Loyal and protective, English Bulldogs (“Bully”) are wonderful companion animals. However, as with all our furry friends, special care is necessary in the cold winter months to prevent injury and keep them feeling their best. With a stocky and muscular build combined with a short coat, our bully’s need a little TLC each time the weather turns chilly. To help you keep your loyal friend in tip top shape this season, we have gathered care and prevention guidelines, as well as what to watch for in one place.

If you are bully has any ongoing or chronic health concerns, your best source of information and advise is always your veterinarian.

What to Watch Out for This Season?

Many bully owners love the short, smooth coat of their dogs. It is easy to care for with low to moderate shedding. Unfortunately, those traits mean your dog friend has little to no protection from the cold, damp winds of winter. With no undercoat to protect them, anything below 0C can give them a serious chill. At -5C, your English Bulldog is at serious risk of hypothermia.

Older bulldogs, as well as smaller dogs, are at a greater risk for hypothermia. Young puppies are also at a greater risk.

Frostbite

When temperatures fall, blood vessels close to the skin begin to narrow and constrict (tighten). This helps redirect blood flow to the main body. Unfortunately, this means there is less blood flow in exposed tails, paws, lips, and ear tips. These are the areas at greatest risk of frostbite. They are also the most exposed skin areas with the least amount of protection.

The signs and symptoms of frostbite can be subtle in the beginning and take several days to appear. By the time you have noticed the signs, damage has already occurred. It is always better to be too protective then not protective enough. 

Dog shoes to protect small paws are wonderful inventions and will help prevent small feet from exposure. Dog coats, with a stand-up collar and/or hood can help maintain body warmth as well as protect tails and ears.

Short walks during cold, wet, and windy weather, 5-10 minutes only, are sufficient for this low to moderate energy dog. Sometimes you may have trouble convincing your little prince (or princess) to go outside, even for a quick trip. However, it is important for them to continue to relieve themselves. Do not, EVER, limit access to fresh water in order to reduce the need for trips outside. This can create a whole new set of symptoms and/or illness.

Frostbite can be serious for any animal. It can incur expensive veterinarian costs, medications, surgery, and amputation. Not to mention the pain and suffering it can cause a bulldog. Always keep a close eye on you bulldog and watch for:

  • Skin discoloration – pale, gray bluish
  • Cold and brittle skin
  • Pain and tenderness at exposed skin
  • Swelling, blisters, ulcers
  • Blackened or dead skin, especially at tail tips, ears, lips, and paws

Winter Chemicals

The chemicals and ice melters we use for our cars and walkways each year can cause as much havoc with our dogs as the lovely melting havoc effect on ice. Some of this melters can contain toxic chemicals. Make sure you know what you are buying, read the labels and follow all storage instructions and precautions whenever you purchase a chemical for use around your home.

Antifreeze should receive special care and attention. It can leak from cars and appliances. Its sometimes used as an ingredient in windshield washer fluid. Occasionally, it can be found in ice melters. It has a sweet taste that makes it attractive to our pets. Unfortunately, it is also toxic. It can cause severe kidney damage and death, in some cases. You can purchase anti freeze with a bittering agent added, to make it less appealing. Look at your local hardware and automotive stores for this.

Chemical ice melters and rock salts that are sprinkled on stairs, walkways and drives can be a skin irritant. English bulldogs, with a short and stocky stature, have lots of potential areas where this salt can come into contact with skin. A winter coat that covers the tummy and shoes for the paws can help prevent this as well maintaining warmth. You should always wipe a bully’s tummy and paws with warm cloth after coming inside from any outdoor activity. This will prevent bits of rock salts from becoming trapped and causing irritation.

Joint Stiffness and Pain

Just like you and me, when the temperature drops, bulldogs are susceptible to inflammation, swelling, pain, and stiffness in their joints. This is particularly true in older dogs or dogs with arthritis.

