English Bulldogs are different than most other dog breeds, and sometimes that’s not always a good thing. Hearing them run around the house is always heart-warming unless they get to the staircase and your heart drops fearing they would slip and fall off. It won’t be the first time, after all.
Due to their different build, stairs can pose quite the challenge for bulldogs, and this challenge is sometimes more than they can handle.
So, are stairs bad for English Bulldogs? Stairs are bad for English Bulldogs. Bulldogs are prone to slipping and falling off stairs, and this puts them at many health risks such as bruises, fractures, hip dysplasia, and IVDD. Bulldogs can climb up and down the stairs if trained well, early, and precautions are taken.
To keep your Bulldog safe, you need to understand more about what makes stairs such a challenge for them.
Every English Bulldog owner must understand how to train their dog to go up and downstairs as it doesn’t come naturally to them as it does to other dogs, and how to keep your house safe to minimize the risks of accidents.
As this is something I’ve had plenty of experience with – both good and bad – I’ll explain all of it in this article, so keep reading…
Stairs Problems and Dangers for English Bulldogs
Stairs are not only bad for English Bulldogs, they can even be dangerous, but as with everything in this universe; it’s all relative. How bad the stairs are for your bulldog depends on many things including how well trained your bulldog is on going up and down the stairs, the height of the steps, how slippery or grippy those stairs are, how fast your Bulldog is going, and so on.
So, yes, stairs can be quite bad and dangerous for your Bulldog, but stairs can also be good for them. Climbing up and down the stairs can help your bulldog increase their [limited] mobility and make them a little bit more flexible.
So, in moderation, under supervision, and with good training, your English bulldog can benefit greatly from using the stairs. But, let’s ask another question;
Why is it difficult for Bulldogs to go up and down the stairs?
Stairs are difficult for Bulldogs because their bodies are not good at balance. Bulldogs have broad shoulders, tiny legs, and heavy heads, meaning their weight is concentrated up and at the front of their bodies and not uniformly distributed.
This non-uniform body weight distribution, along with their short legs and stocky bodies means their center of gravity is high up on their bodies and it moves far away when they are moving off the vertical axis, and this is why they fall easily.
Their stocky bodies also mean that the base of their bodies (try to imagine a square where its points are their feet) is smaller than it needs to be for their height, and this also makes it easy for them to fall to one side or the other.
Sorry for getting a bit technical on you, I do have an engineering degree, so this kind of thing is my forte. Anyways, I discuss this more in my guide on why stairs are bad for French Bulldogs here, so if you want to understand more about why is it so difficult for English bulldogs to use the stairs, and I recommend you do, you should check out this post.
Now that you know why is it difficult for Bulldogs to use the stairs, it’s time to understand why is it dangerous for Bulldogs to use the stairs.
Hip and Joint Issues in English Bulldogs
Climbing stairs – whether up or down – can be quite strenuous on your Bulldog’s body, and this can cause a few issues. These issues can also make it difficult, painful, or even impossible for your Bulldog to use the stairs as they get worse.
Some of these problems include:
Too much strain on your bulldog’s joints can lead to joint pain, which will make it more painful for them to climb up or down the stairs and you will notice that they prefer to avoid altogether if possible.
If your Bulldog’s attitude towards going up and down the stairs change, or if they start to become less energetic and lazier around the house, it may be time to take them to the vet to check if they’re in pain.
Hip Dysplasia is more common in large breeds such as German Shepherds and Golden retrievers, but it can still happen to English Bulldogs. Hip Dysplasia can cause extreme hip pain and inflammation and will make it almost too difficult for your bulldog to go up or down the staircase.
As your bulldog gets older, they will face arthritis. Arthritis can make it painful for your dog to simply move around as much as they used to, and it can make it very difficult for them to use the stairs as it can be too painful to do so.
If your dog starts showing signs of pain or difficulty in sitting or standing or if they start limping, you should take them to the vet for a check-up as it may be the cause.
IVDD in English Bulldogs
IVDD is short for Intervertebral Disk Back Disease, and it is an issue that is common in Bulldogs as they are genetically predisposed to it.
Basically, your dog’s back is similar to humans. They have vertebrae that are protected by the spinal cord that transmits information between the dog’s legs and brain.
