the right one for your furry friend.