LONDON – French Bulldogs are one of the most popular dog breeds in America, but a new study finds they are also at a much higher risk of developing up to 20 different disorders than other dogs. Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College found that the breed’s shorter muzzle and flat head dramatically increased the chances that these dogs would have breathing problems during their lifetimes.
The study authors looked at the health records of veterinary surgeries across the UK, listed in the 2016 VetCompass database. These records include health data on 2,781 French Bulldogs and 21,850 other dogs of different breeds. .
The team looked at the likelihood of dogs developing 43 different disorders, and found that French Bulldogs are 42 times more likely to suffer from narrowed nostrils and 30 times more likely to have obstructive airway syndrome. They are also 14 times more likely to have ear discharge and 11 times more likely to have skin dermatitis.
Is this breed really more prone to disease?
Interestingly, the researchers found that vets diagnosed 63% of the French Bulldogs in the study with at least one health problem, compared to 66% of all other dog breeds. While this seems to show that French Bulldogs are less prone to disease, the study authors say it likely means owners of other breeds are better able to spot health issues in their puppies.
The study also found that French Bulldogs are less likely to develop 11 of these 43 common disorders compared to their counterparts. Specifically, French Bulldogs are less likely to display unwanted behavior, limp, or suffer from obesity.
Eliminate health risks
Because of these findings and the high risk of respiratory problems, the researchers claim that it is in fact possible to reproduce some of these particular physical traits that lead to health problems. Selectively breeding some of these characteristics, like their shorter muzzle and skin folds, can help improve the overall health of French Bulldogs.
“Achieving significant changes in the typical appearance of French Bulldogs over time requires buy-in from breeders and dog clubs who publish breeding standards, but the greatest responsibility lies with owners who may ultimately demand dogs with more moderate characteristics, ”says Dan O’Neill, senior lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College, in a press release.
“The Kennel Club recently updated the breed standard for the French Bulldog to move further away from elements of extreme conformation with evidence of adverse health effects. This is a very positive step to prioritize to the health of dogs rather than to human desires for the appearance of these dogs and we must now continue this evolution of the breed to a more moderate conformation.
The researchers warn that their results are based on veterinarian reports that don’t necessarily reveal how long a dog has treated these health issues. They add that French Bulldog owners may not recognize that the breed’s tendency to snore may be a sign of a respiratory disorder, leading them not to take their puppies to the doctor.
The results are published in the journal Canine medicine and genetics.