Ok let's talk about allergies! Being the proud owner of Lenny the allergic dog and having spent the last 5 years trialling things to help him, my family and I know only too well that allergies are a super common problem in our breed. Read on to see what you can do at home to help your Bulldog feel more comfortable and in turn, save you as much money as possible at the vets. Ruling out these dietary and environmental factors first will mean you have done as much as possible to help him at home and won't counteract any veterinary treatments or medication.
First things first - Diet - What's he eating?
Getting your Bulldog's diet right is absolutely essential and can help massively with most of the allergies that can contribute towards symptoms like\; poor patchy coat; lumpy skin; rashes; sores; runny eyes and ears; tear stains; yeast infections and smelly skin. Please note eye and ear infections will often need medication to clear up - Bulldog Rescue are licenced to sell non prescription veterinary medication via the BULLDOG CLINIC
- stronger stuff may be needed from your vet and there may be underlying problems that need surgery like entropian. If in doubt call your vet for advice but be sure to nail the diet too to help save on your vet bills!
The gold standard food for us is James Wellbeloved Grain Free Fish and veg or Grain Free Lamb and veg. https://www.wellbeloved.com/
The protein content is nice and low (21-23%) which is the correct level of protein in adult food, essential for health in our breed and recommended after 6 mths of age. Never give the dust at the bottom of the bag to your Bulldog - amongst this dust will be storage mites - another common allergen. Under a microscope some of this dust would be waving back at you, yuk!
Is your food grain free?
Grain free is not the same as hypoallergenic - removing the grain is pivotal to success here. Those feeding a raw diet should also avoid grain and go for a high quality raw diet like Nutriment: https://www.nutriment.co.uk/
Did the protein source have feathers in life?
Chicken is a particularly common allergen for Bulldogs and should, therefore, always be avoided. If you are feeding a 'grain free' chicken flavoured kibble, whilst it will be made with no grain added, the protein source ate grain in life so this is naturally passed on in the food. Our advice is to avoid anything with feathers so chicken, duck, turkey. Raw feeders should also avoid feathers and beef is also a common trigger so do stick to fish or lamb.
A new dry diet should be swapped in over 5 days so as not to upset tummies, and a food trial should last for 2 months in order to truly see what works for your dog.
Get extra advice:
If changing from raw to dry or the other way around - this should be done with great care and expert advice and generally avoided unless for medical reasons or at an early age. Our FB supporters page has incredibly detailed advice on anything and everything you need to know about our wonderful breed - available to group members via the expert volunteer admin team and is a great place to discuss tips with other Bulldog Owners: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bulldogrescue
Environmental factors: Your home:
Does your Bulldog have a rash on his tummy? Could this be where his belly is in contact with blankets and throws on your furniture that he is lying on? In severe cases this can show as a tide mark all around your dog with fur intact above the line and baldy underneath. If so:
What are you using in your washing machine?
You should avoid all fabric conditioner and biological washing liquid pods or powder on anything your Bulldog is coming into contact with including your own bedding if he is allowed on your bed. Instead use non biological powder (sensitive, like you would do for a young baby) adding a scoop of bicarbonate of soda and a decent glug of white wine vinegar will mean any smells on the blankets will vanish and as a bonus will clean your machine too and prevent future washes of your own clothes from smelling. Avoid tumble dryer sheets like the plague - many years ago I read somewhere that putting one behind your radiator would make the whole house smell wonderful as the heating came on - it did but Lenny flared straight up like he was on fire in front of our very eyes!
Smelly air fresheners - there's a potential for a vicious circle here - yeasty smelly dog - more air fresheners - more allergy flares - more air fresheners - but your dog is highly likely to be allergic to these "fake" pleasant smells - particularly with puffy air fresheners and plug ins or anything that has a man made smell - If you haven't yet gone nose blind (like I most certainly have) then do try burning yankee candles for a scent that won't hurt your dog.
Carpet powders and hard floors - If you are a member of the "I've still got carpets downstairs" crew or you allow your dog upstairs then you should avoid carpet powders - again that lovely but very fake fragrant smell could be a big trigger for your dog. Hard floors are easier to keep meticulously clean and should be washed with a pet strength / pet safe disinfectant and are available from the Bulldog Clinic. Bleaches and supermarket detergents should be avoided and can easily trigger a flare up. Whatever you use you must always dry the floor thoroughly before your dog walks on it.
Just like us, Bulldogs can suffer from seasonal allergies like pollen from grasses, plants and trees like conifers and you can often see seasonal flares as the weather starts to get warmer and through the summer months. You can keep piriton available in your home - safely give your adult Bulldog piriton one 4mgs tablet up to 3 times a day or 10mls - up to 3 times a day in the syrup version **please note it must be this type only: Chlorphenamine maleate** This is the same drug that vets have used for half a century and vets know exactly what's in it so it will not hurt to give this at home.
A truly horrible allergy - if you think your Bulldog is allergic to grass - do wash your bulldogs pads in salt water underneath and in between the toes when he comes in from a walk to eliminate any pollen that he may later ingest by licking.
Always consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your Bulldog's health. None of the above advice will conflict with any treatment and you can rest assured that you are doing everything in your power to help your dog at home alongside your vet's advice - medications like steroids, Apoquel, Cytopoint injections and allergy testing can be reduced, avoided or complemented by putting our advice into practice and may not even be needed at all.