PUPPY- Bullmastiffs are puppies for at least the first year of their lives, and in many breeder lines an additional year as well. Growth plates on male bullmastiffs generally close between 18 months of age and 36 months. Female growth plates close between 12 months and 24 months.
• Food- An unbalanced diet in a large breed puppy can lead to serious health complications when the dog is older. Hip and elbow dysplasia, osteodystrophy, rickets, hyperparathyroidism, osteochondrisis, panosteitis, and wobblers have been linked to nutritional imbalances.
Follow your breeder’s guidance in choosing a raw, kibble, or combination diet for your puppy. Be aware of ongoing research and investigations regarding Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy and grain free diets or those high in peas, lentils, legume seeds, and/or potatoes. Talk to your breeder about the use of large breed puppy formulas and why they do or do not recommend them.
Calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D are an important part of a growing, giant breed puppy’s diet. The recommended range for dietary calcium is .8% to 1.2% in kibble. Excess calcium adversely affects growth and skeletal formation and is associated with developmental orthopedic diseases.
Dietary calcium and phosphorus are considered together and should be provided in a ratio of 1.1:1 to 2:1 to maintain an appropriate hormonal balance. Deficiency in phosphorus, while rare, may occur when there is excess calcium, resulting in widening of the growth plates and rickets.
Daily recommended calories for puppies are 3,200 to 4,100 kcal/kg. Feeding amounts should be reassessed every two to three weeks. Transition to adult formula should be guided by your breeder.
• Shelter- Provide your puppy with a safe place in the house to call its own. Generally, bullmastiffs enjoy their crate space and time. Crate pads, toys, etc., are earned as they mature and learn to manage puppy chewing tendencies.
• Health- Puppies should see their new veterinarian within a week of their arrival. Veterinarians will want to see the pup’s vaccination record. Do not be surprised if your doctor wants to repeat the vaccination protocol that was done by your breeder. Have an honest conversation with your doctor and your breeder and find the best plan for continued vaccination. Many bullmastiff breeders follow Dr. Jean Dodds’ vaccination protocol, and many follow traditional vaccination protocols. You, your breeder, and veterinarian will determine the best course for your puppy.
• Condition- Puppies require very little in terms of exercise, and should actually be limited from jumping on furniture, up and down stairs, in and out of vehicles, etc., until those growth plates are pretty solid. Bathe your puppy only as necessary with an emollient free canine shampoo. Once a shampoo bottle has been opened, bacteria can begin to grow in the shampoo. Discard unused shampoo after six months. To prevent some skin infections, bathe your puppy and adult dog with a flat hand. Do not work the shampoo into the hair follicles as this may introduce bacteria into the skin.
When your puppy begins teething you may find that their ears are beginning to “fly.” This is a cosmetic condition and it’s the owners choice whether to correct the ears or allow them to be as is. If you’d like to correct the ears, this can be done via taping, a harmless process that can take a couple of months and usually corrects the ear set. There are videos available on the internet and your breeder will have a recommended method to tape the ears.
TEENAGER- Bullmastiff teenagers continue rapid growth and changes. They may appear gangly and long legged. Their rear legs may grow faster than the front legs. They are frequently clumsy and are losing sight of their actual size and how they fit in the world and specifically your house. That table they used to walk right under now hits their head. This is a time of teething, chewing, madcap antics, and great fun. It’s also a time that asks for a lot of patience from their owners.
• Food- Continue to monitor food as outlined above and keep in contact with your breeder about your dog’s nutritional requirements. At about a year of age, your breeder may recommend switching to an adult diet.
• Shelter- As your puppy begins claiming your home as their own, you may find that a crate can be your best friend. Giving your puppy, a safe and quiet place to go and settle out of the way can help everyone navigate what can be a trying time for your puppy and you.
• Health- This is the time owners can be prone to over feeding their puppy. Treats used for training should be included in your dog’s daily caloric intake. Look for the outline of the last rib of your puppy to be visible from the side. Also, check that your puppy has a visible hourglass when viewed from above. Try not to focus on the numbers on the scale, or feed bag, and focus more on the observable weight of your dog. While it’s human nature to think that bigger is better, that is not always the case. Your puppy is much better at a healthy, lighter weight, than overweight.
• Condition- Bathing is only when necessary and nail trims should be done monthly. At this time you may find that a dremel is helpful when trimming thicker, heavier nails. Play time should still be monitored with an eye toward inhibiting those potential joint and muscle injuries. Your puppy will likely shed their puppy coat around this time. Gentle brushing with a pair of grooming gloves or a rubber curry comb will help manage the hair. Generally bullmastiffs will shed twice a year. Keep a watch on clean ears and clean feet.
ADULT- Adulthood is a time for cuddles, calmness, and easy times with your bullmastiff.
• Food- Continue to monitor food to make sure your bullmastiff maintains a healthy weight. An overweight dog has a shorter life span, and greater risks for degenerative diseases. Additionally, all that extra food comes out on the other end and out of your pocketbook. Why manage large poops, if smaller ones are available?
• Shelter- Full grown bullmastiffs love soft, comfortable places to stretch out or conversely, curl up. You may find that orthopedic beds and Kuranda type beds are your bullmastiff’s preferred spots.
• Health- Check with your breeder about chondroitin, glucosamine, and other supplements. Maintain annual checkups with your veterinarian, including teeth. There is a growing movement to reduce vaccinations on adult dogs and replace with annual titre tests. Once your dog’s growth plates have closed talk with your breeder about possible spay or neuter. There is a growing population of veterinarians performing ovary sparing spays and vasectomies as an option to traditional spay and neuter. Talk with your breeder about the probability of cancer in their line and learn what to watch for as your dog ages.
• Condition- As your dog slows down in their day to day activity, watch for obesity. You may find that your dog is developing calluses on their elbows, hocks, and sides of their feet. Calluses help protect protruding bones from the pressure of lying on the hard ground and some bullmastiffs prefer the hard ground over those nice, comfy beds and sofas. These calluses can be treated with ointments or other topical creams and oils, whirlpool baths, epsom soaks, or even PEMF (pulse electromagnetic field) therapy. Again, communicate with your breeder and veterinarian for the best plans of treatment.
SENIOR- Aged bullmastiffs are a beautiful thing and unfortunately, all to rare. Their muzzles may begin to show gray, their teeth may separate and become “popcorn” in nature. Senior dogs are prone to losing their blocky head shape, and muscle tone may diminish. The typically laid back bullmastiff may become even more so, or quite the opposite, still going gung ho!
• Food- Research is showing that a senior dog has different requirements than those of a younger dog. Although the FDA has not approved any food as “senior” specific, talk with your veterinarian and breeder about what your senior dog needs.
• Shelter- Continue to offer your older bullmastiff comfortable, easy to access areas to stretch out and rest their bones and joints. You may find yourself back at that puppy stage where steps, getting in and out of the car, and getting on and off the furniture is no longer a recommended practice. There are a great many products for wide and heavy load, portable steps and ramps that are helpful for older dogs.
• Health- Senior dogs should have annual blood panels to monitor organ function and hormone levels. Titre testing is becoming more popular in dealing with vaccinations and older dogs. Titre testing should be coordinated with your veterinarian. Check your senior dog for periodontal disease, eye issues, heart disease, and kidney disease.
• Condition- Comfort is paramount for your senior dog. Take your cues from your dog. When it’s time to play, then play. When it’s time to enjoy a sunbeam, enjoy. Senior dogs are special in a whole new, and different way than any other age. Every moment is a treasure.