Bullmastiff Health Concerns – What You Should Know

Bullmastiff health issues are something you need to be aware of before buying a Bullmastiff. The majority of Bullmastiff dogs are healthy, but like all breeds, they are susceptible to disease.  Health problems can occur due to environmental issues or genetics. 

Environmental problems such as fleas and ticks, ear infections, dietary indiscretions or infectious disease such as Parvo can arise in any dog. These problems can plague the Bullmastiff’s health also.

Specific Genetic Bullmastiff Health Problems

Genetic disease is often breed-specific.  The following genetic problems have been identified in this breed.

The major health concerns of this breed include gastric torsion, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.  Other matters that have been reported include entropion, cancer (hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, lymphosarcoma,  and mast cell tumors).

Heart disease is also on the rise in this breed.  Cancer (especially lymphosarcoma and osteosarcoma) claims the lives of many Bullmastiffs, and heart disease is becoming a real concern.

Hypothyroidism is somewhat common in the breed. Urinary conditions are a concern, especially kidney diseases and cystinuria. 

Skin conditions have been reported and allergies that result in itchy skin and scratching and secondary bacterial infections. Demodectic mange is common in Bullmastiff puppies and adolescents.

Genetically Related Bullmastiff Health Concerns

Hip Dysplasia

This is a genetic condition in which the thigh doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness but some show none at all.  As the dog matures, arthritis can develop which leads to more pain. 

X-rays can show the degree of the problem and dogs intended for breeding can be x-rayed before mating.  The X-rays can be examined for hip dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP).

Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred.

Elbow Dysplasia

This is a genetic condition that is seen in larger dogs.   It’s thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog’s elbow that can lead to pain and lameness.  It is usually treated with medication for pain and/or surgery.


As is the case in humans, hypothyroidism is caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone, resulting in infertility, obesity, mental dullness, and lack of energy.

The dog’s fur may become coarse and brittle and fall out and the skin becomes hard and dark. This condition is easily managed by medication that the dog takes throughout their lifetime.

Subaortic Stenosis

This is a typical heart condition seen in this breed.  It is a genetic condition that occurs when the aorta narrows below the aortic valve making the heart work harder to push blood through.  Dogs that have this problem should not be bred. 


Dogs, like humans, can develop cancer. Cancers frequently occurring in Bullmastiffs include lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors.

Bullmastiff Health issues

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, Gastric Torsion, Bloat (GDV)

This life-threatening condition can affect large, deep-chested dogs and often happen if the dogs eat one large meal per day, then rapidly drink massive amounts of water right after eating.   It can occur at any age, but is more common in older dogs

It is more common for older dogs. The stomach becomes distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog cannot burp or vomit to rid itself of the excess air in its belly, and the usual return of blood to the heart is impeded.

From there, blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock.  This is a medical emergency and without help, the dog can die

Symptoms include excess salivation, distended abdomen, retching without throwing up, restlessness, depression, and a rapid heartbeat.  It’s important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.  

This condition can occur in any large breed dog, especially those with broad chests, so if you are considering a large breed or giant breed dog, be aware of these symptoms and act quickly. 

There is some indication that a tendency toward GDV is inherited, so it’s recommended that dogs who develop this condition not be used for breeding purposes.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Rupture

When the dog twists his rear legs forcefully, the anterior cruciate ligament can tear or rupture causing the bones of the leg (tibia and femur) to move against each other. 

This causes pain, lameness and arthritis sets in quickly. This problem often occurs in young dogs during vigorous play or in overweight dogs. Surgery is one form of treatment.


This is an eye problem that causes the eyelids to roll inward, irritating the eye.  It can occur in one or both eyes and usually is noticeable by about 6 months of age. The condition can be corrected surgically Breeding dogs can be checked by a veterinary ophthalmologist.

  Skin Problems

Dogs that will be used for breeding purposes can be tested.  Hips, elbows, heart, and thyroid functions should be tested as well as an eye exam.

Reference and Further Reading on Bullmastiff Health

It is important to learn as much as possible about the health of a breed if you are seriously considering acquiring  a member of the breed.  If you already own a Bullmastiff, knowing what issues have been identified can help you become a better dog parent and more informed consumer. 

The following books have helped me over the years and deserve a spot on any dog lover’s book shelf.

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