The Kennel Club responds to Bulldog research

The Kennel Club has responded to new research released today (15 June) analysing Bulldog health in comparison to other breeds.

Funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, the research looked at the risks of the most common conditions in Bulldogs when compared to other breeds, which included Brachycephalic Obstructive Airways Syndrome (BOAS) which is often linked to flat-faced breeds. BOAS affected four per cent (112 dogs of 2,662) of Bulldogs in the study – but they were 20 times more likely to suffer from the condition than other breeds of dog.

The study showed other similar conditions linked to brachycephaly (flat faces) and the likelihood of the conditions occurring in Bulldogs - for example, 7 per cent of Bulldogs in the study suffer from skinfold dermatitis, 6 per cent were affected by cherry eye and 2 per cent by a jutting lower jaw - and it also showed the increased chances of the condition occurring when compared to other breeds.

Researchers compared the risks of common disorders in Bulldogs to other dogs by analysing records from veterinary practices across the UK from 2016 using the VetCompass database.

Overall, this study showed the most likely conditions to affect Bulldogs after ear infections were obesity and overgrown nails, which can be tackled by better owner care and awareness.

The five health conditions most common in the Bulldogs studied were:
1. Ear infections (16 per cent, or 431 dogs in the study)
2. Obesity (10 per cent, or 253 dogs in the study)
3. Overgrown nails (7 per cent, or 187 dogs in the study)
4. Skin fold dermatitis (7 per cent, or 178 dogs in the study)
5. Cherry eye (6 per cent, or 151 dogs in the study)

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club said: “This research, funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, enables us and all those who care about improving Bulldog health to understand more about these complex issues. It is vital that people are aware of the health problems that can be associated with flat-faced dogs like Bulldogs - which we must all work together to continually address - and stop and think before they buy.

“The most common health conditions that Bulldogs were shown to suffer from in this study - which after ear infections were obesity and overgrown nails - can be tackled by better owner care and awareness. Those conditions that Bulldogs rank the most highly for in comparison to other breeds, such as a breathing condition known as BOAS that affects around 4 per cent of Bulldogs studied, can be tackled by better use of the health tests available to breeders, such as our breathing test, the Respiratory Function Grading Scheme, which is mandatory for Kennel Club Assured Breeders.

“Our overriding message to owners and prospective owners of Bulldogs is that whilst the number of Bulldogs impacted by many of the conditions in the study is thankfully low, their chances of suffering from them are much higher than other breeds because they are conditions often related to flat-faced dogs, but there are steps they can take to reduce these risks such as using health tests and going to a Kennel Club Assured Breeder.

“We urgently want to see people choosing dogs not just because they like the way they look, which is often driven by celebrity and social media, and instead find breeders who use the health tools available and breed a non-exaggerated dog, where health comes first, as described in the breed standard. Whole breed bans, in contrast to responsible breeding and buying, fail to address the issues and drive breeding further underground, to the detriment of dog welfare.”

Dr Alison Skipper, who co-authored the study, said: “Around 1900, some Bulldog breeders were already concerned that the exaggeration of ‘certain typical points’ was ‘intensifying predispositions to disease’ and producing ‘cripples and deformities’ with ‘a sadly shortened duration of life’. This new research provides strong evidence that modern Bulldogs remain troubled by many diseases linked to their body shapes, most of which have been recognised for more than a century. It confirms the need to follow the example of more responsible breeders who prioritise health in breeding decisions to improve the welfare of this popular and iconic breed in the future.”

The full research can be found here.