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Feeding Your Bulldog

In This Chapter

When you first get your Bulldog, you may feed him whatever your breeder recommends or has been using. But you may consider another food as your puppy grows and his lifestyle changes. You may also find that your dog is allergic to ingredients in some food.

Cruise the pet food section of your local supermarket or pet superstore, and you quickly realize that feeding your dog can become complicated. The cuisine in these stores includes dozens of choices. Foods are divided into selections for puppies, adults, active dogs, and seniors. Overweight dogs can enjoy chow and treats especially for them, and even the dog with a little plaque problem has a meal to help clean his teeth.
Ultimately, you decide how and what to feed your Bulldog. This chapter helps you make an informed choice.

Reading the Label: Important Stuff about Your Dog’s Food

It doesn’t matter how expensive or inexpensive your dog food or what brand you go with; that’s a matter of personal choice. Ultimately, what matters is knowing what is going in your dog. To get an idea of what’s going into your dog, you need to pay careful attention to the label on the food that you buy. This section gives you some pointers on what to look for.
Listed in the first five ingredients of your dog’s food should be an animal-based protein source: beef, chicken, or lamb. Ideally, one of those proteins should be in the first position, because this position generally indicates the main ingredient. Dogs eat just about anything, but they’re primarily carnivores, so you want to make sure that your Bulldog’s food consists mainly of meat.
Your dog’s food may contain ingredients called meat byproducts. Meat byproducts may not sound appealing to us, but they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals for your dog. These additives don’t include hair, horn, teeth, hooves, feathers, or manure.
Another tip on discovering the right food for your dog includes understanding preservatives. Preservatives, chemical or natural, are substances added to foods to keep them from spoiling. You may want to avoid chemical preservatives in favor of natural preservatives, like vitamin E. But remember that natural preservatives don’t last as long as chemical preservatives. They tend to break down when exposed to light and air. If you prefer a food with natural preservatives, buy smaller quantities, and store the food in a cool, dark place.


Dog food manufacturers don’t have to list preservatives that are already in the products they purchase to make the dog food. A food that is called “preservative free” means that the manufacturer hasn’t added a preservative. Preservatives may still be in the food. 

The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the governing body for all animal feed products and sets guidelines and procedures for pet food manufacturers. This organization provides a system for developing laws, regulations, standards, and enforcement policies for the manufacture, labeling, distribution, and sale of animal feeds.
The Agriculture Department of all 50 states of the United States requires AAFCO compliance with regard to manufacture and labeling. This labeling compliance prevents false claims or statements, meaning that whatever is in your dog’s food is on the label. A manufacturer must list the ingredients, in order, from the largest amount to the smallest. Preservatives, if any, must also be documented. Please remember, though, that the AAFCO regulations apply to quantity, not quality. You decide about the quality of the protein in your dog’s food.
Another factor to consider when purchasing dog food is the filler, which is what the manufacturer uses to bulk up the food. Not only should the food be mostly meat instead of filler, but also some dogs are allergic to certain fillers because the fillers often consist of additives that dogs aren’t designed to eat. Here are some common fillers:

– Corn is a cheap filler and frequently used in dog foods. I avoid corn because my male is allergic to it.

– Wheat and soy grains are also popular but may also cause problems due to allergies.

– Rice causes fewer allergic reactions and has become popular for that reason.

What you do depends on your dog’s reaction to a particular food.

Making the Choice: Dry, Canned, or Semimoist

When I started sharing my home with dogs, the accepted wisdom was that after you found the right food, you should never, ever change — a good food was a good food and should never be switched for any other food. I know that this system still works for a lot of dog owners. For example, if you look at the University of Missouri’s Web site, it states, “Dogs aren’t people and are perfectly content to eat the same food every day.” The Web site also states that you shouldn’t change foods: “Pick one type and one brand and stick with it.” If you buy into this philosophy, you can see that the food that your dog eats is going to be an important decision. In this section, I go over three of the basic categories that dog food falls into.
Dry food is a popular choice among dog owners. This selection is easy on your pocketbook, has a long shelf life, and gives your dog something to chew. If you decide to leave food out for your dog all day, dry food doesn’t spoil in the bowl. Even if your Bulldog inhales his food with barely a thought for chewing, dry food is less apt to stick to teeth and cause dental problems.
But although dry foods are a popular purchase selection for humans, dogs love canned food. To your Bulldog, canned food smells good and tastes even better. This type of nourishment may have a larger proportion of meat than dry food, although canned food probably still contains fillers. Canned food generally sells at a higher price than dry. After opening a can, refrigerate the food, and use it within a day or two. Don’t leave canned varieties out all day in your dog’s bowl because the food spoils quickly. Canned food also sticks to the teeth more easily and can cause dental problems.


