Bullmastiffs originated in the 1800s in England, where they were bred as guard dogs. They are large, weighing around 120 pounds (54 kg) and standing around 2 feet (64 cm) tall. With careful training and socialization, and lots of play and exercise, Bulmastiffs can make good family pets, and they can be counted on to defend people and property, though they seldom bark.
Should You Purchase Insurance for Your Bullmastiff?
Despite their size and power, Bullmastiffs are not the most robust breed in terms of health, with lifespans averaging around 7.5 years. The breed is known to be especially susceptible to a number of less and more serious health problems:
- Bloat (gastric dilation volvulus, stomach torsion): the stomachs of these dogs may become distended and actually twist within their bodies as a consequence of excess intestinal gas; symptoms include a bloated abdomen, drooling and unproductive vomiting. Without immediate treatment, usually surgery, a dog stands a good chance of dying.
- Dysplasia of the hip and/or elbow: these dogs may inherit a condition where the hipbone fails to fit correctly into the pelvis, or where the bones of the legs connect poorly. Over time, wear and tear can cause these joints to become inflamed, resulting in pain and restricted movement. The condition can often be reversed with surgery.
- Familial Glomerulonephropathy: this inherited disease is a result of malfunctioning kidneys, which allow toxins to build up in the bloodstream and tissues. Afflicted dogs drink and urinate excessively. Diagnosis is based on analysis of the blood and urine; often the only treatment is a kidney transplant.
- Entropion: some dogs inherit a condition that causes the eyelids to curl inward rather than outward, so that the eyelashes rub against the cornea. The result is pain and infection of the eyes that can be severe. Treatment involves surgically reshaping the malformed eyelids.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): as the name suggests, this disease occurs when the cells of a dog’s retinas degenerate. A single gene mutation is responsible for the problem, though as yet no genetic test has been developed. It is therefore imperative to know the breeding history before acquiring a puppyin order to ensure that none of its ancestors has gone blind. There is no treatment for PRA, though affected dogs can almost always live full lives if kept indoors.
Reputable breeders will be up front about the fact that no amount of screening can guarantee healthy puppies, and the chances are that your Bullmastiff will develop one or more of these or similar conditions within a few years; around to a quarter of Bullmastiffs will suffer from hip dysplasia, for example. But the financial impact of frequent vet visits, medications and even surgery can be managed with the right pet health care plan, so that you can be there for your dogs in the same way that they are there for you.