New research identifies health problems faced by British bulldogs

Ear infections, skin infections and obesity are just some of the health issues that the iconic British bulldog is particularly prone to, new research shows.

The research, led by the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) VetCompass programme, is the largest ever study of British bulldogs treated in first-opinion veterinary practices.

Due to breeding trends, 12.7% of British bulldogs suffer from ear infections, 8.8% from skin infections and 8.7% from obesity, the RVC said.

A number of other conditions are also more prevalent in British bulldogs than in other dog breeds. These include skin fold dermatitis (7.8%), prolapsed gland of the third eyelid or ‘cherry eye’ (6.8%), interdigital cysts (3.7%), entropion or inward turning of the eyelid (3.6%), and corneal ulceration (3.1%).

Males are more likely than females to develop skin infections, interdigital cysts, atopic dermatitis and aggression, whereas females are more likely to develop dental disease and obesity.

According to the veterinary school, many of these issues are linked with certain desired aesthetics encouraged when breeding British bulldogs, such as the wrinkly face.

The research also suggests that breathing issues associated with the British bulldog and other short-faced breeds are currently under-diagnosed, with just 3.5% of the 1,621 British bulldogs analysed in the study having been diagnosed with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).

Many owners may consider breathing problems such as snoring as normal for this breed, so they don’t take their dog for needed check-ups with their vet.

Concerns over the health problems facing the bulldog have mounted in the past decade, according to Dr Rowena Packer, BBSRC research fellow at the RVC.

“It is extremely valuable to have solid data on the health problems facing this breed, confirming a number of inherent breed predispositions that need to be tackled,” she said.

“This data supports current initiatives encouraging breed reform, particularly regarding health problems inherently related to their looks, and the need for selection for healthier body shapes. For example, skin fold dermatitis was common in bulldogs and is associated with the desired wrinkled face in this breed — this calls into question the justification of this and other such breed traits that put dogs at risk of potentially avoidable disease.”

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