Every breed of dog needs regular grooming but English bulldogs need extra attention. Despite their short coat, they require more grooming than some other breeds.
So, how often do you need to groom your bulldog? The frequency of baths for your bulldog is dependent on their individual skin, the amount of time they spend outdoors, and their tendency to play in any messes they can find. Other aspects of grooming, like cleaning their wrinkles and brushing their teeth, should be done every day.
Regular grooming and preventative care will keep your dog happy and healthy and decrease the time and money spent at a visit to the veterinarian.
Luckily, it is usually easy to perform the regular grooming that bulldogs need, but it does require that you set aside time each day. In this article, we are going to explain how, when, and why to perform each part of the grooming routine and give you some helpful tips along the way.
Why should I bathe my English bulldog regularly?
One of the reasons to groom your English bulldog regularly is to keep them comfortable. Dirty skin and wrinkles can be bothersome and lead to your dog itching and scratching at their body or face.
Unfortunately, our pets cannot tell us when they feel uncomfortable, so it is up to pet owners to keep a regular grooming schedule.
Another reason to groom your bulldog regularly is to prevent infections. English bulldogs are known for their frequent skin and ear infections, as well as infections underneath their docked tail. They are also prone to allergies that can affect their skin in various ways.
As pet owners, we all like to minimize the costs of veterinary visits while still providing the best care possible to our companions. Preventative care like bathing, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing all decrease costs in the long run.
They can help reduce vet visits for preventable problems if you are proactive and perform them regularly. We will dive into this further in a few minutes.
What skin problems are common in English bulldogs?
So now you might be saying to yourself, “Skin problems? I thought short-haired breeds had less grooming, not more.”
Unfortunately, English bulldogs have a reputation, but regular grooming and monitoring of skin health can help prevent some of these issues. What are some common problems for this breed?
- Atopic dermatitis: The term “dermatitis” simply means inflammation of the skin. Atopic dermatitis is caused by environmental allergens like pollen or dust mites.
- Flea allergy dermatitis: Some dogs are allergic to a protein in the saliva of fleas. A flea bite can cause symptoms of dermatitis for a few days.
- Food allergies: Allergies to a specific ingredient in dog food may also cause skin problems.
- Yeast dermatitis: This is caused by an infection of the skin by the yeast organism Malassezia. It usually occurs at the same time as atopic dermatitis.
- Secondary skin infections: Your bulldog may also develop a bacterial skin infection along with one or more of the previously mentioned problems.
The common symptoms of the skin issues include redness of the skin, greasy skin, itching, and a foul odor. Your bulldog may also develop “hotspots,” where the skin is red, raw, and bald.
These problems can affect the skin almost anywhere on the body, including the ears, tail and face wrinkles, and paws.
What can you do if you see the signs of a skin problem developing? The best answer is always to call or email your vet.
Many of these problems require a prescription medication to resolve, and veterinarians need to diagnose the exact problem to ensure the correct course of treatment.
In general, bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, and yeast infections are treated with antifungal medications. Your veterinarian will probably encourage you to use flea and tick control to prevent flea allergies (and other diseases).
In some cases, steroids may need to be used to reduce severe inflammation and itching. Another possible treatment is an allergy shot, depending on the cause of the problem.
If the problem turns out to be minor, like dry skin, you can change your bathing routine and shampoo to improve skin health.
How do you bathe your English bulldog?
Now that we’ve covered the common skin problems and symptoms, let’s talk about creating a good grooming routine to help prevent them.
It is recommended to bathe your English bulldog once every one to three months. The frequency depends on activity level, time spent outdoors, and skin sensitivities.
The exception is if a veterinarian prescribes a medicated shampoo to be used frequently as a treatment for skin problems, or if they recommend more frequent baths for other reasons.
English Bulldog Puppies
You should begin acclimating your dog to baths when they are a puppy, but wait until they are at least three months old. Find a shampoo that is formulated specifically for puppies, is gentle on the skin, and is tear-less.
Take extra caution to keep shampoo out of their face and water out of their ears. Use water that is a comfortable temperature, where it is warm but not hot. Use a cup to pour it over your puppy instead of placing them under a faucet or in standing water.
Introduction to baths and your puppy’s first experiences with them will set the tone for the rest of their lives. It is important that baths are a positive experience.
If your puppy gets scared, they will be more resistant to future baths, and the stress could compound each time and make the problem worse.
Be sure to act calm, introduce water and shampoo slowly, and reward the puppy with treats during and after (peanut butter smeared on tile or bathtub sides works great).
Do not force them to continue if they are scared or uncomfortable (unless you need to get the rest of the shampoo off, in which case be gentle and go slow).
Adult English Bulldogs
Some of the same rules apply to bathe your adult bulldog as bathing a puppy. Make it a pleasant experience with treats, or even a toy, as you wash, rinse, and dry.
As with puppies, make sure that water does not enter the ear canal, as it could lead to ear infections.
Choosing a Shampoo
There are tons of shampoos for dogs on the market, and if your bulldog has normal, healthy skin, you can easily find one to fit your needs.
It is recommended that you choose a gentle shampoo that is also moisturizing to prevent dry skin. Here’s a list of some ingredients to look for according to a veterinarian (source):
- Oatmeal base
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Aloe vera
Try to find a shampoo that is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic as well. Some dogs are sensitive to certain ingredients and fragrances. No matter what shampoo you use on your dog, be sure to rinse it off completely.
