Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
English Bulldogs are adorable — just look at their undershot jaw, shallow eye sockets, and heavy wrinkles on their faces.
Unfortunately, these unique traits also cause eye problems that may lead to complete loss of the eyes and permanent blindness.
The most common English Bulldog eye problems are entropion, ectropion, cherry eye, distichiasis, and ectopic cilia. Genetic disorders and traits unique to English Bulldogs usually cause these eye problems; however, contact with sharp objects can cause others.
English Bulldogs are prone to eye problems, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything for them.
Using my background in veterinary medicine, I will go through some of the most common English Bulldog eye problems and provide you with the possible treatments for them.
Stick around because this can ensure that your Bulldog has good eye health.
A genetic disorder causes entropion; it’s one of the most common eye problems for English Bulldogs, and it can hit them suddenly.
It’s a condition that leads to the inward rolling of the eyelid edges, directly correlated to the amount of skin on a Bulldog’s head.
When entropion happens, the eyelashes will rub the cornea every time they blink, causing corneal ulcers leading to infection or blindness.
This problem can also cause skin fold dermatitis, leading to severe itch that makes them want to rub their faces close to their eyes.
When English Bulldogs continue to wipe their faces, it can ultimately lead to corneal trauma, making immediate medical attention crucial.
Without it, entropion can make it very painful for English Bulldogs even to blink.
Below, we’ll discuss the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of entropion.
Common Symptoms of Entropion
One of the first symptoms that you’ll notice from a Bulldog with entropion is squinting.
It often affects both eyes, so you’ll also see excessive eye rubbing, teary eyes, bloodshot eyes, or a milky cloud that appears on parts — or sometimes even on the whole — eye.
Entropion requires immediate medical attention.
If left untreated, the blood vessels in their eyes will bulge, and the cornea will protrude from their eyes, making it more painful for them to blink.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Entropion
Entropion is a genetic disorder that can happen to flat-face dogs with excessive skin.
In most cases, it’ll require corrective surgery to remove the excess skin, allowing the English Bulldog to blink smoothly.
However, many veterinarians will delay the surgery until full maturity to avoid the risks associated with anesthesia.
Simply put, the fewer surgeries Bulldogs go through, the better it is for them.
So during this time, your vet will provide you with temporary fixes to minimize the pain your Bulldog is experiencing.
You can also use an eye lubricant to help ease the pain that your Bulldog experiences until you see a vet.
Although it’s not a treatment, it’ll help prevent further eye damage until your dog is ready for surgery.
Ectropion is another genetic disorder that happens in younger Bulldogs.
As opposed to entropion, ectropion is the outward rolling of the eyelids that leaves the delicate tissue underneath exposed.
When parts of their eyes remain exposed, it can cause pink eye, corneal inflammation, or corneal ulcers.
These eye conditions can be excruciating for dogs and can even lead to scarring and permanent blindness.
Let’s talk about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of ectropion in Bulldogs.
Common Symptoms of Ectropion
The first symptom you’ll notice when your Bulldog has ectropion is the severe sagging of the bottom eyelids.
It also usually comes with a thick, slimy discharge coming from the inside of the lower eyelids, and it often affects both eyes.
The eyes of Bulldogs with ectropion may appear reddish and swollen.
They’ll also show excessive tearing that can leave brown stains under their eyes.
Bulldogs will exhibit a seemingly intense urge to rub the area around the eyes if they suffer from ectropion.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Ectropion
Ectropion is an eye condition that requires immediate medical attention.
However, the treatment needed for it will depend on its severity.
Veterinarians will only provide you with eye lubricant or ointment and antibiotic eye drops in less severe cases.
In severe cases, a Bulldog may need to undergo a corrective surgical procedure.
In some cases, even if the surgery was successful, Bulldogs may still need eye drops throughout their lifetime.
Like entropion, a veterinarian may decide to delay the operation until full maturity to reduce the number of times a Bulldog goes through surgery.
Since ectropion develops in the early stages of life, there’s a good chance that they’ll require another surgery in the future.
Unlike humans, dogs have three eyelids — the third eyelid is behind the lower eyelid, also known as the nictitating membrane.
When this third eyelid “pops out,” it’s a condition we know as cherry eye, which is, perhaps, the most common eye problem for English Bulldogs.
Fortunately, cherry eye in itself isn’t life-threatening and isn’t considered a medical emergency.
However, it often develops during the puppy stage and can lead to other more serious eye complications.
It’s also not as painful as other eye conditions for English Bulldogs, but it can restrict eyesight and cause irritation.
So, even without causing serious health issues, it’s still best to have it treated.
Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of cherry eye:
Common Symptoms of Cherry Eye
Cherry eye, as the name suggests, is a cherry-like mass that protrudes under the lower eyelid.
It usually affects both eyes, but it’s also possible to start with one eye — and if it does, you’ll have to keep monitoring the other eye.
