English bulldogs should be banned over health issues, experts warn

By Isabella Boneham
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 10:39 am

English bulldogs should be banned unless they are bred to have healthier features, experts have warned.

A new study by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) found that the breed is much more prone to health issues than other dogs, with many of the conditions they have linked to the “extreme” traits they have been bred for.

What did the study find?

RVC researchers found that the English bulldog is twice as likely to be diagnosed with at least one more disorder than other dogs.

Dan O’Neill, author of the study, said the breed suffers from “skin fold dermatitis and breathing problems” which “are directly linked to the extreme structure of their bodies that has been selectively bred.”

Researchers analysed vets’ records on 2,662 English bulldogs and 22,039 other breeds and found the English bulldog showed predispositions for 24 out of 43 specific disorders, and is at higher risk of breathing, eye and skin conditions.

Only 9.7% of English bulldogs in the study were aged over eight, compared with 25.4% of other breeds. This indicates a shorter lifespan which is linked to overall poorer health.

How has the English bulldog changed over time?

English bulldogs were originally developed as a muscular, athletic dog for bull-fighting, but they were later bred as show animals and pets.

The breed has risen in popularity over the past decade with owners attracted to their exaggerated features such as a short skull, protruding lower jaw, and heavy build.

Dr O’Neill told journal Canine Medicine and Genetics: “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.

“Given the breed’s continued popularity, the body shape of the typical pet English bulldogs should be redefined towards more moderate physical characteristics.”

He added: “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.”

Which other breeds have health concerns?

Experts have also warned that pugs are some of the unhealthiest dogs.

New research from the RVC revealed that pugs are almost twice as likely to develop health problems every year than other breeds.

The study used its VetCompass program to compare random samples of 4,308 pugs and 21,835 non-pugs, finding that pugs were 1.9 times more likely to develop one or more health disorders every year.

The most frequent issues were found in the pugs’ airways - a common problem for flat faced dog breeds.

Dr O’Neill, lead author of the paper, said: "Although hugely popular as pets, we now know that several severe health issues are linked to the extreme body shape of pugs that many humans find so cute.

"It is time now that we focus on the health of the dog rather than the whims of the owner when we are choosing what type of dog to own."