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How to Care for English Bulldogs as They Grow Older
English Bulldogs are amazing, loyal companions. I love my bullies dearly, and would be totally crushed if anything happened to them. I’m sure you feel the same — because they become cherished family members.
But something important that you should know about English Bulldogs is their average lifespan. The documented lifespan of the average English Bulldog is 8 – 10 years. That’s not to say you can’t be the lucky one to beat those odds. Especially if you adhere to the recommended health, feeding, exercise, and general maintenance for the breed.
From personal experience, we were lucky enough for our bullie to live past that range. She lived to almost 12 years old. We also encountered more than a few challenges as she aged. Because caring for a senior English Bulldog is very different from caring for a puppy.
Many factors need to be considered to ensure they continue to live a happy and pain-free life, for as long as you have them. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want them to be with you for as long as possible.
Here are some things to keep in mind as your English Bulldog enters their senior years.
Older Bulldogs Develop Grey Muzzles
One of the first signs of aging in a senior bulldog is the development of a grey muzzle. While it progresses slowly, one day you might look at your girl and notice she has spots of white or grey on her face, her eyebrows, and throughout her muzzle. You’ll really notice it when comparing to pics from a few years back. So what does this mean?
Well, just like when humans start to develop grey hair, the same happens to your pets. Consider it a rite of passage, resulting in a more dignified look. Because your furry buddy has earned that grey muzzle, from years of fun, activity and love. So it’s nothing to be sad about, as their coat begins to lighten. It’s the mark of a well-lived life!
And by the way, the website GreyMuzzle.org is a fantastic resource for all things seniors. This is a site I referenced on many occasions, during the latter years of my senior girl’s life.
Pro Tip: Bulldog Nose Butter
Another tell tale sign of aging in English Bulldogs is a dry, crusty nose. And while it may make you want to put some sort of cream or lotion on it — DON’T!!! The active ingredients in these products could be painful for your pal, and may do more harm than good.
A product that I encountered years ago, and really stand by, is English Bulldog Nose Butter by The Blissful Dog.
It’s an all natural organic product, created in the USA (by an actual bulldog owner), and doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients. Kind of a smooth pasty substance, that you warm up between your fingers and then dab onto your senior English Bulldog’s nose.
The main ingredients are: shea butter, olive oil, castor oil, avocado oil, almond oil, coconut oil, beeswax, cocoa seed butter. There is a version that’s lightly scented with essential oils, and another unscented version.
And the 1-ounce container lasts FOREVER!!
Joint Issues/Arthritis in Senior Bulldogs
A common issue as English Bulldogs get older has to do with their aching joints, and the development of arthritis. As bulldogs age, their joints get a bit creaky and painful. When they wake up from naps, it’s sometimes difficult for them to raise themselves up. Exerting too much energy can also cause a fair bit of pain as they get older. And even houses or apartments with stairs can cause quite the dilemma for bulldogs with joint issues or arthritis.
Bringing your English bullie to regular vet appointments will go a long way in developing a proper care regimen. Your vet may potentially prescribe medication to ease a bit of your dog’s discomfort.
Another suggestion that your vet may make is to keep your bulldog’s weight down. Because having an overweight English Bulldog will cause extra stress to their joints. And that will make it all the harder for them to get around comfortably.
As my senior English Bulldog girl aged, I found several accessories and tools that really helped us get through daily challenges. One such item was a doggie stroller.
Yes, you heard that correctly — Doggie. Stroller.
I made this purchase because I knew my girl really loved being outdoors, and felt bad she could no longer go for long walks. I purchased this dog stroller online and didn’t regret it one bit.
Because you should’ve seen how happy it made her to go for walks together. I swear, her face would just light up when I would lace up my sneakers and tell her we were going on a “strollie-ride”.
Senior English Bulldog Stroller for Mobility Issues
Here are a few pics of my girl Snoopy in her stroller, “Big Red”. She loved when we went for walks together, and would sit up proudly as her mama pushed her through the neighborhood.
