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Bull terrier health issues exposed

Common Bull Terrier Health Issues – Advice from a Vet

Bull terriers are an adorable and fun-loving dog breed that has risen to fame in recent years as the “Target” dog. Their adorable looks and fierce loyalty towards their family make them wonderful pets. But are there any downsides to this pure-breed pet? Are there any bull terrier health issues to be aware of before you adopt one?

Let’s dive into the positives and negatives about this famously classic breed!

So what are Bull Terriers?

Bull terriers were bred as a cross between the old English terrier and the bulldog in England during the 19th century. The cross of breeds drew the strength and tenacity of the bulldog but the intensity, alertness, agility, and “game” nature of the terrier. James Hinks Birmingham of England was the bull terrier breeder who gave the dogs the classic look we see today. He cross bred them with his white bulldog and white English terrier (now extinct) and nicknamed them the “white cavaliers.” They became popular and very fashionable breeds to own.

Fun Fact – A rhyme of the time best describes the popularity of the bull terrier in the 19th century:

“Found a Bull Terrier a tattered old bum; Made him a dog for a gentleman’s chum.”

The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1885. Then in the early 20th century, the breed was crossed with a Staffordshire bull terrier, adding color to the coat. The “colored” variety of this breed was then recognized by the AKC in 1936.

Today, bull terriers are primarily family pets, but some of their personality traits makes them a poor breed choice for many families.

Common Personality Traits of Bull Terriers

  • Gentle, affectionate, and playful with family members
  • Loyal pets who guard their families
  • Protective of their family, their own space, toys, and food. Socialize them around strangers, but don’t encourage aggressive or guarding behavior. Catch aggression early and correct it consistently, as it can lead to serious behavior problems.
  • Caution around strangers, children, and other animals is essential, so socializing them early as puppies and consistently can help mitigate these behavior tendencies.
  • High energy

Typical Physical Traits of the Bull Terrier

  • 2 sizes: standard and miniature
  • Dolichocephalic (long face) – The most distinctive feature of the bull terrier is its head – which is like an egg but flat on top.
  • Eyes are small, dark, and close-set
  • Upright, naturally pointy ears
  • Broad body, and the back is short and strong with a medium length tail

Standard Size

  • Males range from 55 to 65 pounds and stand at about 22 inches in height.
  • Females range from 45 to 55 pounds and stand at about 21 inches in height.

Miniature Size

  • Maximum of about 14 inches high and weigh up to about 33 pounds


  • Short and dense fur
  • White, black, brindle, red, fawn, or tri-colored
  • Average shedders with low maintenance grooming requirements

Average life span

  • About 10 to 20 years

Keep These Common Bull Terrier Health Issues in Mind

Conditions common to the bull terrier breed include but are not limited to the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Deafness
  • Luxating Patella – a kneecap that ‘pops out’ or moves out of its normal location. The knee joint connects the femur, (thighbone) and the tibia (shinbone). The patella (kneecap) is normally located in a groove called the trochlear groove, found at the end of the femur. The term luxating means out-of-place or dislocated.
  • Eyes disorders
    • Ectropion is a condition in which your dog’s lower eyelid rolls away from the eye, resulting in a droopy appearance and exposing the delicate mucous membrane or conjunctiva, which is not meant to be exposed.
    • Keratitis Sicca (dry eye) is a common eye condition resulting from inadequate production of the aqueous portion of the tear film by the lacrimal gland and/or gland of the third eyelid.
  • Bull terriers are big eaters, and monitoring their food intake is extremely important as they have a tendency for obesity.
  • Skin Allergies – Bull terriers can suffer from a high rate of allergies that cause skin itching and secondary infections, including ear infections.

When looking for standard or miniature bull terrier breeders, keep these health issues in mind. Ensure your chosen breeder can produce paperwork showing a clean bill of health for your pup’s parents.

Pet Insurance for Bull Terriers

Regardless of the breed of dog you choose, pet ownership is a huge responsibility – both timewise and financially. While adjusting schedules to include a new pup comes as second nature to many, thinking about affordable pet care options is often something new pet owners overlook.

But the good news is that you CAN prepare for some of the financial responsibilities of pet ownership!

Pet insurance for dogs can be a helpful tool in keeping your new family member in tip top shape! The very best time to invest in a pet insurance plan for your bull terrier is as a healthy puppy. You can’t predict the future, but having pet insurance is one thing you can do to help alleviate financial burdens of bull terrier health issues later in life.

Purchasing pet insurance for puppies, before any common bull terrier health issues arise, can help protect you from potentially expensive veterinary bills. Pet insurance can also provide financial coverage for the wellness preventative care of your pet (yearly bloodwork, vaccinations, routine dental cleanings). These regular visits can also be expensive over your pet’s lifetime. Investing in a pet insurance plan, like Spot Pet Insurance, while your furbaby is still young helps you to do whatever your pet will need over their lifetime without financial constraints and limitations.

Final Thoughts on Bull Terrier Health Issues and Common Traits

Bull terriers are loving, affectionate, intelligent, and loyal companions. They will provide their owners with years of unwavering love and happiness.

Choose your bull terrier puppy from a reputable breeder who genetically tests the parents for common diseases. Seek out a breeder who participates in the Bull Terrier Club of America program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). Before a bull terrier becomes CHIC-certified, the breeder must submit tests evaluating the dog for deafness, heart disease, knee problems, and kidney disease. BTCA’s code of ethics also recommends genetic testing for all dogs who will be used for breeding.

Regardless of clean bills of health from both parents, one of the number one things I would tell any new pet parent is to invest in pet insurance early. You’ll set you and your pup up for a long life of health, happiness, and wellness.

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