If your bulldog has a skin problem, such as one of the ones we discussed earlier, your vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo. They will also give you directions on how often to bathe your dog and how to use the product correctly.
These shampoos can contain ingredients that may be familiar to you, as some are also commonly used for human ailments. Some of these ingredients are:
- Ketoconazole: antifungal
- Chlorhexidine: antimicrobial
- Salicylic acid: antifungal
- Benzoyl peroxide: antimicrobial, antifungal
Always purchase medicated shampoo from a veterinarian and follow the directions to ensure that you are using it safely.
How do you clean an English bulldog’s wrinkles?
Bathing your English bulldog is just the beginning of a complete grooming routine. Another important step is cleaning their wrinkles. Without proper maintenance, their wrinkles can not only become dirty and smell, but the skin can become infected.
It is also recommended to clean underneath their docked tail if possible, as this is another place that can harbor bacteria and dirt.
To clean their wrinkles, you can use unscented, hypoallergenic baby wipes or wipes specifically made for dogs, and then follow with a cotton ball to dry. Gently wipe underneath the skin folds once a day.
If there are symptoms of infection like discharge, excess debris or moisture, or a foul smell, contact your veterinarian. They can prescribe medicated wipes or ointments based on the cause of the problem.
It is important to introduce this cleaning to your puppy. Start slowly and get them used to their head and face being touched before trying to clean. Once they are comfortable with handling, you can then use a wipe or cotton ball with water to wipe their face.
Like bathing, do not go too fast, and stop if your puppy is getting stressed. Be sure to reward them with treats throughout the whole process. Unlike adults, you do not need to clean your puppy’s wrinkles every day.
Eventually, your puppy will get accustomed to this part of the grooming routine.
What other grooming do English bulldogs need?
There are a few more things that you need to incorporate into your grooming routine for your English bulldog. Implementing these last three things will drastically improve your dog’s quality of life in the long run and are easy to do.
Brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the best things you can do to ensure their long-term health. Daily brushing can help prevent periodontal disease, or severe gum infection, which can lead to heart, liver, or kidney problems if left untreated (source).
The treatment for periodontal disease is a dental procedure with your veterinarian, which can cost thousands of dollars if your dog has damaged teeth.
Annual dental cleanings with your veterinarian and daily brushing are the best ways to maintain oral health and avoid the costs associated with periodontal disease.
Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a flat head. Toothpaste that is specially formulated for dogs can be helpful if they like the taste, but it is not necessary. Be sure to brush all surfaces of your dog’s teeth.
As with other grooming procedures, introduce the new steps slowly. Start with touching your dog’s mouth and lifting their lip before using a toothbrush. Show them the toothbrush and feed them peanut butter or another treat.
Do not be discouraged if it takes a few days or weeks before your dog allows the toothbrush in their mouth. Give treats throughout the process and be patient.
The Fear Free website has a great article with detailed steps to take to acclimate your dog (Fear Free is an American Animal Hospital Association program).
Another common problem is ear infections. Ears make the perfect home for bacteria and yeast to grow and multiply, creating an uncomfortable situation for your dog.
Your dog may scratch their ears, frequently shake their head, or hold their head at a tilt if they have an infection. The ear may also have a foul smell, debris, or discharge. Call your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.
Sometimes, the ears are just dirty, and your veterinarian will recommend an ear cleaner and cleaning them at home.
It is best to consult with your veterinarian about which cleaner to use, as some cleaners are too drying or otherwise not appropriate for your dog. They will also let you know how often to clean the ears.
Cleaning the ears at home is simple. Place the bottle of ear cleaner in a bath of warm (NOT hot) water to bring it to a comfortable temperature.
Then hold your dog’s ear flap up, place the opening of the bottle into the ear, and gently squeeze the cleaner into the ear canal.
Massage the base of the ear and then wipe it out with cotton balls. Feed your dog treats throughout the process to help make it a positive experience. There is another great article from Fear Free on making ear cleaning less stressful.
Regular nail trims are another recommended step of your regular grooming routine. It is best to start trimming your dog’s nails when they are a puppy.
Handle their paws frequently to get them used to their paws being touched. Use small nail clippers to take off just the very tip of your puppy’s nails.
Feed treats in between each nail to make the experience pleasant.
When your dog becomes an adult, be consistent with trimming their nails. Long nails can be painful for your dog when they walk, and they can catch on things or crack more easily. Use sharp nail trimmers, dull ones can splinter or crush the nail instead of cutting it.
Be very mindful of your dog’s nail quickly. This is the fleshy part inside of the nail that has many blood vessels and nerve endings. It is often able to be seen if your dog has white nails, but not if they have black nails.
Start at the very tip of the nail and trim off little amounts to avoid cutting into their quick. The quick often begins in the area where the nail starts to curve down. In dogs that have not had regular nail trims, the quick might be longer, so be careful when trimming.
If trimming your bulldog’s nails seems intimidating, do not worry! Many veterinary hospitals will trim your dog’s nails or be happy to demonstrate how to do it at home.
Your English bulldog needs a regular grooming routine to maintain optimal health and quality of life.
Regular bathing, cleaning, brushing, and trimming will keep your bulldog comfortable and (hopefully) decrease the number of extra visits to the veterinarian.
Establishing good preventative care and grooming routine is one of the best things you can do for your companion.
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