The breeding of bulldogs could be banned in the UK if alterations to their shape are not made, a new study has warned.
Researchers from Royal Veterinary College say English Bulldogs are at increased risk of suffering from breathing, eye, and skin conditions due to their extreme physical features, including shortened muzzles, folded skin, and a squat body and have a short lifespan of just eight years.
The research found that bulldogs are 38 times more likely than other dogs to get dermatitis in skin folds, more than 24 times more likely to have a jutting lower jaw and have almost 20 times the risk of obstructive airways causing breathing problems.
The study has recommended that those who are wanting to buy a bulldog ‘stop and think’ before doing so.
The study, which was published in the journal Canine Medicine and Genetics, suggests that bulldogs should be bred to have more moderate physical features both for their health and to prevent their breeding being banned.
Study author Dr Dan O'Neill, Associate Professor of Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC 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.
“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.”
Other countries, including Norway and the Netherlands, have already restricted the breeding of English Bulldogs due to the health problems caused by their physiques.
The authors of the study hope that in the future English Bulldogs should be expected and recognised to have a longer face, smaller head and non--wrinkled skin, resulting in a healthier dog overall.
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