The breeding of bulldogs could be banned unless their shape is altered to prevent a host of debilitating conditions — after a study found they are the unhealthiest dog in Britain.
Vets are urging people not to buy one, despite their soaring popularity over the past decade, and animal lovers have also been told not to boast about the dog on social media by posting and liking pictures.
Flat faces bred into English bulldogs can cause a ‘lifetime of suffering’ and research shows they are more than twice as likely as other dogs to have health problems.
Royal Veterinary College experts said urgent action was needed to reshape the breed back to how it looked in the 1800s and stop the UK joining the list of countries where the dog is banned.
They also want people to stop buying French bulldogs and pugs until the breeding issues in those dogs are addressed.
The English bulldog was originally developed as a muscular and athletic dog for bull-fighting but has now been bred as a show and companion animal with a short skull, protruding jaw, skin folds, and squat, heavy build.
Its extreme physical features, including shortened muzzles, folded skin, and a squat body, have led to an increased likelihood of the breed suffering breathing, eye and skin conditions.
This is because of its extreme physical features, including shortened muzzles, folded skin, and a squat body.
A rise in ‘cute’ advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, as well as the popularity of English bulldogs, pugs and French bulldogs among celebrities, have been blamed for the increase in cases of the dogs being diagnosed with health issues.
David Beckham, Kelly Brook, Gerard Butler and Paris Hilton are just a few of the famous faces who have shared their lives with the breeds.
Flat faces bred into English bulldogs can cause a ‘lifetime of suffering’ and vets are urging people not to buy on. New research shows bulldogs have twice the health risks of other dogs, with an increased likelihood of suffering breathing, eye and skin conditions (pictured)
The English bulldog was originally developed as a muscular and athletic dog for bull-fighting (pictured in the 1800s)
But it has now been bred as a show and companion animal with a short skull, protruding jaw, skin folds, and squat, heavy build (pictured)
Key findings of the report
• The average age of English bulldogs (2.7 years) was younger than for dogs that were not English bulldogs (4.42 years)
• Top disorders with highest risk in English bulldog included: skin fold dermatitis (x38.1); cherry eye (x26.8); protruding lower jaw (x24.3); brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome BOAS (x19.2); cyst between the toes (x13.0); dry eye (x12.2); rolled inward eyelids (x11.6); mange (x8.0); foot infections (x4.7); skin infection (x 3.5); wet dermatitis (x 3.5); and dermatitis (x 3.1)
• The disorders with the lowest risk in English bulldogs included: retained baby teeth (x0.02), fatty lumps (x0.06) and dental disease (x0.23).
The Royal Veterinary College study showed that the English bulldog was more than 38 times more likely than other dogs to get dermatitis in skin folds, nearly 27 times more likely to get an eye condition called ‘cherry eye’ and over 24 times more likely to have a jutting lower jaw.
It has nearly 20 times the risk of obstructive airways – causing breathing problems – is 13 times more likely to have a cyst between its toes, and has eight times the chance of developing mange.
Dry eye, inward eyelids, foot infections and dermatitis are also common issues in the breed.
The English bulldog has a short lifespan of around eight years, partly due to its health problems.
The research suggests that the dogs should be bred to have more moderate physical features both for their health and to prevent their breeding being banned.
Countries such as the Netherlands and Norway have restricted the breeding of English Bulldogs in recent years.
Study author Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor of Companion Animal Epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College said: ‘Every dog deserves to be born with equal and good innate health by having a natural ability to breathe freely, blink fully, exercise easily, have healthy flat skin, mate and give birth.
‘For breeds such as English Bulldogs where many dogs still have extreme conformations with poor innate health, the public have a huge role to play by demanding dogs with moderate and healthier conformations.
‘Until then, prospective owners should stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog.’
He added: ‘These findings suggest that the overall health of the English Bulldog is much lower than that of other dogs.
‘However, 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 for.
Around 1900, some bulldog breeders were already concerned that the exaggeration of certain ‘typical points’ was ‘intensifying predispositions to disease’ and producing deformities. The image above shows a bull terrier depicted next to an English bulldog (pictured right)
A rise in ‘cute’ advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, as well as the popularity of English bulldogs, pugs and French bulldogs among celebrities, have been blamed for the increase in cases of the dogs being diagnosed with health issues. David Beckham is pictured with his dog
Holly Willoughby (left) and Kelly Brook (right) are just a few of the other famous faces who have shared their lives with the breeds highlighted by the Royal Veterinary College
‘Given the continued popularity of the breed, the body-shape of the typical pet English Bulldogs should be redefined towards more moderate physical characteristics.
‘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.’
