Bulldog Rescues Bulldog Guide
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Bulldog Rescues Bulldog Guide

The Bulldog Rescue's Bulldog Guide. A series of articles covering common bulldog problems and guides on how to live with certain conditions that might affect Bulldogs That have been rehomed. If you have any suggestions please tell us in the Suggestion Box below.

Opinions Expressed in each article are those of the Author and may not necessary be the same as those of the reader

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LIVING WITH: Spina Bifida - why does it happen by Vicky Collins-Nattrass

Spina bifida in Dogs.

Why does it happen?

When the puppy is forming in mum, the very early days it’s a crucial window , many breeders take a lead from the Human prevention of this condition, by giving folic acid tablets for the mum for the first 50 days of their pregnancy. This is thought to work better in humans than canines but its still worth the breeder doing that. It is thought that if the mum has a temperature from a virus this increases the risk of this and cleft palates is much increased and also this can happen just randomly in an otherwise healthy litter. Spinal issues Bulldogs can suffer from Spina Bifida and spinal pressures caused by Hemivertebrae which is a butterfly wedge on their spine causing crushing of the spinal cord, these conditions are quite rare, Spina Bifida is easier to diagnose as often they have a pronounced dip in their back just above the tail . How it affects them varies considerably from dog to dog, sometimes they are hardly showing any signs , sometimes they are wobbly on their back end which alerts the breeder . Not all slow to get up puppies have this condition in fact I think it is extremely RARE, however once its realised an assessment must be made of the outlook for living a life must be made . Consequences These are hard to say as the variation of the condition is so great. Commonly they can be doubly incontinent, this is the hardest thing to deal with, there are Belly Bands for boy puppies which can be worn around the belly and soak up the wee .[Bulldog Rescue can supply these with measurements to order ] Food must be very carefully chosen as hard firm poop is very important , many people cope by knowing puppies routine and when the bowels will open , some diets are so soft poop that its unfortunately leaking and occurring any time or anywhere . This is something you must find out what suits the pup individually. As far as actual illness, most puppies are mostly incredibly happy and normal with no extra health issues unless the vet is recommending steroid treatment to remove inflammation. However Hemivertebrae is another outlook , many puppies worsen with age and gaining weight , some go completely off their legs , some are very unstable and they could suffer pain depending when symptoms develops, so its really up to the Vet and yourself to decide, Euthanasia has to be considered Surgery is VERY UNLIKELY to be successful, I know a millionaire flew his dog to Switzerland to an Expert from South Africa but it was not successful . Harsh but it must always be about the dog’s quality of life. Is a Disabled Puppy for me? This is really difficult as most people looking at an adorable puppy follow their heart but reality is a very big thing , incontinence takes a very special dedicated owner , this makes everyone’s house a bit smelly at best but at worst STINKING , traveling is more difficult , from the car point of view but the unpredictability of a poop machine in places you want to go make this a very important thing to consider .Urinating can be coped with but its often a problem that wearing nappy or belly band needs frequent changing because they can get urine burns from stale urine . So going out in public can be a trial , long and deep thinking is needed to decide if you could take on a puppy like this the average person buying a dog I would say don’t , there are special people who can cope but I really think few and far between .

.SEE ALSO LIVING WITH: Incontinence by Kathryn Harrison


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REHOMED: Should we spay/castrate our dog? by Tania Holmes



Advice regarding castration seems to differ depending on who you ask. I guess that the “rules” also differ between breeds and subsequently breeders will advise according to the breed they know. Sadly I’ve found that the worst people to give advice on castration are vets, their knowledge on the subject is so broad spectrum that the vast majority of it doesn’t appear to apply to many pedigree dogs. I know that as far as bulldogs are concerned the advice given by non breed experienced vets on this subject is often miss-guided and sadly, incorrect. Whereas there’s no doubt that as a profession they are fantastic at understanding the medical aspects of the reproduction system, sadly, they don’t seem to have an awful lot of knowledge regarding behaviour and when it comes to castration, the hormones that are involved do appear to put the two hand in hand. To be fair, many vets do try and get their advice right and many will advise the owners of a hyperactive, boisterous dog to castrate on the basis that it will calm them down, in reality it probably won’t make a blind bit of difference (in bulldogs at least) and castration undertaken too early can, in some cases, cause worse behaviour than what you were trying to curb.