Although it’s a common symptom, irritated glands don’t necessarily mean that your Bulldog suffers from a cherry eye.
You may also want to look into other symptoms such as discharge, excessive tearing, or draining from the eye.
If your Bulldog isn’t showing any of these symptoms, it’s best to visit your vet for a physical examination.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Cherry Eye
In many cases, owners will resort to home treatment to resolve a cherry eye, massaging it back into place.
It works, and it’s very easy to do because it’s not a life-threatening condition.
However, there’s a high probability that the cherry eye will prolapse.
Tacking through surgery is a common method that veterinarians use for treating a cherry eye.
It’s simple; it only requires one stitch, and no cuts are necessary. However, there’s also a high chance of prolapsing at a later stage.
Removing the cherry eye through corrective surgery is the most complicated but highly effective way of treating it.
However, it’s always not the best treatment because it also removes the tear glands, which can cause other complications for Bulldogs.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or simply known as dry eyes, is a condition related to the inflammation of the cornea due to excessive dryness of the eyes.
In a nutshell, Bulldogs suffering from KCS mean that they aren’t producing enough tears to lubricate their eyes.
It usually appears in middle-aged Bulldogs, and the condition affects both eyes.
However, if you look closely at it, you’ll notice that one eye is more severe than the other.
The most common cause of KCS is a genetic disorder. Still, it can also be caused by trauma, neurological disorders, drugs, hormones, or even removing the cherry eye.
Let’s discuss keratoconjunctivitis sicca, including its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Common Symptoms of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca
If your Bulldog is suffering from keratoconjunctivitis sicca, the first symptom that you’ll see is a thick, yellowish or greenish discharge.
It happens because the body is compensating for the lack of lubrication in the eyes.
KCS is usually accompanied by squinting, rapid blinking, or — in some cases — English Bulldogs would keep their eyes shut.
You’ll also notice redness around the cornea and foggy (cloudy) cornea that can be very painful for Bulldogs.
In severe cases, KCS can even lead to partial blindness or infection that can progress to other more serious eye conditions.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca
A tear production test is the best way to determine whether a Bulldog is suffering from KCS or not. Normal English Bulldogs will have 20mm (0.79in) or more wetting per minute, which is more than enough to keep their eyes healthy.
However, a result of 15 to 19mm (0.59 to 0.04in) wetting per minute could be a sign that your Bulldog is going through the early stages of KCS.
Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for KCS, and a Bulldog suffering from it needs daily or weekly medications to stimulate tear production.
It can either be ointments or eye drops. Still, owners will have to commit to regular management to keep it under control once it worsens.
Ulcerative keratitis, or corneal ulcers, is one of the most serious eye conditions for English Bulldogs.
They’re extremely painful and require immediate medical attention. Without it, corneal ulcers can lead to permanent blindness or even complete loss of eyes.
There are several causes for ulcerative keratitis, but the most common is trauma to the eyes.
It can happen because of excessive rubbing, scratches, or contact with sharp objects.
Chemical burns can also cause ulcerative keratitis, usually following soap or shampoo getting inside the Bulldog’s eyes.
Here’s what you need to know about ulcerative keratitis, featuring its symptoms, diagnosis, and potential treatment options:
Common Symptoms of Ulcerative Keratitis
The symptoms of ulcerative keratitis are similar to other eye conditions, like discharge and excessive rubbing.
You might even see Bulldogs rubbing their eyes on the carpet to help them relieve the pain.
Sometimes, Bulldogs suffering from corneal ulcers will keep their eyes shut to minimize their pain.
Since all of these symptoms are also signs of other eye conditions, it’s best to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The severity of corneal ulcers will depend on how long it took for the medical intervention to occur.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Ulcerative Keratitis
The procedure and length of treatment needed to treat ulcerative keratitis depend on the condition’s severity.
However, in most cases, it involves an antibiotic ointment that’ll help alleviate the spread of the infection and minimize discomfort.
Although it wouldn’t require major corrective surgeries to deal with it, it’s still important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Delays with the treatment can result in more severe health issues and complete loss of eyes.
Distichiasis is an eye condition caused by a genetic disorder where English Bulldogs grow eyelashes in abnormal locations on the eyelids.
They don’t usually grow eyelashes on the lower eyelids. Still, there are cases where they grow a whole row of eyelashes on it.
This condition can lead to eyelashes poking through the eyes, which can be very painful for dogs.
Sometimes, it feels as if their eyes are getting punctured by a needle.
In a way, distichiasis is similar to entropion; although it’s less severe, it’s still a condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Let’s talk about distichiasis in English Bulldogs.
Common Symptoms of Distichiasis
The symptoms that English Bulldogs will experience if they have distichiasis are similar to entropion.
There will be a thick, slimy discharge on the portion of the affected eye.