Researchers compared the risks of common disorders in English Bulldogs to other dogs by analysing records from veterinary practices across the UK from 2016 using the VetCompass database.
Looking at a random sample of 2,662 English Bulldogs and 22,039 dogs that were not English Bulldogs, they found that English Bulldogs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with at least one disorder than other dogs.
The breed showed predispositions for 24 out of 43 (55.8 per cent) specific disorders.
They were 38.12 times greater risk of developing skin fold dermatitis than other dogs.
They were also at 26.79 times greater risk of developing an eye condition called prolapsed nictitating membrane gland, also called ‘cherry eye’, where the dog’s third eyelid protrudes as a red swollen mass in the lower eye.
English bulldogs were also at 24.32 times greater risk of mandibular prognathism, where the lower jaw is too long relative to the upper jaw, and 19.2 times at risk of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome which can lead to severe breathing problems, compared to other dogs.
However, they were at reduced risk of some conditions such as dental disease, heart murmur and flea infestation compared to other dogs.
English Bulldogs are at increased risk of breathing, eye, and skin conditions due to their extreme physical features, including shortened muzzles, folded skin, and a squat body
The breed was originally developed as a muscular and athletic dog for bull-fighting but has now been bred as a show and companion animal with a short skull, protruding jaw, skin folds, and squat, heavy build
Looking at a random sample of 2,662 English Bulldogs and 22,039 dogs that were not English Bulldogs, they found that English Bulldogs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with at least one disorder than other dogs
What is brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome?
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is the term given to the effects that the shortened head of these animals has on the passage of air through the upper airways.
The signs can range from mild snoring to severe breathing problems.
Animals suffering from BOAS can struggle to breathe during exercise and even collapse due to lack of air.
The reliance of dogs on panting to cool themselves also makes animals suffering from BOAS very susceptible to overheating and developing potentially serious breathing difficulties in hot conditions.
They also found that only 9.7 per cent of English bulldogs in this study were aged over eight years old compared to 25.4 per cent of other dog breeds.
This supports the view that a shorter lifespan in English bulldogs is linked to their poorer overall health.
Dr Alison Skipper, co-author and veterinary historian, 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 authors hope that in the future, the English bulldog should become recognised and loved for having a longer face, smaller head and non-wrinkled skin, representing a more moderate and healthier conformation.
Last month another study by the Royal Veterinary College warned that pugs now suffer from such severe health conditions that the breed can no longer be considered a ‘typical dog’.
Pugs are significantly more likely to suffer from breathing, eye, and skin disorders than other breeds, according to vets.
Pugs’ short-faced ‘brachycephalic’ characteristics did not evolve naturally, and are instead the result of selective breeding.
This facial structure puts them at high risk for a range of health conditions, including breathing, eye and skin disorders.
The research has been published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics.
What your pedigree dog breed looked like centuries ago: Dachshunds, bulldogs and basset hounds have been cruelly overbred to have floppier ears and tiny legs – as vets warn obsession with flat-faces has left pugs enduring a ‘lifetime of suffering’
Shocking images have revealed what dogs used to look like, amid warnings that breeds like pugs and French bulldogs are being cruelly overbred for fashion.
From German Shepherds to Basset Hounds, many breeds have changed dramatically following years of selective breeding.
‘Most dog breeds were originally selected for particular purposes, such as hunting or guarding property,’ the RSPCA explains. ‘Humans selectively bred dogs that were best suited for the various roles required of them, based on their fitness, ability and utility.
‘Nowadays, in order to win dog shows, pedigree dogs have been bred to emphasise certain physical features in accordance with breed standards set by the Kennel Club. The dog who is judged to most closely match its breed standard is awarded the winner.
Pugs have been bred to have squashed noses and big eyes, while boxers have shorter faces with a larger mouth, and bull terriers have mutated to have a warped skull and thicker abdomen
‘As a side effect of keeping different dog breeds separate, and focusing on breeding for appearance, there’s a lack of genetic diversity within dog breeds. This lack of genetic diversity can increase the risk of inherited diseases like cancer and blindness.’
Boxers have been bred to have shorter faces with a larger mouth, while dachshunds’ backs and necks have stretched out and their legs have shrunk to a point that makes it difficult for them to manoeuver over obstacles a few inches off of the ground.
Meanwhile, pugs have been bred to have squashed noses and big eyes, which puts them at high risk for a range of health conditions, including breathing, eye and skin disorders, according to a new study.
‘The extreme characteristics many owners find so appealing, such as squashed faces, big eyes and curly tails, are seriously compromising pugs’ health and welfare and often result in a lifetime of suffering,’ explained Justine Shotton, British Veterinary Association (BVA) President.