I think the first thing you need to ask yourself prior to having your dog castrated is why. There certainly isn’t a need to rush out and get your dogs dangly bits chopped off simply because he has dangly bits and this is probably why so many male dog owners find the thought of castration so stomach churning. There are only really two advantages of having your dog castrated - a) he will be unable to sire a litter and b) he will never contract testicular or problems with his prostate. In my opinion, these are the only two reasons why a dog should be castrated. It has been my experience that castration will NOT calm a boisterous dog down simply because it will not alter a personality. It will NOT stop a dog from lusting after your leg or the cat or even next doors collie cross (unless of course it’s a bitch and she is in season) as most humping behaviour is not sex driven but is simply a way of expressing stress, nervousness or dominance. It may stop him from cocking his leg in the house and may stop him from wanting to pee on every single blade of grass in the park - but there’s no guarantees there either.

In fact all of these are behaviours that need to be dealt with by good old fashioned training and if your reason for castration is any of these then you are going to be sorely disappointed as castration is certainly not a behaviour “quick fix”.

Bulldog males have a testosterone surge between the ages of 6 and 9 months old, in many cases this turns them in to “lager louts” and this is often the behaviour which causes many vets to advise castration. This is where the vet and I will always disagree because the dog needs this surge of hormone in order to mentally mature properly, put simply it allows chemical changes in the brain to take place that turn the dog from puppy to adult. I usually compare this stage of the dogs development to that of a 15 year old human boy. Take a look at the kids hanging around the town, walking the walk, talking the talk, voices in various stages of breaking, faces in various stages of sprouting hair. The hormone changes that allow this to happen to your son is pretty much the same as the hormonal changes that need to occur in your bulldog and early castration will prevent this surge of hormones and subsequently prevent the dog from mentally maturing. You can usually tell the dogs that were deprived of their testosterone surge because they usually never learn to cock their legs and end up “peeing like a girl”. Often they don’t properly develop skeletally either and tend to have under sized heads and narrow fronts. My personal opinion is that bulldogs should never be castrated under the age of 18 months; if you are having problems with oik-ish behaviour then you need to look at your training methods or accept that “it’s a phase” and not enlist the help of a vet with a scalpel and a syringe full of anaesthetic.

Once your dog is mentally mature then castration can be happily undertaken. If you have no intentions of breeding or showing then this is the most responsible course of action to take, not only will it prevent him from wandering off after local bitches in heat it will also prevent him from ever developing testicular or prostate cancer. As a bonus it MAY stop unwanted marking behaviour and it will most probably reduce the number of squabbles and fights in a multi dog household (especially amongst other males) unless a major falling out has already occurred and then it’s unlikely that anything will put it right.


Spaying on the other hand is a completely different kettle of fish. It is wise to allow your bitch to have her first season, as with males the hormone changes that occur around the time your bitch is in season is quite important for their mental and physical maturity. As the entire cycle (as with humans) is hormone governed it's wise to schedule a spay so it falls mid-way between the last season and what would be the next season. Although it has always been considered that bitches come into season every six months, in bulldogs it's more likely to be 8 to 9 months, in that case arrange the surgery for 4 months time.

In a multi dog household the season is the most likely trigger to a falling out between bitches. We always advise that in an effort to prevent a permanent falling out, bitches in season should be taken completely out of the group. This is also wise if you have any entire males as an accidental mating can occur and if she is no where near other dogs this is less likely to happen. She is ready to mate around 10-14 days from the first day of her season, after which the season will begin to taper off, although she can show colour (bleed) for up to 21 days.

Remember, the shape of the bulldog doesn't allow her to keep herself clean as she can't reach her back end. Some bulldog bitches don't seem to mind but it's wise to keep her clean whilst she's showing colour, otherwise it'll end up dragged across your lovely clean carpet. Some bulldog owners use doggy nappies whilst their bitch is in season in an effort to prevent it from staining carpets and furniture.

Remember that whilst in season your bitch is likely to become either slightly incontinent or begin to wee in the house. Some of this is marking as her instinct tells her to mark out her territory to not only keep other bitches away but also to tell males in the area that she is ready. She may also be prone to contracting Urine infections, bulldogs squat so low to the ground when they pass urine, doubled with the fact that her vulva is very swollen and open - infection easily gets in which in turn causes cystitis like symptoms. A dribble of Apple Cider Vinegar in her water will reduce the chances of her contracting a UTI but in the event that there is a lot of blood in her urine a course of anti biotics from the vet will be required.

You will notice that approximately 3 weeks ahead of the season her vulva will begin to swell, and any entire males in the household will notice that she's coming into season. If you have no intention of breeding your bitch then spaying is highly recommended as entire bitches stand a much higher chance of contracting a pyometra and mammary tumours later in life.

Spaying does not put on weight, BUT it can alter the dog's metabolism which in turn can mean that the amount of food she's currently eating is too much, all too often we hear the words "oh we can't spay her she'd get too fat" when often all you need to do is reduce her intake of food to adjust to the change in metabolism.


