13 August 2016

RESEARCH - Is There no Hope for Healthy Bulldogs?

English bulldogs: the beloved, cartoonish, man-made breed that warms hearts and turns heads.

Ranking #4 for U.S. dog breed popularity and #1 for health problems, the breed has long been cautioned as a potentially costly one.

A recent University of California study concludes the breed is “now lacking the diversity in its gene pool to make much-needed health improvements.”

The researchers go on to say that the bulldogs' genes have become too similar for breeders to reduce the higher risk of sickness by only breeding the healthiest English bulldogs.

The study's bottom line: Despite breeders best efforts, there's just not enough genetic diversity in the breed.

"The English bulldog has reached the point where popularity can no longer excuse the health problems that the average bulldog endures in its often brief lifetime," study lead author Niels Pedersen, of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Companion Animal Health, said in a journal news release.

What many fail to realize, according to veterinarian Dr. Fraser Hale of Hale Veterinary Clinic in Guelph, ON -  an outspoken critic of bulldog breeding who is on a mission to motivate his industry to better educate the public – is that perpetuating the bulldog industry is nothing short of animal cruelty and a preservation of archaic tradition.

“The pet-owning public needs to recognize it is too inhumane to ask an animal to live its life in such a dysfunctional and deformed body,” said Hale, who asserts that the lack of public education on the cruel and sad lives of bulldogs may be so far behind that perhaps legislation (much like dog fighting) and heavy public education campaigns may be the only way to drastically make a difference.

“People who don’t understand what that ‘bulldog look’ imposes to the animal may see them as ‘cute’, but if they knew the reality, they would likely just see them as sad.”

Referring to bulldogs as ‘bad by design’ and a ‘failed human experiment’, Hale sees the only solution is to care for the remaining bulldogs and to stop breeding, letting the breed die out.

Hale said he thinks the veterinary industry has ‘a lot to answer to’ with respect to better educating people on the sad life led by bulldogs.

He cites a host of health problems including (but not limited to): brachycephalic upper airway issues; horrible dental/oral anatomy/health; orthopedic issues; and skin-fold dermatitis.

The breed is completely man-made and cannot whelp without human interference by way of a caesarean delivery.

“How fair is it to breed an animal that can’t even deliver naturally?” points out Dr. Danny Joffe of Associate Vet Clinics in Calgary.

Joffe, who emphasized that these multitude of health problems exists in both English and French bulldogs (who also suffer from inflammatory brain disease), said that he cautions any of his veterinary clients who choose to purchase a bulldog to at the very least get pet insurance (although some companies won’t insure bulldogs) and to watch their pet’s weight with vigilance, as any added weight puts a strain on their respiratory system and can accelerate their arthritis.

Joffe said other breeds to be mindful of various health problems include the Irish wolfhound (bone cancer and heart trouble) and Bernese mountain dogs (cancer), but that ‘no other breeds have the problems suffered by bulldogs’.

For Hale, the movement toward public education of the pain and suffering that bulldogs are inevitably left with is out of step with modern-day advocacy campaigns against declawing and tail docking.

He is hoping the veterinary industry will help influence bulldog breeding as a socially unacceptable trend of the past and that celebrity endorsements of bulldogs will cease.

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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