While I did get some funny looks at times, I also received a lot of encouragement from people who would actually stop to comment how happy my girl looked. Because dog-people get it — we do whatever we can to keep our pals happy.
“Bottoms Up” Support Harness for Senior Bulldogs
Another great product I discovered during my English Bulldog’s senior years was this “Bottoms Up” rear support harness.
This tool was absolutely instrumental in getting her up stairs as she got older. It was also extremely helpful when I had to bring her to the vet’s office, since it was a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the front door.
I will say, when I purchased this item for my senior English Bulldog back in 2012, it cost less than $20. From what I’m seeing on Amazon as of this posting, the price is significantly higher. Maybe it’s a fluke, or maybe it’s a seasonal thing. But please shop around to make sure you’re finding an appropriate price.
Something else to be aware of, it make take a bit of time to develop a knack for using this harness on your English Bulldog. And really, it’s not a tool to use for a senior dog whose back legs are not functional at all. It’s more to assist those who need a bit of support to walk.
And finally, as my girl aged, I wound up having to carry her around quite a bit. This is one of the parts where it’s crucial to keep their weight down. Because lifting up and carrying a 58lb English Bulldog up a flight of stairs is not an easy feat.
But bottom line, we do what we have to do, for the ones we love.
And if had come to the point where she could not move her back legs at all, I would have gladly gotten her a set of her very own wheels.
Incontinence in Older English Bulldogs
One of the more heartbreaking aspects of my girl becoming a senior was when she started to become incontinent. This was something that started slowly, but then began occurring more often. At first, we thought it was just a fluke — a day of over-excitement, or someone didn’t take her outside when they should’ve. But as it started happening more frequently, we came to realize she could no longer hold her bladder as well as she used to.
At this point in time, we knew she was getting older but she was still full of life. So a few things we tried to help in this situation were doggie diapers, human diapers, and even human incontinence pads. The incontinence pads were a clever idea, however didn’t last long because we couldn’t place them in the exact location to be effective. Doggie diapers are great for a lot of dogs, but they’re expensive and don’t fit the sizing requirements of a bulldog. English Bulldogs have small hips but a large middle. It’s difficult to get anything to stay on their bottom halves.
Senior Bulldog Incontinence Products
What we eventually wound up using were regular toddler diapers, with a small hole cut in the back. (Our girl was an Olde English Bulldogge, which means she had a tail. Standard English Bulldogs do not have long tails, they’re born with little corkscrew or cinnamon bun tails.)
In order to keep the diapers in place, we bought diaper pants for dogs, like the ones below. These would hold the actual diapers in place.
And then I found this great seller on Etsy who made custom doggie suspenders, to actually hold the pants up.
Believe me, we did EVERYTHING we could to make our girl’s life easier. And if that meant dressing her in suspenders, I was more than willing to accommodate!
Another product that I recently was made aware of is the DoggieLawn Eco-Friendly Disposable Indoor Litter Box with REAL Living Grass. It’s a super cool concept for senior dog parents, apartment dwellers, and even those who have to endure the snowy winter months. They have a subscription-based program where real, natural grass is delivered (available in various sizes). They even include a training program to get your pup acclimated to the grass, as well as some pheromone spray to help entice them to “go”.
My current pooch is an adult, but not yet a senior.. so I am trying to familiarize her with the concept, but don’t necessarily require it at this phase in her life. But who knows.. if we have a crazy New England winter, she may decide to do her business on the DoggieLawn, rather than having to brave the outdoors. Here is a pic of me introducing Layla to the new indoor grass — she appears to be acclimating nicely!
Decreased Hearing and Eye Sight in Senior Bulldogs
As English Bulldogs get older, they sometimes become hard of hearing, or develop sight issues. These are important details to keep in mind, and you may need to modify your living arrangement to accommodate. Because if your senior bulldog isn’t able to see well, they may walk into furniture or objects, or risk a fall down stairs. You’ll need to make sure proper boundaries or gates are in place to keep them safe.