Anything that helps you cope with joint pain and stiffness will benefit your bully. A good quality dog bed, orthopedic if possible, can do wonders. Raised or orthopedic food dishes will help your dog eat and drink in a natural, easy position. While it will not relieve any existing discomfort, natural eating positions can prevent many muscle and joint problems.

Managing the temperature and humidity levels in your home can reduce stiffness. You can purchase portable dehumidifies and some houses have these as a feature on furnaces.

Massage and warm heat packs can do wonders to alleviate any pain and discomfort your bully suffers from. You can use these tips on yourself too, after you have been in the cold together.

Diets high in grains can cause added swelling so a high quality, low grain or grain free food will benefit your bulldog and maximize health in the long run. Long term inflammation can cause a host of symptoms and shorten lifespans.

There are many vitamins, minerals, and supplements available to help your pup age gracefully, without the joint pain and stiffness that occurs with age. Remember, human supplements and medications are not appropriate for small furry friends. Check with your vet about which are best for your bulldog. Every bulldog is different and will need individualized support. As a last resort to relieve discomfort, your vet can prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatories.

Winter and Exercise

Despite the cold and unpleasantness that arrives every winter, continuing physical activity is important for your bulldog’s health. It is far easier to maintain activity through the cold than to start over each spring.

Bulldogs come with unique health challenges like obesity, cardiac issues, and joint pain. Some of these are related to the genetics of the bred itself but some are lifestyle issues. With a tendency towards lazy, it can be difficult to encourage your pup to get excited about the prospect of a walk.

A marathon jog around the lake is not the best choice, as much as you might enjoy a good run. Even 30 minutes of walking at a healthy pace could be too much for your bulldog. Low impact exercise is best. What surface are you walking on? Concrete or grass? A dog park filled with exuberant friends or solo trip?

Raising the dogs heart rate to build healthy muscles and joints, including the heart muscle, is the goal and a walk around the block combined with several shorter play sessions per day is sufficient to do this. Rolling around, playing, and chasing a favorite toy in shorter 10-minute bursts through out the day will complement a daily walk. Bulldogs do love their sleep, but it is important for physical needs to be met. And never discount boredom! A bored dog can be destructive.

Courtesy Image: Abel & Vanessa

Originally bred as fighting dog, most of the aggressive tendencies have been bred out. However, the stubbornness and tenacity remain. Supervision is important during any play time. Sheer stubbornness can prevent a bulldog from stopping or slowing down, even if they have injured themselves or become out of breath. Difficulty breathing, limping, or huffing are all signs it’s time for a rest.

 As the puppy parent, it is your role to prevent this or correct it if it occurs. It’s sort of just like having an over tired but wired and eager toddler. You know the toddler needs a nap even if the toddler doesn’t.

Overexercising can be a health threat just as much as not enough exercise. Young bulldogs go through multiple growth spurts. Injury is more likely during these periods.

Bulldogs are friendly, social animals bred to companionship. They will get along well with other dogs and cats too! Having other animals in the home (or toddlers) to play with can be a great way for your bulldog to meet their activity needs. If you do not have other animals in the home, play dates are great resource for you and your pet.

If your bulldog has become overheated or showing signs of labored breathing after exercise, it’s time for a rest and these problems should resolve in 10-15 minutes. If it does not, it’s time to talk to your vet. Other signs of injury to watch for and get in touch with your vet immediately are unsteady walking, falling down, passing out, and continued labored breathing.

Challenges aside, bulldogs are a wonderful companion. They form strong bonds with their humans and will be a loyal friend for years to come. Your care and loving attention can maximize both the quality and quantity of their lives.

Providing healthy, happy puppies to loving homes is our goal. Improving the health of the whole breed, monitoring breeding lines, and providing wonderful companions is our mission. All of our puppies are assessed by a licensed vet.

If you have done your research and made a decision, send us an email at [email protected] and we will help match you with a new furry best friend!

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