In between each pair of vertebrae is an intervertebral disc that is kind of looks like a jelly donut. The disc has an inner soft jelly-like part and an outer donut-like part. Intervertebral discs serve as spacers and cushions between your dog’s back and neck bones.
In Bulldogs, this jelly-like inside part can come out of the donut-like part at high speed and hits the spinal cord, which causes bruising, swelling, and compresses the spinal cord. This can make the dog unable to walk completely.
Since IVDD is so common in Bulldogs, every Bulldog owner really need to know what the symptoms are, as with any disease, early diagnosis can make it much easier to treat it and reverse its effects.
Here are the symptoms of a slipped disk in your dog’s back include:
- Holding the head low
- Crying out
- Not wating to look up or lift the head
- Excessive panting
- Spasming of the neck muscles
- Unable to walk normally, and walking wobbly or drunk in all legs.
- Stumbling and falling consistently
- Unable to walk completely, unable to move legs at all.
Symptoms of a slipped disk in the back include:
- Crying out, especially when picked up
- Reluctant or refusal to jump
- Back pain
- Tense belly
- Walking wobbly or drunk in the rear limbs
- They may scuff their toes or criss-corss their limbs
- Unable to move rear limbs, dragging them around as they move.
How Vets Diagnose IVDD
The best way to diagnose IVDD in dogs is through an MRI as the symptoms can also be caused by a number of other causes including spinal tumors, infections, and malformations. X-rays can not diagnose IVDD alone, but they can help your vet look for other causes such as bony tumors or broken bones.
There are two ways in which IVDD is treated.
First Treatment: Rest and Medication
Crate rests and medication is the first and easier way in which IVDD is treated, and it is recommended for dogs with mild signs or dogs that are on the scale of 1 to 3 on the IVDD scale.
Here, the dog should be confined to a small crate where they can have a bed, food, and some toys that they can’t play too roughly with. The idea is to limit their movements and stop any sudden movements.
The dog can get outside the crate for 5-10 minutes for short walks on a leash and harness.
Along with rest, the vet will recommend anti-inflammatory meds, muscle relaxants, pain meds, and other medications as they see necessary for your dog’s situation.
Second IVDD treatment: Surgery
The second treatment is surgery, which is reserved for dogs higher up on the IVDD scale. It is used for dogs that have more difficulty walking, unable to walk completely, or those in severe pain. It can also be used in case the dog doesn’t show improvements or their case deteriorates with medication and rest.
Prevention: How to Prevent IVDD in English Bulldogs
Here are some tips that can greatly help you prevent IVDD in your English Bulldog:
- Control their weight – Being overweight significantly increases your Bulldog’s chances of getting IVDD, so keep them lean, watch their weight, and make sure their diet is healthy.
- Limit activities that puts too much strain on their bodies. Stop them from jumping or running too quickly on the stairs. Train your bulldog to control their excitement as much as possile to limit injuries.
- Use Ramps. Ramps are very low-impact on their bones, much less so than stairs, so try to use them as much as possible.
- Make the surfaces more grippy. Carpet your floors and stairs with carpets or other materials that can make the surfaces less slippery and more grippy. This more traction and grip your dog has on the floor while walking the less likely they are to lose balance and fall.
- Use a harness instead of a leash. Collars can put stress on your dog’s neck and back bones, so a harness is better for their health than a collar and a leash.
- Annual physicals. Regular check-ups, even if annually, can help your vet detect issues early on which gives your dog the best chances of recovering from any health issues.
And as they always say:
Do English Bulldogs Need Ramps?
English Bulldogs do need ramps. Moving up and down a ramp has much less impact on their bones and joints than moving up and down the stairs, so it’s better in the long term for their bones.
You will not be able to replace all the steps in your house with ramps, of course, and neither should you, but using a couple of them to help them get on the couch instead of having to jump would surely help them.
If your Bulldog has joint pain, hip dysplasia, or IVDD, then a ramp is a must.
I have tested a few options, but the best one by far to be used inside the house is the one from PetSafe.
The incline is just perfect for my bulldogs to go up and down the ramp easily, its quite grippy so they almost never slip on it, and it stays clean. It’s really well-made and the styling is actually quite elegant and nice.
For outside use, such as to get inside or outside the car, you can just carry your bulldog, they are not that heavy, but if you need a ramp, you should get this one from PetSafe as well.