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LIVING WITH: Saying Goodbye by Tania Holmes


A sad reality is that all life eventually comes to an end. Our pets are blessed in that we can prevent the suffering of a terminally ill dog that is not afforded to ourselves. We all hope that our dogs will die peacefully in their sleep and as shocking as it is to find your dog has died in the night one morning it's most certainly the nicest way for the dog to go. However, there are many situations when you have to call time and people often ask how they will know if it's the right time. Put simply you'll just know but don't allow any dog to suffer just because you can't bear to say goodbye.

Having to call time your bulldog's life is the most difficult thing you will ever have to do, but should you find yourself in a situation where it is necessary it will most likely be the kindest thing you could have ever done for him.  Don't not do it because it hurts you, they won't thank you for it in the long run.

The average lifespan of a bulldog is 8-13 years and it’s not unusual for them to suddenly grow old in a very short space of time. It's something that bulldog owners are not necessarily prepared for and it can come as a shock when your spritely bulldog suddenly stiffens up and isn't quite so active. It's a sad fact that the breed as a whole can suffer "sudden death". Again it's a nice way for the dog to go but its one hell of a shock for the owner who in some cases can take years to come to terms with what happened.

One of the hardest things that will ever happen to you is losing your bulldog; they have such a human personality and take so much looking after that it's only normal that you should feel the need to grieve your loss as you would any human member of your family. So many feel it's wrong to mourn a dog and certainly something that has been said to me; "It's just a dog" is not only insensitive but one of the most wicked things anyone can say to you. Allow yourself to mourn and take as long as you need, some want another dog straight away, others need to wait a long time before they feel ready to have another, but certainly one thing that happens to almost all of us is that no matter how much heartache your bulldog gave you, no matter how much he cost you and no matter how much his manners embarrassed you; you will almost definitely get another bulldog. One of the good things about having a dog with a human like personality is that they are all different, although they have specific bulldog traits such as the irrational fear of hoovers, bin liners and carrier bags; they also have very different personalities from each other so it's almost impossible to replace one bulldog with another.

Old age affects bulldogs the same as it affects any other mammal, arthritis, deafness, blindness, strokes, cancer and in some cases dementia can affect them all at some point and seeing your dog through his old age brings with it some real responsibility to get the timing right. Trust your instinct and listen to your dog.


Every one copes in different ways, it's very easy to dwell on that last day and forget that there was an entire life time ahead of that last awful moment. For some talking about their dog really helps, but others finding talking too upsetting. You have to deal with it in the way that suits you. Children find it particularly difficult to come to terms with, especially if they have never encountered a death before. There is a poem – ‘Rainbow Bridge’ that may help them to make some sense of it and I've found in the past that asking the child to paint a picture of their bulldog waiting at Rainbow Bridge gives them the opportunity to put it into some kind of perspective. It also gives you a focal point to talk to your child about what happened. No matter what your religion (if any) the thought of your dog waiting for you to join them is very comforting.

One of the saddest losses is on a dog that you've maybe not had for very long. It happens from time to time with rescue dogs, especially the older ones, I actually have a theory on dogs that leave their families soon after they have joined them. Read through the poem Rainbow Bridge - if it helps, I believe that these dogs don't leave until they've found the person they want to wait for. Sometimes these dogs have had awful pasts, or owners that were not particularly kind to them. Once they find you they realise they've found the one they want to wait for. It may not feel like it now, but take it as an honour.

Other dogs

Other dogs in your family will also miss a companion and it’s not unusual for them to pine or search for the one that has died. It often helps to change the routine, as dogs learn by association it often helps to change the old order so they become used to a different routine. Something that we’ve always done is to allow the other dogs to see the body of the one that has died, and if you plan to bury your dog in the garden (ensure there are no bylaws preventing you from doing this) allow them to attend the funeral, it just helps them understand so it doesn’t appear like the dog that has died has simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Thankfully the memory rarely lasts long and only after a few days or weeks the other dogs will appear to have moved on – don’t be offended if they do – it’s instinctive to them.


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DOG THEFT: What to do by Anna Strowgar

DOG THEFT by Anna Strowger

ONCE AGAIN THERE HAS BEEN A RISE IN DOG THEFT ALL BREEDS AND IN ALL AREAS...What can you do to prevent it happening to you?

DogLost reports of stolen dogs were 65% higher during lockdown 2020 compared with last year and rising week by week. Police have warned owners to be extra-vigilant in all areas at all times.

WHY are dogs stolen?

For a quick untraceable cash sale down the pub, from a garage or at car boot sale, etc, (its surprising how many people actually buy dogs in this way).

We know sadly some are used for breeding, often on puppy farms where they are kept hidden for years then dumped/disposed of when they can give no more. Puppies are moved from these farms to houses to sell so new owners have no idea where they were born or who in fact the mum was/is .