Mix canned and dry foods to stretch the canned food and give your dog a yummy meal. Canned food also gives you a method to hide any medication you may need to give your dog. Your Bully will enjoy the treat and have no idea he’s being medicated at the same time.

The diet of variety

Some breeders, through general reading and online discussion, suggest that feeding the same food all the time isn’t the best option for your dog. Feeding the same food all the time means that the digestive system produces the enzymes needed to process that one particular food. If another food is given, the system can’t handle it. For example, wild deer can starve to death in a hard winter even if humans provide food because the food isn’t what they’re used to, and deer can’t digest it.
Another argument is that longtime vegetarians may become ill if they eat meat, not because the meat is bad, but because their systems aren’t used to dealing with meat. That’s why if you need to switch dog foods, gradually mix the new food with the old. This mixture gives your dog’s system time to adjust to the change.
Veterinarian Wendy Blount suggests feeding a variety of foods. Wendy practices in Nacogdoches, Texas, and is residency trained in Small Animal Internal Medicine. Her areas of interest in addition to internal medicine are nutrition and herbal medicine.
Dr. Blount combines dry and canned foods, never feeds the same food more than two days in a row, and frequently adds fresh food as well. She offers several reasons for this model: “The National Cancer Institute suggests that we [humans] need a varied diet of fresh (nonprocessed) foods to prevent cancer. Yet we recommend a steady diet of a single brand of processed foods for pets. And then we add to their diets minute amounts of carcinogens. And cancer is the number-one killer of dogs. How much sense does that make?”
Dr. Blount also notes, “Human medical research tells us that overexposure to certain antigens may precipitate food allergies in some predisposed individuals — many veterinary dermatologists agree and recommend rotating the diet for healthy dogs.”
And finally, Blount says, “Feeding a variety of wholesome foods may compensate for individual variations in needs and/or unknown deficiencies in particular commercial foods.”
The last option for dog food is the most expensive of the three choices: semimoist food. This food is frequently formed into attractive shapes for humans (because your dog doesn’t care what it looks like), so it looks like ground beef or a hamburger patty. Food coloring gives the cuisine a meaty look. Read the label. Prominent animal proteins and vitamins may abound, but so do sugar and preservatives, and possibly flour, which all help the patty stay shaped. Avoid any food that doesn’t look healthy for your Bully.


With skin allergies being a common problem in Bulldogs, adding variety to your dog’s diet may be the answer. Check with your veterinarian if you want to try diet variety with your Bully. For more on this option, see the sidebar “The diet of variety.”

Cooking for Your Bulldog

The majority of dog owners make their food selection from the wide variety of prepared brands, but some people cook for their dogs, preparing their meals from scratch. If you decide that this option is best for you, remember that your dog’s diet must still be balanced. Cooking up some chicken and rice may help your dog recover from an upset stomach, but the concoction isn’t a balanced diet, and neither is a big, meaty bone, no matter how much your dog enjoys it. You have to make sure that any diet you feed your dog still contains the proper proportions of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Consult an animal nutritionist to make sure that the meals you cook for your dog supply the nourishment he needs.
Discover all that you can about this method of feeding. If you decide to cook for your dog, make sure that you have the time to commit. Cooking from scratch isn’t a short-term project; your dog can live for the next ten years — are you going to cook the entire time? Think about storage space for ingredients and for prepared food. If you cook up a big batch of food, make sure that your freezer has room to hold the extras.
Many people who cook for their dogs use a meat base, such as ground beef or turkey. A pressure cooker reduces bones to mush, ensuring that your dog gets the calcium that bones supply. Add potatoes or oatmeal and vegetables of your choice. Add vitamin and mineral supplements after the food is cooked. An Internet search turns up dozens of books that contain specific recipes, and cooking information and recipes.