‘While these extreme, unhealthy characteristics remain, we will continue to strongly recommend potential owners do not buy brachycephalic breeds such as pugs.’
Prior to being a stocky fighter, Bull Terriers had a slim curved body and a more chiseled nose, reports Science and Dogs
The Bull Terrier was first created in the early 1800s with the mix of the old English Terrier and the Bulldog.
During this time, dog fighting was a big source of entertainment in Europe and people were always trying to breed dogs into better fighters.
Prior to being a stocky fighter, Bull Terriers had a slim curved body and a more chiseled nose, reports Science and Dogs.
Over the years, the animals mutated to have a warped skull and thicker abdomen, and it also gained a compulsive tail-chasing trait.
The Basset Hound’s short, curved legs are a result of an extra copy of a specific gene, which produces growth protein
The Basset Hound’s short, curved legs are a result of an extra copy of a specific gene, which produces growth protein.
Prior to human interruption, this dog had shorter ears, a less droopy face and a curve in its back.
Today, their bellies are much lower to the ground and their rear legs have also seemed to lower with excessive skin and larger floppy ears.
Basset Hounds are prone to vertebra problem and droopy eyes that are constantly suffering from entropion and ectropion.
The development of this dog took place in the 7th century by Abbot Hubert, who was an avid hunter, reports VetStreet.
Hubert worked on a new strain of hound with powerful sensing capabilities, which evolved into the Bloodhounds of today, but another line produced short-legged, slow-moving dogs that became the preferred dog of hunters on foot in search of small game.
Boxers are successors of the extinct bullenbaiser breeds, which was a cross of mastiff, bulldog and, some suggest, a Great Dane and terrier
Boxers are successors of the extinct bullenbaiser breeds, which was a cross of mastiff, bulldog and, some suggest, a Great Dane and terrier.
Developed in 19th century Germany, these dogs were designed as bull baiting dogs and later as butcher’s helpers, controlling the cattle in slaughterhouses.
Before being turned into working dogs, the boxer had a longer face and longer downward tail.
Today’s Boxer has a shorter face with a larger mouth that slightly points upwards, which has been known to host numerous problems.
Thanks to humans, dachshunds’ backs and necks have stretched out and their legs have shrunk to a point that makes it difficult for them to maneuver over obstacles a few inches off of the ground
The Dachshund once had more functioning legs and a neck more in proportion to its size.
But thanks to humans, their backs and necks have stretched out and their legs have shrunk to a point that makes it difficult for them to maneuver over obstacles a few inches off of the ground.
These dogs are known to have the highest risk of any breed for intervertebral disc disease which can result in paralysis.
They are also prone to achondroplastic related pathologies, PRA – an inherited eye condition – and problems with their legs.
These dogs have been found sketched into ancient Egyptian walls and in records from South American and China, but the one we recognize was developed in Germany some 400 years ago.
Initially used for hunting, hunters needed a stockier creature that could follow animals underground and in thick vegetation, which explains the lower abdomen.
The German Shepherd is also a result of too much breeding that ruined a canine species
The German Shepherd is also a result of too much breeding that ruined a canine species.
First attempts to standardize this breed began in the 1850s, with the goal of preserving traits that helped the dogs with their job of sheep herding.
They improved the dog’s intelligence, speed, strength and keen sense of smell, which resulted in dogs of the same breed that differed from each other.
In Dogs of All Nations, the German Shepherd is described as a medium-sized dog (25 kg /55 lb), which is far from the angulated, barrel-chested, sloping back,ataxic, 85-pounds (38 kg) we are used to seeing in the conformation ring.
The original German shepherd had a thinner abdomen and stance was sharper than the one we know today.
Saint Bernards are most likely decedents of the mastiff style Asiatic dogs used by Roman soldiers
Saint Bernards are most likely decedents of the mastiff style Asiatic dogs used by Roman soldiers.
These canines were used in the Alps as rescue dogs at the monastery and hospice founded by Bernard de Menthon the 11th century.
The St. Bernard came very close to extinction at the hospice and some suggest the monks crossed the remaining dogs with Great Danes and English Mastiffs.
Compared to their ancestors, modern St. Bernard’s have broader skulls with a steeper angle between the nose and foreheads.
The dog is also much larger than its early ancestors with a squished in face and longer fur.
The English bulldog is said to be the most changed dog from its ancestors, as it has endured so much breeding that it suffers from almost every disease possible.
The original Bulldog was bread for bull baiting, vicious and cruel dog fighting, and some experts say there has probably been more attention to creating the perfect Bulldog, than has been for any other breed in history.
