Published Dec. 2, 2022

In This Article

General Care

The Bullmastiff is a giant-breed dog that’s loyal and affectionate toward family members. According to the American Bullmastiff Association, this breed was created by British gamekeepers who cross-bred Bulldogs with Mastiffs in 1860 to create an extra-large dog that would listen well to commands and protect their estates against poachers. 

The breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1933. The Bullmastiff size is impressive—these dogs weigh from 100-130 pounds and have a shoulder height of 24-27 inches, depending on their gender. Bullmastiffs are known for their large, broad heads, V-shaped ears, dark eyes, and muscular forequarters and hindquarters. They have a short, dense fur coat that can be one of three colors: fawn, red, or brindle.

Caring for a Bullmastiff

chart depicting a bullmastiff dog's breed characteristics

Bullmastiffs are docile and affectionate with family members, but they become fearless guardians when their family is in danger. They are good with young children and other dogs, though all interactions between kids and pets (no matter the breed) should be supervised.

Bullmastiffs are extremely intelligent and usually learn quickly during training. However, it’s important for pet parents to train and socialize this breed early—Bullmastiffs have lots of energy and grow to become very strong, giant dogs that can easily knock people and children over if they lack training. A Bullmastiff puppy needs to be trained to:

  • Respond to specific commands, including “sit” and “stay”

  • Walk well on a leash

  • Remain calm around other dogs, adults, and children

Bullmastiffs need daily exercise, including long walks and playing within a fenced-in yard. They do not make good running companions, however, because they don’t have the stamina to run long distances.

Bullmastiff Health Issues

Bullmastiffs are typically healthy dogs that live for 7-9 years. However, due to poor breeding, some Bullmastiffs may have heart disease, eye issues, elbow dysplasia, or hip dysplasia. Make sure to do your research when you’re looking for a puppy and find a reputable Bullmastiff breeder so medical issues are less likely.

The medical issues listed below are some of the most common health issues Bullmastiffs are predisposed to, but the list is not all-inclusive.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is an acquired heart disease in Bullmastiffs that occurs when the heart becomes dilated and unable to function properly. Bullmastiffs with mild to moderate DCM may show no symptoms, but severe DCM symptoms can include:

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Cough

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Collapse

  • Weight loss

  • Death 

The first sign of DCM can be a heart murmur detected by your veterinarian. A canine Cardiopet proBNP blood test can also be used to measure heart function. If this blood test indicates that heart disease is likely, additional testing is recommended, including an echocardiogram, blood pressure check, and chest x-rays.    


Entropion is an abnormality that causes the eyelid to roll inward toward the eye. When this happens, the eyelashes rub against the cornea (the eye’s surface). This is a very painful condition that can lead to corneal ulcers. Surgery is needed to correct entropion.

Subaortic valvular stenosis (SAS)

Subaortic valvular stenosis (SAS) is a genetic heart condition that Bullmastiff puppies inherit from their parents. It develops during the first year of life, so responsible breeding is key to prevention. SAS occurs when fibrous tissue slowly forms in the heart, causing an obstruction of blood flow. Over time, this causes the heart to stop functioning properly, resulting in heart damage.

Bullmastiffs with mild to moderate SAS may not show any symptoms. However, dogs with severe SAS:

  • Are lethargic

  • Will be tired after short periods of exercise

  • May collapse

  • Can die suddenly

Bullmastiffs with SAS often have a heart murmur that can be heard during a routine physical exam. Additional diagnostic tests (electrocardiogram, chest x-rays, and echocardiogram) are needed to diagnose SAS. There is currently no genetic test to detect SAS, but Bullmastiff breeders should not breed dogs that have been diagnosed with this heart condition.

Typically, mild cases of SAS require only consistent monitoring and no treatment. In cases of moderate or severe SAS, your veterinarian may recommend medications to help regulate heart rate and increase heart efficiency.

Dogs with this condition need to be under a lifetime exercise restriction to minimize overworking their heart, which can lead to sudden death.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an eye disease that can occur due to various genetic mutations. This condition causes the retina to slowly degenerate, eventually leading to blindness.