Considering the BARF Diet (No, It’s Not as Gross as It Sounds)

Some Bulldog owners prefer feeding raw-food diets, like the Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF) diet. Most people don’t ride the fence when it comes to feeding raw. People are either totally against it or totally in favor of it. Proponents of raw food say that their dogs are healthier, with clean teeth and gleaming coats.
The presence of bacteria in uncooked food presents the most widely critiqued aspect of the raw method. Some people say that the dog’s system takes care of these bacteria and that the dog’Technical Stuff short digestive system doesn’t let the “bad stuff” stay in the body long enough to do any harm.
If you decide to feed raw food, remember that your dog’s diet must still be balanced. You may also add supplements. Suggestions vary as to types of supplements, but most raw diets include vitamin supplements and fish oil or flaxseed oil. The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, (Howell Books) by Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown, DVM, gives detailed information on proper foods and necessary supplements for a natural diet; and Switching to Raw: A Fresh Food Diet For Dogs That Makes Sense, by Susan K. Johnson (Birchrun Basics), is an easy-to-understand book about how to feed raw.
Feeding raw definitely takes more effort than opening a can or pouring some kibble from a bag. A general feeding pattern should include the following:
  1. Feed raw, meaty bones each morning.
  2. Feed a variety of foods at night.
  3. Alternate among organ meat, muscle meat, and vegetables.


Vegetables need to be processed in a blender or food processor before you feed them to your dogs. The blending helps break up the cellulose. Dogs don’t produce enzymes that digest cellulose, so unless you break the vegetables down, they pass through the dog’s system untouched. If you decide to add grains, like rice or oatmeal, to your dog’s diet, cook them first. Cooked potatoes may also be added for variety. You don’t need to cook every day. Make up a big batch of your vegetables or grains, and freeze in individual portions.

You need freezer space and a source for your raw foods as well. In larger cities, pet-supply shops may stock frozen raw bones, turkey necks, tripe, and packages of raw meat mixed with vegetables. If this option isn’t available to you, find a good butcher.


Jean Hofve, DVM, offers suggestions for feeding raw at her Web site ( Yes, the site is primarily about cats, but you can find information about dogs as well. Dr. Hofve recommends pounding or grinding bones to alleviate the dangers of bone splinters and the difficulty in digesting the bone, especially for puppies.

An alternative to raw meat and bones is to cook chicken legs in a crock pot. Cover the legs with water, and cook on low for 24 hours. The extended cooking time reduces the bones to mush. Check to make sure that no pieces of bone remain, and cool before feeding.


Ask your veterinarian for his opinion. If he is against a raw diet, but you intend to feed raw, have your veterinarian run a blood scan on your Bulldog before you start the raw diet. Repeat the scan every six months. This monitoring allows your veterinarian to regulate the effects the diet has on the health of your dog. You don’t want the issue of food to be the reason you lose a veterinarian who understands Bulldogs.

When to Feed Your Bully

You’ve decided to feed your Bulldog a premium kibble, a quality canned food, or a homemade diet. You’ve talked to your breeder, your veterinarian, and possibly a nutritionist. Now you need to decide when to feed your dog. Most breeders suggest feeding twice a day, no matter which meal method you choose. With an older dog, feeding twice daily gives him a chance to get more out of each meal because as a dog ages, his digestive system may not be as efficient. Remember that feeding twice a day means splitting the daily ration, not doubling it. You don’t want an overweight dog.
An advantage to feeding at specific times is that if your dog isn’t feeling well, skipping a meal is frequently the first sign that something is wrong with your Bully. With regular meals, you know right away if your dog isn’t eating. If you have multiple dogs, being able to separate them and watch over mealtime ensures that all dogs get the proper nutrition and portion.
You may like the idea of free feeding — measuring out your dog’s daily allowance of food and letting him choose the time to eat. For some households, this procedure works just fine. I can hardly imagine a Bulldog leaving morsels for later after he’s found the food, but I suppose that it’s possible.