However, unlike entropion, distichiasis can affect the lower or upper part of the eye.
English Bulldogs suffering from distichiasis may be squinting or excessively rubbing their eyes.
Over time, it can lead to scarring, bloodshot eyes, teary eyes, or the formation of milky clouds around the eye, which can impair their vision.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Distichiasis
The treatment needed for distichiasis will depend on the severity or how bad the abnormal eyelashes affect the eyes.
A veterinarian may only provide you with an eye lubricant in less severe cases and won’t require a surgical procedure to remove the eyelash.
However, if the growth of eyelashes is already damaging the corneas, vets may decide to undergo surgery to remove the eyelashes.
Although it doesn’t often happen due to the risks involved in going through multiple surgeries, it’s still one of the best treatments for English Bulldogs to get rid of distichiasis.
Ectopic cilia refer to the abnormal growth of one or more hairs on the upper eyelid of Bulldogs.
It’s different from distichiasis, but both conditions can cause damage to the cornea, and they both have the same symptoms and pain — eyes getting punctured by a “needle.”
This eye problem is a genetic disorder common in English Bulldogs and usually occurs in the early stages of life.
If you suspect that your Bulldog suffers from ectopic cilia, seek medical attention immediately.
Further exposure of the cornea to the hair can lead to corneal ulcers or other more severe eye problems that can eventually lead to permanent blindness.
Below, you’ll learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of ectopic cilia.
Common Symptoms of Ectopic Cilia
The eye and conjunctiva of English Bulldogs with ectopic cilia may appear reddish and inflamed due to excessive discharge or tearing.
It’s a way for the body to lubricate the affected eye, but it can also pose serious health issues for your dog.
Bulldogs that are suffering from ectopic cilia will also rub their paws on the affected area.
You may even notice your English Bulldog squinting or blinking rapidly. In some cases, they’ll keep their eyes shut to minimize the discomfort.
Remember, distichiasis and ectopic cilia may have similar symptoms. It can be challenging for most people to determine which of these two causes discomfort for their dogs.
Seek medical attention to get a proper physical examination and treatment.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Ectopic Cilia
Veterinarians can diagnose ectopic cilia through a physical examination, which can be very uncomfortable for the dog.
That’s why vets may need to use sedatives to conduct a thorough examination of the affected eye and assess the damage.
The best way to treat ectopic cilia is through the removal of the hair together with the glands.
After the surgery, the vet may provide you with medicated eye drops to assist in recovering your English Bulldog and stop any possible infection from occurring.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM)
When English Bulldogs are born, their eyes have membranes that provide nourishment for the lenses of their eyes.
These membranes break down over time, but there are times when they persist — hence persistent pupillary membranes.
PPM is a hereditary condition that may or may not be dangerous for Bulldogs, depending on whether it breaks down or not.
In many cases, the membrane breaks down eight weeks after birth, but persistent membranes that don’t break down may cause problems with their vision later in life.
Let’s discuss more about persistent pupillary membranes.
Common Symptoms of Persistent Pupillary Membranes
English Bulldogs with PPM have a very distinct symptom — white strands on the eye lenses.
Over time, these strands can break down, but they may also persist even later in life.
You may also notice that your Bulldog is visually impaired, which could mean that it needs medical attention.
If the strands are attached to the cornea or lenses, it can cause swelling, clouding of the cornea, or even cataracts.
That’s why it’s important to monitor these strands, especially during the first few weeks, to determine whether your Bulldog needs to see a veterinarian.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Persistent Pupillary Membranes
As mentioned, PPM will resolve itself over time. Still, your veterinarian may provide you with medicated eye drops to help break down the membranes if it continues.
Sometimes, the PPM gets so extensive that it causes cataracts, which may require corrective surgery.
PPM is not life-threatening or an emergency; it’s a common eye problem for English Bulldogs.
Still, you need to look out for it and ensure that it won’t cause permanent damage to your Bulldog’s eyes.
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is the inflammation of the protective tissue on the eye.
It occurs in humans, and English Bulldogs — of any age — can also develop it.
A pink eye causes a severe itch that leads to excessive eye rubbing, leading to other more serious eye conditions.
Dry eyes and entropion are some of the most common causes of pink eye, both very common for English Bulldogs.
There are two types of conjunctivitis:
- Viral conjunctivitis: Many veterinarians believe that it’s a non-infectious condition that other dogs can’t catch.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis: ASPCA warns pet owners about this condition because it’s highly contagious. English Bulldogs can easily pass it to other dogs.
Below, we discuss conjunctivitis in English Bulldogs.
Common Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
Some of the most common symptoms that you’ll see from Bulldogs suffering from conjunctivitis are eye redness, puffy eyelids, and thick eye discharge on the affected eye.
Your English Bulldog may also have watery eyes and eyelids that stick together due to the discharge.
