Study shows there's no cure for the English bulldog blues

Study shows there's no cure for the English bulldog blues

UC Davis researchers say the lack of genetic diversity in English bulldogs is concerning for the future of the breed.
Aug 08, 2016
By staff

(Getty Images)They can’t fit through their mothers’ birth canals. They’re plagued by serious respiratory problems because they are brachycephalic. They die at a median age of a little over 8 years of age. Won’t someone help the hapless English bulldog?

In a recent study from the University of California, Davis, researchers examined the DNA of 102 registered English bulldogs predominantly from the United States and 37 English bulldogs seen at UC-Davis for various health issues and found there is no going back to a healthier conformation.

“We were taken back by how little ‘wiggle room’ still exists in the breed for making additional genetic changes,” says the lead researcher of the study Niels Pedersen, DVM, PhD, of the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health, in a release.

English bulldogs are plagued not only by brachycephalic syndrome, which has been bred into them for five centuries to create their characteristic smushed faces. In addition, English bulldogs are prone to:

  • Flat chests
  • Splayed legs
  • Cleft palates
  • Chondrodysplasia, causing hip and elbow dysplasia and other joint and spinal problems
  • Dental, skin, heart, ocular and immune system problems

Pedersen says that breeders have been trying to alleviate this situation, but the DNA analysis shows that matching an English bulldog with any another English bulldog is likely to result in these same health problems. Possibly the only way to make them healthier is to introduce a different breed to bring in some genetic diversity.

“We definitely would question whether further attempts to physically diversify the English bulldog, for example, by rapidly introducing new, rare coat colors; making the body smaller and more compact; or adding further wrinkles in the coat; are going to improve the already tenuous genetic diversity of the breed,” Pedersen says.

Natural selection

A breed than can't have offspring without a C section ..that's all I need to say. It's really sad when you look at where the breed was decades ago. And yes the other health problems of course but if left to their own devices essentially they'd go extinct.

You point out problems in

You point out problems in just Bulldogs? What about problems in other breeds with small gene pools. Hereditary cancers and heart problems are just the tip of the ice berg in Irish Wolfhounds and Scottish Deerhounds.
I am sure there are more breeds suffering from hereditary problems that breeders ignore or can do nothing about.

Sad but true

I have long said that breeding English bulldogs that cannot even live normally is cruel. I very much enjoy spaying and neutering them.

Just think: we would euthanize some animals of other breeds that:
Can't breathe normally
Can't walk normally
Have severe, recurrent and painful skin infections
Have painful and chronic eye infections
Have painful and chronic ear infections
Have an underbite that prevents them from eating normally
Have collapsed or stenotic trachea
Have laryngeal dysfunction
Have severe limb malformations
but yet we breed these characteristics into the Bulldog breed.