Free feeding doesn’t work with home-cooked meals, the BARF diet, or the canned-food diet. The food gets dried out and crusty and provides a cozy home for bacteria, which can lead to illnesses in your dog

If you have two or more dogs, free feeding doesn’t work because you never know who is really getting all the food. One dog or the other may dominate and get more of, if not all, the food. Also, if you free-feed, medicines or supplements are harder to regulate for each dog because with multiple dogs, you need to make sure that the right dog gets the added ingredients.


Whatever you decide to feed your Bulldog, make sure that he always has access to fresh, clean water! Because Bulldogs may overheat, water is especially important. Change the water in your dog’s bowl at least twice a day, and remember to wash the bowl. Water isn’t clean and fresh if it keeps going into a slimy bowl.
Giving Your Bully Doggy Treats
No matter what kind of diet your Bully follows, a time will come when you want to give him a treat. All my dogs get a dog biscuit at bedtime, as well as one whenever they go out. After breakfast, each one gets a carrot stick. I carry treats in my pocket when I walk my female so I can practice sits and downs. At lunchtime, the dogs line up for their bite of cheese, and when we have pizza, they expect to share the crusts.

The luxury of liver treats

People who show their dogs frequently use cooked liver to get their dogs to look alert and happy in the show ring. Whether you show your dog or not, liver makes a great and healthy treat. Liver contains no sugar, flour, or preservatives, and you can freeze the extra, thawing just what you need.
You can make liver treats in two different ways. 
  1. Put your liver in a microwave-safe dish.
  2. Cover the liver with a paper towel.
  3. Microwave for 3 minutes on high.
  4. Turn the liver piece(s) over, and cook for an additional 3 minutes on high. The result is a lot like shoe leather.
  5. Cut the leather — I mean, liver — into small pieces, and use for training or for the occasional treat.
A second way to prepare liver treats is by using garlic. Dogs love garlic, and the smell tempts even the fussiest of eaters — not that there are many fussy Bulldogs. 
  1. Rinse the liver.
  2. Put the meat in a pan of cold water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil.
  4. Boil for 20 minutes.
  5. When the liver has finished boiling, place it on a cookie sheet.
  6. Sprinkle the meat with garlic powder.
  7. Bake in the over for 20 to 30 minutes at 300 degrees.
  8. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven.
  9. Let the liver cool completely.
  10. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces.
  11. Store the leftovers in the freezer.
  12. Make sure to thaw the liver treats before giving them to your dog.
  13. For easy cleanup, cover your cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and put the liver on the foil. When the liver has cooled, you can remove the foil and just toss it in the trash.

Remember: Don’t overfeed liver treats. Too much liver can cause loose stools.

Special treats for dogs abound. The store shelves line with all kinds of goodies, from hard biscuits to soft, bone-shaped treats to all kinds and shapes of rawhide chews. Rawhide chews, however, must be approached with some caution, as discussed in “Looking at Chew Toys,” later in the chapter. Breeder advice is no rawhide for your Bully.

Sharing People Snacks with Your Bully

It’s fun to give our dogs little bits of people food now and then, and most dogs can make you believe that they’re starving when food is around. Sharing is fine within reason. Just remember a few pointers when sharing snacks with your Bully:

Limit treats to no more than 10 percent of your dog’s total diet. If your dog is gaining weight, cut back on the treats, and add a bit of exercise. Dogs soon discover when their behaviors produce treats, so try cutting the size of the treat in half. Adding exercise is harder with a Bulldog than, say, a Labrador Retriever. You don’t want to stress your dog or get him overheated, but maybe you can work in another trip around the block.

Pay attention to the kind of treats you’re giving your dog. A bit of lean turkey at Thanksgiving is fine, but don’t overdo the generosity with the rich gravy and spicy stuffing. A spoonful of pumpkin is a healthy treat, but pumpkin pie isn’t.

Share your popcorn. When you make popcorn for an evening snack, set aside a helping that is unbuttered and unsalted for your dog.

