People need to “stop and think” before buying an English Bulldog until the breed has recovered from decades of irresponsible breeding. That’s the latest message from Royal Veterinary College that's just published new research highlighting how this breed’s distinctive “ugly-cute” features may be linked to a range of health problems.
The study, published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics this week, has revealed that English Bulldogs, aka British Bulldogs, are less healthy than other dogs and are significantly more likely to suffer from certain health conditions compared to other breeds.
In a sample of 2,662 English Bulldogs and 22,039 other dogs, they found that English Bulldogs were more than twice as likely to have one or more health disorders in a single year compared to other dogs. Top disorders with the highest risk in English Bulldogs included: skin fold dermatitis (a x38.1 higher risk), cherry eye (x26.8), protruding lower jaw (x24.3), brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (x19.2), cyst between the toes (x13.0), and many others.
They also found that relatively few of the English Bulldogs lived to over 8 years old, compared to the other dogs.
“Around 1900, some Bulldog breeders were already concerned that the exaggeration of ‘certain typical points’ was ‘intensifying predispositions to disease’ and producing ‘cripples and deformities’ with ‘a sadly shortened duration of life’. This new research provides strong evidence that modern Bulldogs remain troubled by many diseases linked to their body shapes, most of which have been recognized for more than a century,” Dr Alison Skipper, co-author of the study and veterinary historian at King’s College London, explained in a statement.
The English bulldog is known for its flat face, short muzzle, protruding lower jaw, skin folds, and stocky body shape. Unfortunately, the desire for these “cute” features has seen people create dogs with “extreme conformations” through intensive selective breeding that's prioritized looks over health.
The researchers believe that the public needs to change its image of the English Bulldog, easing towards a more natural appearance with fewer exaggerated features. Until the wider health of the breed improves through responsible breeding practices, people should be wary of buying a flat-faced dog, the researchers say.
“For breeds such as English Bulldogs where many dogs still have extreme conformations with poor innate health, the public have a huge role to play by demanding dogs with moderate and healthier conformations,” said Dr Dan O’Neill, lead author of the paper and Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College.
He added: “Until then, prospective owners should ‘stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.”
While this latest study only looked at the plight of English Bulldogs, scientists have previously raised concerns about other flat-faced dog breeds. One is the French Bulldog, the small cousin of the English Bulldog that can suffer from similar health problems, most notably allergy-related skin conditions, intestinal problems, and airway obstruction.
There are also many worries about pugs, the teeny dog breed known for its squished face and wrinkles. Research published earlier this year led researchers to conclude that pugs should no longer be considered a "typical dog" due to the overwhelming health issues they face.