PRA can be diagnosed with an eye exam and usually develops in Bullmastiffs that are young to middle-aged. Gene therapy may help dogs with this condition, but more research needs to be done to improve the outcome. Reputable Bullmastiff breeders will have their dogs’ DNA tested to see if they carry the genetic mutations for PRA. Dogs that carry these genetic mutations should not be bred.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition where the femur doesn’t sit properly in the hip joint. As a result, the bone rubs against the hip socket, causing arthritis. Hip dysplasia can develop in one or both hip joints.

Though congenital hip dysplasia is rare, some Bullmastiffs are born with it. Others can develop this condition during their senior years. Symptoms include:

  • Lameness

  • Slowness to rise from a lying position

  • “Bunny-hopping” gait when running

  • Reluctance to run, jump, or go up or down stairs

  • Holding the affected leg out to the side when sitting up

A PennHIP evaluation allows for early detection and treatment for dogs that have signs of hip dysplasia. Reputable breeders will ensure that their Bullmastiffs have PennHIP evaluations as part of their health screening. It’s best to purchase a Bullmastiff puppy from a breeder who has had their dogs certified with a PennHIP evaluation.

Hip dysplasia can be managed with joint supplements and certain medications, but surgical intervention may be required in serious cases.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia encompasses several inherited orthopedic conditions that ultimately lead to degenerative joint disease within the elbow.

Pain is often detected when a veterinarian checks the range of motion in the elbow. Sometimes elbow dysplasia can be in both elbows. X-rays or advanced imaging (CT scans) are the most common diagnostic tests run to diagnose elbow dysplasia.

Orthopedic surgery is needed to treat elbow dysplasia. Prognosis is typically good if surgery is done in young dogs when the disease process is in its early stages.


Lymphoma/Lymphosarcoma is a type of cancer that originates in the lymph nodes and typically spreads to other organs. Symptoms of lymphoma can include:

Markedly enlarged lymph nodes (this is the most common symptom)

  • Decreased appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea 

Treatment for lymphoma in dogs usually involves chemotherapy.

Bloat and Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Dogs with deep chests, such as Bullmastiffs, are prone to bloat, a condition where their stomach fills up with gas and suddenly makes their abdomen look distended. This condition is uncomfortable, but it is treatable by surgically inserting a temporary tube into the stomach to remove gas.

Sometimes, bloat can lead to a life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), which occurs when a gas- or fluid-filled stomach twists and cuts off blood circulation to the stomach and other organs. GDV is an extremely painful condition that can be fatal if emergency surgery is not performed immediately. A veterinarian diagnoses bloat and GDV by conducting a physical exam and taking abdominal x-rays.

To minimize the risk of bloat and GDV in your Bullmastiff:

  • Have a prophylactic gastropexy (stomach tack) procedure done at time of your dog’s spay or neuter surgery

  • Feed your Bullmastiff two to three meals a day instead of one

  • Prevent exercise from one hour before to one hour after eating

What To Feed a Bullmastiff

Bullmastiffs should be fed a high-quality large- or giant-breed dry dog food with some canned food mixed in. As with all dogs, their daily diet should consist of 90% dog food and 10% treats. 

How To Feed a Bullmastiff 

Bullmastiff puppies should be fed a large- or giant-breed puppy formula until they are 18-24 months old. After 24 months, they should transition to a large- or giant-breed adult formula. 

To minimize risk of bloat or GDV, the following recommendations can help at mealtime:

  • Feed your dog two or three meals a day instead of one

  • Put the food bowl on the floor rather than elevate it

  • If there are multiple dogs in the house, feed them separately to minimize stress

  • Avoid exercise from one hour before to one hour after a meal

  • Add some canned food to the dry food

  • Do not add water to the dry food, especially if the food contains citric acid

  • Do not overfeed

  • Use a slow-feeder bowl if your Bullmastiff eats too quickly

How Much Should You Feed a Bullmastiff? 

It’s best to follow the feeding guidelines on the dog food packaging and consult your veterinarian to determine the proper portion to feed your Bullmastiff, based on ideal body weight and life stage. Measure out the food for each meal to ensure that you are feeding the proper amount. 

