A new study in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics suggests that the breed standards for English bulldogs should be changed for the health of the dogs themselves. The study authors warn that without such changes, breeding of the iconic English bulldog may be outlawed – even in the UK – for the welfare of the dogs.
The English bulldog was originally bred for athletic ability in fighting bulls. Over time, this breeding standard changed towards a more purely aesthetic standard. Modern bulldogs have short snouts, folds in their skin and squat, heavy bodies.
The standard characteristics of modern English bulldogs have led to many health issues. In response, some nations such as Norway and the Netherlands have restricted breeding of these bulldogs.
The authors of the new research from the Royal Veterinary College compared the health risks of English bulldogs compared to the health of other dogs. To carry out the study, the scientists used VetCompass, an online database of veterinary records from across the UK from 2016.
A random sample of 2,662 English bulldogs and 22,039 other dogs was analyzed. The study showed that these dogs were twice as likely to develop some health disorder than other dogs.
English bulldogs were 38.12 times more at risk for developing dermatitis, 26.79 times more likely to develop “cherry eye.” They were also more likely to have problems with their jaws and breathing problems due to their shortened snouts.
“These findings suggest that the overall health of the English Bulldog is much lower than that of other dogs,” said study co-author Dan O’Neill. “However, what is most concerning is that so many of the health conditions that English Bulldogs suffer from, such as skin fold dermatitis and breathing problems, are directly linked to the extreme structure of their bodies that has been selectively bred for.”
“Given the continued popularity of the breed, the body-shape of the typical pet English Bulldogs should be redefined towards more moderate physical characteristics. Doing so will not only improve the dogs’ health, but could also enable the UK to avoid following other countries in banning the English Bulldog on welfare grounds.”
Unfortunately the overall results suggest that English bulldogs live shortened lives due to poor breeding practices. If these practices are changed, it could mean a better and longer life for the dogs.
By Zach Fitzner, Earth.com Staff Writer