And if your senior English Bulldog is hard of hearing, be mindful when approaching from behind. Because if they don’t hear you walking up behind them, or calling their name, they may be startled if you reach out to pet them.
Weight Gain in Bulldogs as They Become Older
One of the more common effects of aging in English Bulldog is decreased mobility, which can then lead to weight gain. As your bulldog gets older, he’ll have a little less pep in his step, as compared to when he was a puppy. This can be due to joint issues, because if his legs are hurting, he won’t want to run and jump around. So less activity means he’s burning off less calories. And we all know what happens then — weight gain.
Which then starts to make matters worse, since the additional weight on their creaky joints will make them want to be even less active. A way to get around this is to make sure you are only feeding them recommended dog food, and not giving table scraps or too many treats. Because once a senior bulldog starts to gain weight, it becomes extremely difficult to take it back off.
Senior Bulldogs who are Picky Eaters
I’m not exactly sure why this would be, but something I noticed as my senior English Bulldog aged was that she longer had the same appetite as when she was younger.
She wasn’t interested in treats or snacks that she used to absolutely LOVE, like cheese or turkey. This made certain things difficult as she got older, such as trying to get her to take medicine. I could no longer hide her pills in little morsels of food, because she would just spit it back out. The only suggestion I would have for this issue would be not to give too many treats (or human food) to your English Bulldog when they are younger. (Which is an overall general recommendation regardless.)
But it would stand to reason if your bullie isn’t used to receiving such extravagant “treats”, then they might be more receptive in their senior years, if you need to sneak a pill or two in something totally awesome and unexpected. Of course, this would be last resort — because you don’t want to introduce unhealthy food into their diets at any point — that could be disastrous. But if you’re at your wit’s end, using an “extra-special yet still acceptable” treat could be an option. (Again, this is only a potential suggestion, and I am not a vet. Always reference professionals first, with any diet-related questions.)
Dental Issues as Bulldogs Get Older
Some things to watch out for as your senior English Bulldog gets older is with their dental health. Bad breath, visible plaque, or inflamed gums are all signs of dental issues. Our older girl never had particularly bad breath, however we learned the hard way that she was developing plaque which eventually led to breakage. Her teeth were apparently eroding from the inside out, which caused them to be brittle.
One day she was chewing on a toy, and then all of a sudden we heard a snap. One of her front canines was found laying on the carpet. (Which I do actually have a picture of somewhere, and will update once I find it.) This resulted in her needing a canine root canal, which was quite costly and scary — especially since she had to go under anesthesia, which is always difficult for an English Bulldog of any age.
Behavioral Changes in Aging Bulldogs
And another quick thing to keep in mind — as English Bulldogs begin to get older, their behavior may change as well. They may not be as patient as they used to be, and not as tolerant with other dogs, especially puppies. The same might be said for young children, who tend to be unpredictable (although there have never been young children in my household, so my dogs have never really been around kids.)
Behavioral changes could occur for many reasons. But as I’m sure you could imagine, being in pain and no longer having the same level of mobility would probably make you a little cranky as well. Couple that with reduced hearing and eyesight, and you might react differently to loud noises or surprises that appear to come out of nowhere. The best you can do for your senior English Bulldog is keep their environment calm & controlled, so they don’t need to react to newer things. A calm bulldog is a happy bulldog.
Most Importantly for English Bulldog Seniors
Remember that they truly love their owners. And their love for you will continue to grow incrementally as they age. So even though it’s super hard to see your furry pal grow older, it’s crucial they know you plan on staying with them until the very end.
Because when that final, sad day comes, it’ll truly mean the world to them if you’re there to support them along the way. You owe it to your best friend to remain by their side, just as they’ve done for you their entire short lives.
Caring for the Needs of Your Senior English Bulldog
Robin is a long-time bulldog enthusiast, and dedicated bullie mama.
She spends most of her days surrounded by grunty and slobbery bundles of joy, and wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, she loves her dogs more than most people (only slightly kidding…) But she also enjoys sharing her personal stories and experience related to this amazing and unique breed.