There are times when a Bulldog will excessively squint or frequently rub the eye area, which are common signs of discomfort.
However, none of these symptoms is painful, and pink eye isn’t a serious condition that should alarm pet owners.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is not life-threatening nor a severe eye problem, but your English Bulldog still needs medical attention to address the issue.
Surgery isn’t required for it, but your veterinarian may provide you with medicated eye drops to get rid of the pink eye.
If you suspect that your Bulldog suffers from conjunctivitis, visiting the veterinarian for a physical examination is the best course of action.
It can lead to other more serious eye problems if you don’t treat it.
English Bulldogs can develop tear stains from overflowing tears, but it’s not the opposite of dry eyes.
Unlike other eye conditions that we’ve discussed, tear stains don’t pose any health concern.
The only drawback to tear stains is that they don’t look good, especially for heavily wrinkled dogs (English Bulldog, for example).
Although it’s not directly related to any health issues, tear stains have one persisting disadvantage — they’re constantly moist; they rarely dry out, which may create a breeding ground for bacteria.
This condition could be a catalyst for more serious health issues.
Aside from this, tear stains are usually a symptom of a more serious eye problem that results in the inflammation or blocking of the tear ducts.
So even if it doesn’t affect the sight of English Bulldogs, it could be a sign that they need medical attention.
Here’s what you need to know about tear stains and English Bulldogs:
Common Symptoms of Tear Stains
Tear stains are itchy and produce an offensive odor due to constant moisture.
You can easily detect tear stains due to the discoloration around the area where tear flows.
Aside from these, there are no other symptoms that you can expect from tear stains because they’re usually the symptom of a more serious eye problem.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Tear Stains
Even though tear stains aren’t serious and don’t usually pose life-threatening health issues, it’s still important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
As mentioned, tear stains can be a symptom of a more serious eye problem, and visiting the veterinarian will tell you whether it’s more than a cosmetic problem or not.
A vet can provide you with medicated eye drops to help minimize the overflowing of tears or ointment to prevent the build-up of bacteria around the tear stains.
There are also several home medication remedies that you can try, including the use of 1:1 hydrogen peroxide and water to the affected area.
Healthy English Bulldog Eyes
Healthy eyes are crucial for the overall health of English Bulldogs, especially if you consider that this breed suffers from several eye problems that could lead to permanent blindness.
The easiest way to check whether your English Bulldog has good eye health is its color.
Healthy eyes should be brown, black, or blue without clouds or haziness.
The surrounding area around the lens should only be white; reddish or yellowish signifies that you should seek medical attention immediately.
Any color other than white could be a sign of more serious health problems — yellowish, for example could mean that your dog is suffering from liver dysfunction.
Sometimes, reddish eyes could be a result of the chemicals or quality of the food they eat.
There are several signs that your English Bulldog is suffering from an eye problem.
It may be too much blinking, squinting, excessive rubbing of the head area, or even sticky discharge.
Regardless of its severity, your English Bulldog should undergo a physical examination to determine the real cause of the discomfort.
English Bulldogs are adorable, and their unique traits make them a favorite for many homeowners.
However, these traits may also cause several eye problems for this breed.
The severity may vary from unpleasant cosmetics to permanent blindness.
That’s why it’s crucial to provide them with proper medical attention.
Most of the eye problems that we’ve discussed require a physical examination to determine their severity.
Even if the eye problem isn’t life-threatening, your dog may still need medicated eye drops.
Visiting your vet should be your first step instead of trying out various home medications to treat your English Bulldog’s eye problem.
- Vet4Bulldog: Entropion in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs Puppies
- Vet4Bulldog: Cherry Eye in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs
- Red White and Bulldogs: Bulldog Eye Care. Chronic Dry Eye, Cherry Eye, Entropion
- Vet4Bulldog: Dry Eyes Bulldogs Kcs Can Lead to Corneal Ulcers Pain and Discomfort
- ASPCA Pet Insurance: Can Dogs Get Pink Eye?
- Bulliepost: Health the Eyes Have It, 9 Common Bulldog Eye Problems
- Vet4Bulldog: Eye Problems in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs
- Vet4Bulldog: Eyelash and Corneal Ulcers in Bulldogs
- Hill’s Pet: Conjunctivitis & Pink Eye in Dogs
- VCA Animal Hospital: Cherry Eye in Dogs
- Today’s Veterinary Practice: Diagnosis & Treatment of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca in Dogs
- VCA Animal Hospital: Ectopic Cilia or Eyelash Problems in Dogs
- Prestige Animal Hospital: The English Bulldog – Quite a Chap!
- Dogtime: Bulldog Dog Breed Information, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts
- The Nest: English Bulldog Eye Problems
- Prudent Pet: Health Issues of English Bulldogs
Click here to read my post about common general English Bulldog health issues
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society