Selective breeding of English bulldogs has led to many health problems | Smart News
The English Bulldog is valued for its distinct characteristics, such as a large, exaggerated muzzle, a stocky build, deep facial creases, and a protruding lower jaw. Although they are undeniably cute and cuddly, researchers in the UK have linked these characteristics to serious health and well-being issues, such as skin and ear diseases, eye disorders and respiratory problems. Dogs are 30 times more likely to develop health problems than other breeds, but researchers say it’s still possible to breed healthier bulldogs, by Gizmodo reports Ed Cara. The study from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in North London was published this month in Canine medicine and genetics.
Bulldogs originated hundreds of years ago in England, bred to bait bulls (antagonize a bull for sport and drama) because they were typically powerful and often vicious, Lianne Kolirin reports for CNN. Due to their strength and viciousness, they were also popular in dogfighting. The breed nearly died out when dog fighting was banned in 1835, but was brought back when owners showed aggression.
In the study, 2,662 randomly selected English Bulldogs were compared to 22,039 dogs of other breeds. Researchers found that bulldogs were twice as likely to have one or more health conditions within a year as other breeds, reports CNN. For example, bulldogs were 38 times more likely to develop skinfold dermatitis than other breeds.
Other health issues that disproportionately trouble bulldogs include cherry eye (a prolapsed tear gland in the eye), mange, foot infections, and brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome (a range of disorders upper respiratory tract), according to a press release.
These problems not only cause stress to puppies and their owners, they lead to a reduction in the lifespan of the animals. In the study sample, only one in ten bulldogs were over the age of eight.
Some of the official American Kennel Club standards for the Bulldog include an extremely short muzzle, as short a nose as possible, and well rounded cheeks. Dogs’ jaws should be massive, square and lower, with the lower jaw protruding in front of the upper jaw.
Veterinarians who participated in the study say that if breeders and the public stop selecting for current Bulldog characteristics, the future English Bulldog will have a longer face, clipper head and no skin folds, according to CNN. The team asked owners to breed for the health of the bulldog and not for unusual and extreme characteristics, and for the public to reconsider buying a bulldog with unhealthy physical characteristics.
“Every dog deserves to be born with equal and good innate health by having a natural ability to breathe freely, blink fully, exercise easily, have healthy, flat skin, mate and give birth,” Dan O’Neill, lead author of the study and a companion animal epidemiology expert at RVC, said in a statement. “For breeds like English Bulldogs, where many dogs still have extreme conformations with innately poor health, the public has a huge role to play in demanding dogs with moderate, healthier conformations. Until then, future owners should “stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog”.