Add vegetables to the diet. Carrots make a tasty chew toy, or throw a few green beans on top of your Bully’s food. You’ve given him a treat with no fat and fewer calories.

Give your dog some pupsicles. Most dogs love the occasional ice cube. Get your Bulldog used to munching ice because the cool cubes can help keep him from overheating on a hot day.

When your Bully is behaving, pop out a pupsicle, and watch his eyes light up. After your Bulldog adjusts to munching on cold cubes, alternate pupsicles and regular ice cubes. For details on how to create these treats, see the sidebar “Making pupsicles.”

Making pupsicles

One of my friends encourages the ice cube habit by making what she calls “pupsicles”:
1. Mix a can of low-sodium chicken or beef bouillon with a can of water (use the same can the broth came from).
2. Pour broth mixture in ice cube trays, and freeze.
3. Cover with aluminum foil to prevent heavy freezer burn.
You can also use dry bouillon cubes. Just reconstitute according to directions, mix
with water, and freeze.

What Not to Feed Your Bully

In addition to all the fun foods you can share with your Bully, another list exists of foods that your Bully should never ingest. I know that your Bully buddy can be convincing, but never, ever give your Bulldog any of the following items:


Alcohol: Don’t give your Bully alcoholic beverages. A drunken dog isn’t funny, and even small amounts of liquor can result in alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death.

Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be fatal. The darker the chocolate, the greater the danger.

The American Animal Hospital Association notes that 2 to 3 ounces of baking chocolate can kill a medium-size dog. And 1 to 11⁄2 pounds of milk chocolate can have the same effect. Don’t panic if you drop a chocolate chip on the floor or your dog steals an Oreo, but keep that box of holiday chocolates out of reach of your dog, and be extremely careful with baking chocolate.

Coffee and tea: Both contain caffeine and theobromine.

Macadamia nuts: Don’t serve these treats to your dog. Eating too many Macadamia nuts can cause paralysis. Symptoms include a mild fever and an upset stomach. Depending on the size of the dog and how many nuts he eats, within 12 to 24 hours, his back legs become paralyzed. The front legs are either unaffected or minimally affected, but the back legs no longer work. Within 72 hours, the dog is fine, as though nothing ever happened.

The good news —the paralysis goes away without lasting effects. The bad news — some dogs may be euthanized because they’re misdiagnosed as having a severely injured disc, particularly among breeds where injured discs frequently occur. So keep the Macadamia nuts away from your Bully, or better yet, switch to cashews, which don’t harm your pooch. I had a dog who managed to reach and devour an entire bowl of cashews. She suffered no ill effects.

Nicotine: Tobacco products are deadly, so make sure that your Bulldog doesn’t eat any cigars, cigarettes, snuff, or chewing tobacco.

Onions: No one wants a Bulldog with onion breath, but that’s not the only reason to keep your dog away from onions. Onions can cause hemolytic anemia. Symptoms of this type of anemia include pale mucus membranes, loss of energy, and lack of appetite. Your dog may also feel the cold more and try to find a warm corner. The dog may have a fever or a faster heart rate. Treatment may include a blood transfusion and/or vitamin B-12.

Xylitol: Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination, and seizures.

Looking at Chew Toys

Dogs enjoy a chewing workout now and then, but be careful what you offer your Bulldog. If you give your dog a real bone, make sure that it’s fresh and raw. Never give your dog any kind of cooked bone, because bones can splinter and cause serious intestinal damage. Make sure that the bone is large enough for your dog as well. A dog can easily swallow a small bone that may get stuck in his throat or cause an upset stomach. If you want to give your dog a real bone, stay with him while he enjoys it so you can intervene if a problem arises. Another disadvantage of real bones is that they’re messy. You aren’t going to want to let your dog have a real bone on the living room carpet.


If you have more than one dog, bones may cause a fight. Dogs get possessive of bones, so if you have multiple dogs, make sure that you feed bones separately to prevent problems.

