Paris (AFP) – English bulldogs are twice as likely to develop common health problems as other dogs, a new study published Wednesday found, as vets urge people not to see the flat-faced breed cute but to see them “suffering”.
The study found that the popular dogs were 38 times more likely to develop skin fold infections, 27 times more likely to develop “cherry eye” disease and nearly 20 times more likely to have breathing problems.
Dan O’Neill of the Royal Veterinary College, one of the authors of the study, stressed that it wasn’t the dogs’ fault, saying they were “usually cute”.
“It’s not the dog’s problem, the dog is suffering, it’s the people’s problem,” he told AFP.
The researchers took a random sample of more than 2,650 English bulldogs and 22,000 other companion dogs who received veterinary care in the UK in 2016 from the database of the Royal Veterinary College’s VetCompass project.
The study, published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics, found that English bulldogs were twice as likely as other dogs to develop at least one common health condition each year.
Research earlier this year using VetCompass data showed that English bulldogs have a life expectancy of 7.4 years, compared with 11.2 years for other companion dogs.
There are also recent studies using VetCompass data showing the health problems suffered by fellow flat pugs and French bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s study found that English bulldogs are less likely to develop certain medical conditions, such as dental disease, heart murmurs and flea infestations.
But even these positives could be related to their extreme reproduction, O’Neill said.
Because bulldogs “have a lot of head and mouth problems, they’re drooling all the time… The drooling might actually help their teeth because it’s rushing out of their mouths,” he said.
A big problem is that many dogs are not bred to the country’s breed standards, says Sonia Saxon of the British Bulldog Breed Council.
Saxon, whose bulldog Martha snores lightly beside her, told AFP from the UK that some English bulldogs were bred to be smaller or come in different colours to advertise that they were unique.
“On social media, they classify them as rare and charge £30,000 to £40,000 ($36,000 to $48,000),” she said.
“The more extreme, the more money they want.”
O’Neill, who has worked as a veterinarian for more than 20 years, said simply banning English bulldogs would not solve the problem – the wider problem is “extreme size”.
Conformity is how dogs are bred to meet the expected standards of their breed.
What needs to change, he said, is “our mental image of what a pit bull should look like.”
“They can have longer noses, get rid of those skin folds, smaller heads – they can still be bulldogs, but not like our bulldogs.”
He tells those considering buying a flat breed to “walk a day — or even an hour” in that dog’s lifetime.
“It’s hard to breathe every minute of every day. Every minute of every day can be sore and infected with all the folds in the skin,” he said.
“Why not choose a puppy that’s naturally healthy,” he said, “rather than one that’s likely to have serious health problems?”
© 2022 AFP