For specialized stairs instead of a ramp, there are plenty of affordable options on Amazon, and frankly, most of them are good enough, but the one I’ve been using the most and my Bulldog seems to love so much that I even bought another one for the couch downstairs and it looks like I may be buying one for every room soon enough is the one from PetSafe.
The steps are an easy height for my Bulldogs to go up and down those stairs, the surfaces are non-slippers and very grippy, and the stairs are lightweight so I can move them around when I want very easily yet they are surprisingly stable.
Since we’re on the topic of recommendations, here are two more that I really like: If you are going to be carrying your bulldog a lot, especially in public places such as malls so they don’t have to suffer the stairs, you should definitely get them a dog carrier.
I’ve tested a few carriers with my pooches over the years, but the best one I’ve tried by far, and the one I’m currently using is the one from Hankelion.
It’s Airline-approved, it’s very easy to use, it gives your dog access to fresh air all the time, and it’s easy to cushion more to make it more comfortable for your Bulldog.
You can learn more about it by clicking on the image below or by using the button under it:
For the stair gates, I always have one installed when I have a new puppy or when I’m training them on something, or when there are simply too many kids upstairs.
you can also use it to stop your dog from going up or down the stairs when it hurts but they just can’t leave you alone. Sometimes, bulldogs can get clingy and become velcro dogs (as discussed here), my favorite lately has been the Tokkidas gate for babies and kids.
It’s high enough to stop them from even trying to jump (because I have other dogs as well that love to jump), and it’s really well made, so it’s easy to install and easy to open and close. You can find it by clicking on the image below or the button under it.
Can English Bulldogs Go Up and Downstairs?
English Bulldogs can up and down the stairs with no problem, but as they grow older, it will become harder and more painful for them to use the stairs. Using the stairs for puppies or senior English bulldogs can be painful and can even make them slip and fall off which could lead to injuries.
When Can English Bulldogs use the stairs?
English Bulldog puppies can be trained to use the stairs when they are 12 weeks of age, but it can take a few weeks of gradual and consistent training for them to learn to use the stairs easily and confidently. You should take it slow and supervise them whenever possible to make sure they stay safe.
How to Train your English Bulldog to Go Up and Downstairs
Here is an easy way to train your English Bulldog to use the stairs:
- Start with steps that have the least height
- Make sure the steps are non-slippery and obstacle-free
- Use positive reinforcement – Reward them with treats and praise when they go up and down successfully
- Be very close at the beginning to catch them if they slip or fall
- As they get better at it, start to get further and further away
- Teach them to pace themselves. Stop them if they get too excited and don’t give treats. You don’t want them jumping up or down the stairs and falling over.
- Be patient, consistent, and don’t get discouraged easily.
- Repeat and reinforce the training. Training is a life-long proces,s so you should repeat the training process every 6 months to a year to keep it fresh in their minds.
Dog Breeds that Can Handle Stairs More Easily
Here are some dog breeds that can handle your house’s stairs much more easily than Bulldogs.
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- Japanese chin
- Shih Tzu
- Shiba Inu
So, if you have a house that has stairs everywhere and you are not 1000% committed to getting a Bulldog, you should choose from these breeds as they will have an easier time moving around the house with no problem.
English Bulldogs can find using the stairs a bit challenging, and it can take more effort from them than it does from other dog breeds. Using the stairs can also make them prone to accidents, so it’s something that you want to pay a lot of care and attention to training them on when they’re young.
If you introduce them when they’re young, teach them to use it and to pace themselves, and reinforce their training by repeating it every few months, your bulldog should have no problems using the stairs easily for the majority of their life.
Is it bad for Bulldogs to go Up and down stairs?
It is bad for Bulldogs to go up and downstairs at any age because it always puts extra pressure and strain on their bones and joints and make them more prone to health issues such as hip dysplasia and IVDD later. Bulldogs are also very prone to losing balance, slipping, and falling off stairs leading to injuries.
Are Stairs Bad for Dogs Joints?
Stairs are bad for dog joins but not always, even dogs with arthritis can benefit at times from walking up and downstairs as it helps them improve their range of motion and makes their muscles stronger. Navigating stairs daily for short periods of time can also improve your dog’s spatial awareness and proprioception.
Canine chondrodystrophic intervertebral disc disease (Hansen type I disc disease)
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