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French bulldogs suffer "much poorer" health than other breeds, study finds

Abandoned bulldogs
French bulldogs are being abandoned due to high medical costs 01:58

A widescale study based on data from British veterinarians has found that one of the most popular dog breeds, the French bulldog, is "significantly" more likely to suffer from a number of serious, chronic health problems than other dogs thanks to the "extreme" bodies they've been bred to have. The study, published in Canine Medicine and Genetics, looked at a random sample of cases from vets including 2,781 French bulldogs and 21,850 dogs of other types.

The data showed that the flat-faced Frenchies had "significantly increased" odds of being treated for 20 out of 43 specific disorders compared to the other dogs.

The French bulldogs were found to be 42 times more likely to suffer from narrowed nostrils, about 31 times more at risk of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, four times more likely to have ear discharge, and about 10 times more likely to have skin fold dermatitis and difficulty giving birth. 

The "study suggests that the health of French Bulldogs is very different, and largely much poorer, that the health of the wider non-French Bulldog population," the paper concluded. "Many of these differences are closely associated with the extreme body shape that defines the French Bulldog breed."

Bulldog breeds have long been known to suffer health problems, many of them breathing related, due to their shortened facial structure.

Plastic surgery for pets 02:45

The authors of the U.K. study said they carried out the research on Frenchies specifically in hope that a "holistic view" of the breed's health "would assist efforts to appreciate the overall health strengths and weaknesses in the French Bulldog and to take appropriate steps to mitigate these."

To that end, the researchers recommended that breeders work to backpedal on the decades of selective breeding that created the problem, fueled by soaring demand for the snub-nosed pooches.

"Shifting the body shape of French Bulldogs to become more moderate, and hence less extreme, is proposed as a logical opportunity to reduce the current serious and common health issues in the French Bulldog breed," the study's authors suggested.

Lead researcher and study author Dan O'Neil, of the Royal Veterinary College, said that while shifting the shape of the popular breed "requires 'buy-in' from a wide range of stakeholders including breeders who make the mating selection decisions, and kennel clubs who publish breed standards. … Puppy-buyers also play a key role here, given their potential to alter market dynamics and shift demand towards more moderate conformations."  

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