Nutritional Tips for Bullmastiff 

Because a full-grown Bullmastiff will weigh up to 130 pounds, it is best to start them on a joint supplement and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement when they reach 2 years old. These two supplements support the joints by minimizing inflammation (arthritis).  

Behavior and Training Tips for Bullmastiffs

Bullmastiff Personality and Temperament 

Bullmastiffs have a kind temperament around family members, including children. But Bullmastiffs can become suspicious of new people in their home, which is why socialization during puppyhood is critical.

This breed has lots of energy, and training from an early age is crucial when caring for a Bullmastiff. This breed is very smart and learns quickly, so they do well in socialization classes, puppy training classes, and obedience training. Bullmastiffs can also get along with other pets, but they must be socialized with them starting at an early age.

Bullmastiff Behavior 

Bullmastiffs generally have a calm temperament. They are not known to be anxious or fearful, but they can be very protective of their home and family when meeting new people and animals. If this is a behavior you don’t want, pursue training and socialization at an early age to prevent it. 

Bullmastiff Training 

Bullmastiffs are intelligent dogs that are quick to learn during training classes. When trained as a puppy, a Bullmastiff will become a calm and well-mannered dog. They can excel in a variety of training classes including puppy classes, obedience, and agility. Training must be started when a Bullmastiff is young, because this breed can become stubborn and difficult to train as these dogs mature.

Fun Activities for Bullmastiffs

  • Agility

  • Nose work

  • Rally

  • Obedience

  • Tracking

Bullmastiff Grooming Guide

Bullmastiffs have short, coarse fur that sheds seasonally. They require minimal grooming—a monthly brushing and an occasional bath when they get dirty is all this breed needs. Bullmastiffs are known for their moderately drooly jowls, so you might find yourself wiping drool from your floor and furniture as part of your cleaning routine.

Skin Care 

Bullmastiffs do not require much skin care; they only need an occasional bath to keep them clean. Just like with any other dog breed, a Bullmastiff needs frequent nail trims so the nails don’t break off or split.

Coat Care 

Aside from monthly brushing to reduce shedding, Bullmastiffs don’t need much coat care. They won’t need a professional groomer and their short fur isn’t prone to matting.

Eye Care 

Like many other dogs, Bullmastiffs can experience tear staining, so use a warm washcloth as needed to wipe their eyes. If your pup is diagnosed with entropion, then surgery is recommended for treatment.

Ear Care 

Bullmastiffs have large ear canals, which can make them prone to ear infections. Cleaning their ears with an ear cleaner every two to three weeks and after baths will help prevent infections.

Considerations for Pet Parents 

Bullmastiffs are loyal, affectionate giant-breed dogs. The perfect home for a Bullmastiff is one that will enroll them in training and socialization classes as soon as possible to allow the puppy to become well-behaved around people and other pets. Bullmastiffs can become strong-willed and more difficult to train as they get older, so early training is key with this breed. 

A fenced-in backyard is important for allowing this breed an area to run around in and patrol. Bullmastiffs will not do well in an apartment or small house.

Bullmastiff FAQs

How big does a Bullmastiff get?

Bullmastiffs weigh between 100-130 pounds, with males weighing on the higher end of this range.  They stand 24-27 inches at the shoulder.

How long do Bullmastiffs live?

The typical Bullmastiff lifespan is 7-9 years.

How much does a Bullmastiff cost?

Typically, a Bullmastiff puppy will cost $1,000-$2,000. This price can rise if they are purchased from a reputable breeder who breeds dogs from champion lines and does thorough testing to screen for genetic diseases.

Is a Bullmastiff a good family dog?

Yes, Bullmastiffs are sweet and loving to their family members and will protect their home from intruders.


  1. Rishniw, Mark, and Kittleson, Mark. Aortic Stenosis. VIN.com. 2012.  Revised by Beth Galles in  2022.

  2. Morgan, Rhea. Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Veterinary Partner. 2018.

Featured Image: iStock.com/White_bcgrd


Michelle Diener, DVM


Michelle Diener, DVM


I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I obtained by BS degree in Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000 and my DVM degree at NCSU in 2006. I have...

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