Owning Merle Bulldogs: A Guide to Genetics, Health, and Responsible Ownership

Merle Bulldogs are a popular breed known for their unique and distinctive coat patterns. The merle pattern, characterized by irregular blotches of fur on a lighter background, can lead to health concerns such as hearing loss and vision problems. Responsible ownership and genetic testing are important considerations for Merle Bulldogs to ensure the health and well-being of the breed. Despite their unique appearance, it’s essential to be aware of the potential health issues associated with the Merle coat pattern

Key Takeaways:

  • Merle bulldogs have a unique coat pattern but breeding two together greatly increases health risks like deafness and blindness in puppies. Prospective owners must be aware of proper care needs.
  • The merle gene causes darker patches on lighter coats but double merles from breeding two merles often experience serious issues.
  • Responsible breeders focus on health over novelty.
  • Adoption avoids risks from irresponsible breeding and saves dogs in need.
  • Merle bulldogs may require special care and accommodations due to potential vision/hearing issues, which owners should be prepared to provide.
  • With proper care and vet supervision, Merle bulldogs can thrive as loving pets despite health conditions from their genetics.

What is Merle?

Merle can affect all coat colors. Merle describes a coat pattern in multiple breeds marked by darker blotches on a lighter background. This makes a blended, marbled appearance. In dogs, the merle pattern can present various colors and differing distributions. Merle Dogs have two types of eye colors: standard color and glass eye color.

The dominant M or Merle gene causes irregular clusters of pigment cells producing darker patches seen in Merle coats. Dogs need at least one copy of M allele from either parent to show merle coloring.

Dogs with two M alleles, one from each parent, are “double merles.” Double merles are highly likely to suffer from eye or ear deformities (in some cases both), which at the most extreme, can result in complete blindness and deafness. They commonly have blue or mismatched eyes. These often have very light or nearly all-white coats covered in large, uneven dark patches from extreme pigment clustering.

Tips for Identifying Merle Bulldogs

merle puppy

Now that you understand Merle’s color genetics and risks to avoid, let’s review practical identification tips. While the marbled pattern makes each coat unique, it varies between dogs. 

Look for:

  • Intensity of marbling – Lighter coats allow more distinct overlay through contrast but pattern strength differs
  • Color patch distribution – Patches may be larger or finer speckles between different pups
  • Changing coats – Patterns typically become richer marked as puppies grow into adults
  • Gold/liver tones – Occasional warm-toned merles provide unique twists apart from blue/grey/black accents
  • Mottled patches – Mottled patches of different colors and patterns on their coat

No two dogs are identical, so avoid unrealistic standards. Health matters most over superficial traits.

Acceptance of Merle in Bulldogs

Merle naturally occurs in breeds like Australian Shepherds and Great Danes where accepted. However, merle recognition remains controversial in some circles due to bulldog health concerns.

AKC breed standards only permit fawn, brindle, or white bulldog coats since Merle never historically occurred. Health groups discourage intentional double-merle reproduction over risks.

To ethically produce quality future bulldogs, the focus stays on promoting health over novelty colors. Responsible breeding preserves function before frivolous form. Always take into account the general welfare of the dogs.

The Health Risks of Breeding Two Merle Bulldogs

Breeding dogs requires careful considerations such as health issues, possible genetic defects, temperament, soundness, and appearance.

For example, breeding two Merle Bulldogs is a choice that entails increased risk of potential health issues it can cause in the puppies. When two Merle dogs are bred together, each puppy in the litter has a 25% chance of being born a double Merle. This means this pedigree pup inherits the Merle gene twice.

This breeding practice is strongly discouraged due to the significant risk it poses to the health and well-being of the merle puppies. Responsible breeding practices are crucial to mitigate these health issues if we were to save more merle puppies. Ethical considerations should also prioritize the health and well-being of the dog.

