In January, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) issued a harsh warning to breeders and owners of so-called squash-faced dogs, stating that the selective breeding – and inbreeding – performed to achieve the creatures' highly coveted ugly-cute looks has left current lineages with an unethically long list of health issues.
Their frustration was piqued by a stratospheric rise in popularity of “brachycephalic” dogs, such as pugs and French bulldogs, over the past decade that has not been accompanied by the requisite awareness of how to actually tend to the breeds’ special needs.
And in case you missed the BVA’s subsequent #breedtobreathe campaign, or the long-running #adoptdontshop movement, and you need more convincing to delete your Pinterest board of flat-faced pooches, a new study by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College uses cold, hard statistics to illustrate just how screwed French bulldogs are.
Of 2,228 “Frenchies” seen at clinics across the UK in 2013, a staggering 72.4 percent required treatment for at least one disorder.
Writing in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, the authors explain that although a 27.6 percent rate of needing only routine or preventative care is comparable to that found for other breeds in the care records database, the median age of the French bulldogs was only 1.3 years, compared to 4.5 years for all dogs.
This confirms that French bulldogs are predisposed to diseases and conditions that require treatment beginning at a very young age, resulting in a frequency of veterinary visits that is only matched by healthier dog breeds when age-related diseases begin to appear.
“Our study – the first on this breed in the UK – is based on anonymised records gathered from hundreds of UK vet clinics. It provides owners with information on the issues that they could expect and should look out for in French bulldogs,” said lead author Dr Dan O’Neill. “It may also help potential new owners to decide if a French bulldog really is for them."
The most common categories of ailments were, in order of frequency: scarring infection or allergy-related skin conditions (17.9 percent), intestinal problems (16.7 percent), hearing impairment (16.3 percent), airway obstruction (12.7 percent), and eye issues (10.5 percent).
"One of the interesting finding from our research is that male French bulldogs appear to be less healthy than females,” O’Neill added. "Males were more likely to get 8 of the 26 most common health problems while there were no issues that females were more likely to get than males."
Sadly, the authors conclude that the rate of issues they found is likely to be significantly lower than what the breed experiences in real life, as their data was drawn only from cases where the dog was brought to a vet. Many Frenchies could be suffering from burdensome congenital defects right in front of their oblivious owners’ eyes.