Nearly everyone has their own favorite type of dog breeds, but one specific type of pup may be the most complicated of them all, a new study shows.
The study suggests French bulldogs, which are usually about 1 foot tall and typically weigh under 30 pounds, have a higher chance of being diagnosed with 20 common disorders compared with other breeds. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics.
Dan O’Neill, lead author of the study and senior lecturer in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College in London, said he has spent the past decade studying the French bulldog because it has become one of the most popular dogs in the United Kingdom .
According to Lifetime Pet Cover, it is the fourth most popular breed in the region. In the US, it’s the second most popular dog breed, just behind Labrador retrievers.
As popular as bulldog breeds are, they are known for being highly susceptible to health issues. Ashley Rossman, a veterinarian at Glen Oak Dog and Cat Hospital in Glenview, Illinois, told USA TODAY in August they are one of the dog species that can easily suffer from heatstroke because of their scrunched-up faces, which means more panting and respiratory issues .
To see how bad it can get for French bulldogs, O’Neill and his team randomly selected veterinary records for the breed with other randomly selected files of other breeds. What the team found was that French bulldogs are a breed like no other.
“If French bulldogs were a typical dog breed, you would expect their health issues to be similar to dogs overall. But the French bulldogs were hugely different in the top 43 conditions,” O’Neill told USA TODAY. “The French bulldog is no longer a typical dog. It’s something else.”
Data showed that French bulldogs were at “significantly greater risk” in developing disorders such as a 42-times greater chance of narrowed nostrils, a 30-times greater chance of obstructive airways syndrome, an 11-times greater chance of skin dermatitis and a nine -times greater chance of having difficulty giving birth.
“French bulldogs overall have a much poorer health profile than non-French bulldogs,” O’Neill said.
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Many factors influence health deterioration in the breed. O’Neill said breeders and shelters can’t really be blamed; Potential pet owners are at fault.
“Flat-face dogs do not exist in nature. They’re a creation of mankind’s desire for a flat-face dog, and there were huge health issues associated with them,” he said.
One factor the author points out is the desire for dogs with multiple skin folds. They may be cute, but it’s not natural.
“These are things that humans think look cute, but if you’re a dog, it is not cute having skin folds,” O’Neill said. “We actively seek out dogs with conformations that we find cute and appealing as owners as humans but that actually are really unpleasant and unhealthy for the dogs.”
The authors say their study doesn’t indicate how severe or how long the breed can have a disorder, but there are signs owners can look for to make sure their French bulldog isn’t having any serious problems.
Consistent snoring can mean a respiratory ailment. Owners should also regularly check their dogs’ skin and bathe them.
Not all hope is lost for the breed. O’Neill says people should put aside their physical preferences for a French bulldog and focus on the dog’s needs for a responsible owner. He also recommends that breeding standards should focus on longer muzzles and wider nostrils.
“It is a process over time to gradually bring the French bulldog back from its current extreme conformation toward a much more moderate and healthy conformation,” O’Neill said.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.