It was also athletic with a smaller head and less skin hanging on its body, but most dogs bread for bull baiting eventually developed stocky bodies and enormous heads and jaws – the Bulldog was no different.
Today these creatures cannot perform the rigorous activities they were first created to day and actually have a hard time just moving around.
Shocking images have revealed how much pugs have changed over the years as a result of cruel inbreeding for fashion. Pugs’ flat faces, curly tails and big eyes did not evolve naturally, and instead are the result of selective breeding.
Pugs are significantly more likely to suffer from breathing, eye, and skin disorders than other breeds, according to vets from the Royal Veterinary College
Pugs are an ancient breed of dog, with roots dating back to around 400 BC.
Most historians agree that the breed originated in China, where they were bred as companion animals for the wealthy.
The pug’s popularity spread from China to Japan and Russia and ultimately to Europe, where they quickly ensconced themselves in royal palaces and the homes of the upper class.
Originally, pugs had long legs, longer noses, straight tails and a slim build.
However, they’ve been bred over time to have shorter legs, flatter noses, curly tails and a stockier build.
While pugs’ squashed faces are often perceived as ‘cute’, they can result in a huge range of severe health issues.
Speaking to MailOnline, Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at national pet charity Blue Cross said: ‘Sadly overbreeding to meet demand for flat faced breeds such as pugs, French bulldogs and Persian cats, which are seen as fashionable and cute, can result in these pets suffering from a range of health issues including breathing problems, eye disease, skin disease, heart conditions, spinal abnormalities and joint disease.’
Gerard Butler, Paris Hilton and YouTuber Zoe Sugg are just a few of the famous faces who have shared their lives with the breed.
But in a study published this week, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College compared the risks of 40 common conditions in pugs with other dog breeds, and found that pugs were at increased risk for 23.
Pugs were 54 times more likely to have brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome – a condition affecting the upper airway – and 51 times more likely to have narrow nostrils.
The breed was also 13 times more likely to suffer from corneal ulceration and almost 11 times more likely to have skin fold dermatitis.
Additionally, pugs were found to be 2.5 times more likely to suffer from obesity, and twice as likely to have overgrown nails.
Dr Dan O’Neill, who led the study, said: ‘Although hugely popular as pets, we now know that that several severe health issues are linked to the extreme body shape of Pugs that many humans find so cute.’
Pugs also have a very short life expectancy of just 7.4 years – considerably shorter than the average life expectancies across all breeds, of 11.2 years.
Based on the findings, vets are urging people not to buy pugs until stricter breeding standards are in place.
Jaya Sahota, a veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College, said: ‘Widespread ownership of Pugs with extreme facial and body conformations should be discouraged until measures are in place to ensure stricter and more acceptable breed standards.’
Worryingly, many people seem to be unaware of the potential issues that pugs face, according to Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club.
‘We, alongside vets, welfare organisations and breed clubs, continue to work collaboratively to educate the general public, many of whom simply don’t seem to be aware of the potential issues that some of these dogs face,’ he said.
The Kennel Club says that much can be done to protect pugs, including educating the public and curbing ‘rogue breeders.’
‘We aim to curb the increasing numbers of rogue breeders, who are outside of any sphere of influence and are producing dogs with no regard for welfare and continue to urge would-be owners and breeders to think carefully about any breeding or buying decisions when it comes to Pugs, and make use of health testing, evidence-based resources and expert advice available on The Kennel Club website,’ Mr Lambert explained.
Ms Cross added: ‘We never want anyone to feel blamed or shamed for sharing their lives with one of these pets – but we as a society must start doing what is best for the welfare of our four-legged friends.’
Speaking to MailOnline, Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert, said: ‘We’re calling for urgent action to help improve the welfare of these breeds for the future and urge people thinking about getting this type of dog to get an alternative breed or crossbreed instead.’
The history of the pug
Pugs are an ancient breed of dog, with roots dating back to 400 B.C.
Most historians agree that the breed originated in China, where they were bred as companion animals for the wealthy.
With their people-pleasing nature and adaptability, Pugs made a name for themselves as ideal lapdogs and companions.
They kept Tibetan Buddhist monks company in their monasteries and received royal treatment as companions to Chinese emperors and their families, who valued them so much they even kept guards and servants to protect and care for them.
Three types of flat-faced dogs were bred by the Chinese: The Lion dog, the Pekingese, and the ‘Lo-sze,’ also known as the ancient Pug.
The Pug’s popularity spread from China to Japan and Russia and ultimately to Europe, where they quickly ensconced themselves in royal palaces and the homes of the upper class.
Their small size, sturdy frame, and minimal exercise requirements made them ideally suited as a household pet.