Nylon bones are an alternative to raw bones because they don’t break or splinter. Small shreds of nylon that your dog may swallow pass harmlessly through the digestive tract. Nylon bones also get bristly at the ends, acting a bit like a toothbrush as your dog chews, removing plague buildup. Nylon bones don’t stain carpet or floors, and dogs are less possessive of a nylon bone. Again, make sure that the size fits the dog.
Hard rubber toys, especially the kind with a place to hide cheese or peanuts (Kongs), may also give your dog chewing exercise, but be careful that your dog doesn’t bite off large chunks of the toy and swallow them. Different dogs treat toys differently. Supervise your dog until you know what kind of a chewer he is.


Rawhide comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, but for Bulldogs, rawhide is dangerous. Bulldogs tend to chew and soften rawhide and then pull more into their mouths, never actually biting off a piece. When they swallow, this long piece of rawhide can become impacted in the intestines (or bowel), causing problems. Take the end of a rawhide and pull it away from your Bulldog, and you’re apt to pull a piece 12 inches or longer out of his mouth. Stay away from rawhide.

Special Diets for Your Bulldog

The important concept to remember is that not all foods are right for all dogs. If your Bully has large, smelly stools, look for another food. If a food is causing a minor problem, trial and error can help you find a better food. Your friend’s recommendation for her Bulldog may give your dog diarrhea. If your dog’s reaction to food is frenzied scratching and chewing at himself, loss of weight, and skin and coat problems (coat is dull and dry), he may have food allergies, and you need to visit the veterinarian. Your vet may put your dog on a one-protein food, like duck or venison, and then gradually move to foods with another ingredient or two until the cause of the allergy is determined.
Remember that your dog needs to be happy, healthy, and hungry for more of what you’re feeding. If your Bulldog’s coat is shiny and glossy; if his stools are firm and small, with no obnoxious odor; and if he is healthy, the food you chose is doing its job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and do some research to find the ideal meal for your Bulldog.
You may have seen the senior pet foods on the shelves in your local grocery store, supercenter, or pet store. Senior foods are formulated to help control weight in an older dog whose metabolism has slowed with age. Stores may also carry “light” foods for less active dogs, no matter what their age. If you decide to switch to a food for seniors, pay attention to your dog’s skin and coat. Some dogs develop dry, flaky skin because of the reduced amount of fat in the food. Mixing a senior food with a regular food may help, or you may need to add a tablespoon or so of oil to your dog’s food to help keep his skin moisturized.
Many reasons exist for why your dog may not be able to eat regular dog food or even a meal you prepare yourself. Fortunately, many dog food companies produce specific canned and dry diets especially formulated for specific illnesses and diseases:

Cancer: Dogs with cancer typically need a food with a moderate amount of fat, moderate to high protein, and low carbohydrate, with increased amounts of omega fatty acids.

Diabetes: If your dog has diabetes, he may need to switch to a diet high in complex carbohydrates. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

Heart disease: Dogs with heart problems may benefit from diets low in sodium.

Kidney disease: As dogs age, kidney problems may trigger special dietary needs. Except in acute kidney disease, a lowprotein diet is no longer considered ideal. What does seem to help kidney disease is less phosphorous in the diet, and lowprotein foods are also usually lower in phosphorous than regular diets. Contrary to popular belief, high-protein diets don’t cause kidney damage.

For a dog with kidney disease, your veterinarian may recommend canned food over dry because canned food contains more water, and the more water your dog gets, the better. If you still prefer to feed dry, add as much water to the food as you can and have your dog still eat it. Adding water to the canned food is a good idea, too.

Liver disease: Put a dog with liver disease on a low-protein diet.

Pancreatitis: A dog diagnosed with pancreatitis needs a food low in fat.

– Staining: Staining is a common complaint from Bulldog owners. Tear stains and saliva stains (pink or red staining of the neck, face, or feet) may derive from your Bully’s diet. Feeding a different brand of food may help. Chicken- and turkey-based diets seem to cause fewer issues than lamb or beef, but the individual dog’s metabolism plays a role. 


If you’ve been feeding your dog a homemade diet, and he now needs a special diet, you can still make meals instead of buying the commercial product. Visit for recipes for special diets for dogs with heart, kidney, urinary tract problems, diabetes, obesity, and allergies.

by Susan M.Ewing

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