Common Health Problems

Here’s why you should avoid bringing two Merle Bulldogs together:

When two Merle Bulldogs mate, there’s a 25% chance each puppy will inherit the “double Merle” gene. This can lead to serious health problems, including:

  • Deafness: Lack of pigment in the inner ear can cause deafness, affecting their ability to communicate and navigate the world.
  • Blindness: Congenital eye defects can result in partial or complete vision loss, impacting their quality of life significantly.
  • Skin sensitivities: Delicate skin, prone to burning and irritation, can cause discomfort and require extra care.
  • Breathing difficulties: Merle Bulldogs are also susceptible to breathing difficulties, especially during hot weather or exercise, due to their brachycephalic airway syndrome

Genetic Testing is Key

Merle color pattern is characterized by irregularly shaped patches of diluted pigment and solid color. Blue merle is one of the rarest colors in some breeds. A blue Merle dog is a black dog with patches of diluted colors caused by a recessive gene. 

Merle to Merle breedings significantly increase deafness and vision problem risks in puppies. Genetic tests screen dogs carrying these unwanted recessive traits.

Ideally carrier a merle is bred to a non merle, lowering but not eliminating issues. No reputable breeders pair untested merles due to the suffering this may cause.

Health checks like hips and eyes alongside genetic screening help set puppies up for healthy, happy lives. Responsible ownership considers all risks to benefit individual dogs and the breed.

Adopting a Merle Bulldog

happy merle bulldog with owner

For those looking to add a Merle Bulldog to their families, adoption is an excellent choice. There are many Merle Bulldogs in need of loving homes, whether they end up in shelters, rescues, or surrendered by their original owners. By adopting a Merle Bulldog, you can save a life while also avoiding potential health issues from irresponsible breeding practices.

When adopting a Merle Bulldog, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding their potential needs and medical history:

  • Check for existing health conditions. Since Merle Bulldogs can be prone to certain hereditary issues, ask about any known medical problems or test results from the parents. This allows you to plan accordingly for the dog’s long-term care.
  • Consider sense abilities. Inquire if the dog has any hearing or vision impairments. You’ll want to adjust your training style and home environment to their specific needs. Provide accommodations like flashing light/vibration collars or mobility assistance.
  • Examine medical records. Rescues especially will have veterinary paperwork on the dog’s exams and treatments. This gives insight into recurring checkups or special diets.
  • Allow time for adjustment. Adopted dogs may have experienced past stressors and need patience to build trust. Provide plenty of affection, playtime, treats, and consistency.
  • Make adaptations as needed. An impaired Merle Bulldog may need slower introductions, gentler handling, or personal space allowances. Adjusting meets their characteristics and comfort.

By giving an adopted Merle Bulldog the best home, you empower them with happiness, care, and stability. Despite potential health issues, their loving personalities make fantastic companions. Ultimately the joy they bring outweighs any extra precautions.

Adoption truly saves dogs’ lives while avoiding questionable breeding. A pampered retired racing greyhound deserves a spot on the couch same as any pup. Let even old age find new homes. With understanding and preparation, adopted Merle Bulldogs thrive just as much as any other beloved family member. Their genetic traits do not diminish or affect their capacity for affection.

When dogs are put up for sale, think again before you purchase. And, perhaps, make this your motto: Adopt. DON’T SHOP!” Adopted dogs make the best pet.

Read also: 10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Merle English Bulldogs


Owning a Merle Bulldog can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to understand the breed’s unique characteristics and associated health considerations. Being well-informed and prepared to meet the specific needs of Merle Bulldogs is essential for ensuring their happy and healthy lives. 

However, it’s crucial to be aware that Merle Bulldogs are prone to certain health issues, including deafness, blindness, and skin problems due to their breeding. Responsible ownership involves regular veterinary check-ups, a nutritious diet, and proactive health care to ensure a long and happy life for your Merle Bulldog. It’s also important to choose a reputable breeder who screens their dogs for these health issues to minimize the risks associated with the breed.

Amy Tutchan

Amy Tutchan, a dedicated and versatile editor at cuddlycare101.com, whose heart beats in rhythm with the paws of our canine companions. Amy is a passionate advocate for dogs of all shapes and sizes, and her extensive knowledge and genuine love for these loyal friends shine through in every word she writes. With a keen eye for detail and an unwavering commitment to the welfare of dogs, Amy will be your go-to source for all things canine-related on our blog.

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