It is a sad fact that dog fighting still goes on today, so some are stolen to fight or used as bait dogs.

Dogs are stolen and kept unharmed by thieves who wait for a large cash reward to be offered/posted on Facebook sites then collect the money from unsuspecting traumatised owners.

One thing that has become more common is "unscrupulous" breeders stealing them back from new owners to resell (choose your breeder VERY carefully). Then there are the "false" stolen stories where owners try to claim on the insurance.

Domestic situations are common too with one partner claiming the other has stolen the dog, tricky to solve sometimes.

Make sure your dog is microchipped and that you keep your contact details up-to-date, especially if you move house or change your telephone number. If you fail to get your dog chipped (it is now the law), fail to keep the details up-to-date or your dog doesn’t wear a tag on their collar while out and about and you do not claim or prove you are the owner then your dog can be rehomed after 7 days.
Dogs and puppies in the UK must be microchipped by eight weeks old, by law. 

Your dog should always wear a collar and ID tag with your name, phone numbers and postcode area on it, avoid putting your dog’s name on the disc (that just helps a thief befriend your dog). This is a legal requirement when your dog is in a public place.

  • Take clear photographs of your dog from various angles and update them regularly. Make a note of any distinguishing features that your dog has.
  • Have lots of photographs of yourself and family with your dog to help you to prove ownership if needed (microchips can move and be tricky to find or sadly even be removed). Train your dog to come back when called, and never let them off the lead if you are not 100% sure they will come back to you. If in doubt, use an extending lead, especially if you are in an unfamiliar area where your dog may get lost more easily.
  • Think twice before leaving your dog tied up outside a shop. You will make them a vulnerable and tempting target for opportunist thieves.
  • Do not leave your dog alone in the car, even for a few minutes. Thieves can easily break into your car to steal your precious pet. Also do NOT leave your dogs in the boot of your car un-restrained (at any time, see the law)! Dogs can jump out, run away and get lost, thieves also watch for automatic car boots that open and they strike before you are out of the car!
  • Take care when choosing someone to care for your dog if you are going away from home or need a dog walker/day care whilst you go to work. Use a reputable company or boarding kennels and check references for people who provide dog or house-sitting services. Dogs have been stolen (lost deliberately) in this way.
  • At home, make sure your garden is secure and fit a bell to the gate so you hear if anyone opens it, CCTV, alarms and security lights are a must have. Check every day to see if your home has been marked by dog thieves e.g. chalk marks, cable ties, paint on posts, etc.
  • Try not to make it “too” obvious that you have dogs, especially desirable breeds. Letting your dog sit in the window if on view to the public, garden ornaments and decals on vehicles all draw attention to thieves, (if out and about in a vehicle with decals on them, check you are not followed home) and if on social media sites, do make sure only your family and friends can see your profile and remember to hide your exact location.
  • Keep your dogs in view in the garden, do not leave them outside unsupervised EVER and check your gates and fences for damage before letting them out.
  • If you are a breeder, sell or re-home dogs from your home take great care when inviting people in to view. Ideally have someone else present and limit the numbers of people you have at a time and ask them all to bring proof of ID.  
  • Beware of strangers asking you questions about your dog, cold callers, odd phone calls and any suspicious or unfamiliar vehicles parked nearby your home or hanging about while you are out on walks. Vary your times of walks and routes, some dogs are actually targeted and snatched during walks.
  • If your dog is lost or suspected stolen, it is important to act as quickly as you can, seconds and minutes quickly turn into hours and that’s lost time SO... 
  • Report the loss to your local council’s dog warden and those in all other neighbouring local authorities. Report the loss/theft to the microchip database, if your dog is scanned it will flag up as missing/stolen and this will also ensure that if anyone tries to re-register the chip number, you will be informed. Make sure local vets are aware in case someone hands your dog to them or takes your dog in for treatment following an RTA.
  • If you believe your pet has been stolen, report it to the police and insist it is recorded as a theft and not a lost animal. Ask for a crime reference number.

DogLost is a FREE service. We can have volunteers out searching within minutes, send out email alerts and make a poster for you and the public to share and print we also have Police support so it is really vital you register with DogLost ASAP!

Also contact our Bulldog Rescue Lost & Missing Facebook page, our BDR & DogLost Volunteer will help you immediately and depending on the circumstances, guide you through exactly what to do and what not to do...

Print and display posters in areas local to your home and also in relevant places such as vets, local parks, shops, garages, hand out to postmen, bin men, etc.
The poster should include a clear photograph, contact details and the circumstances. Report the loss on as many of the missing animals websites, selling sites and social media pages as soon as possible, ask someone else to help you do this as you will be busy doing other things.