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Male French Bulldogs unhealthier than females, RVC study shows

The top health issues in French Bulldogs have been revealed as a result of Britain’s largest ever study into the breed, conducted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and supported by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

The study found that French Bulldogs are vulnerable to a range of health conditions, including ear infections, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis and skin fold dermatitis.

Male French Bulldogs also appeared to be less healthy than females.

The research documents the recent rise in the popularity of the French Bulldog over the past few decades and predicts they will soon become the most popular dog breed in the UK. It is hoped that this research can provide a framework to identify the most important health priorities for French Bulldogs which will enhance the health and welfare of the breed.

The RVC conducted the study of 2,228 French Bulldogs under veterinary care by using its technology, VetCompass which collected the de-identified clinical data records of 455,557 dogs from veterinary practices across the UK.

With this data, the researchers analysed for patterns of disease and found that:

  • The most common disorders recorded in French Bulldogs were ear infections (14.0 percent of French Bulldogs), diarrhoea (7.5 percent of French Bulldogs), conjunctivitis (3.2 percent of French Bulldogs)
  • Compared to dogs overall, French Bulldogs were particularly prone to skin fold dermatitis (three percent of French Bulldogs), cherry eye (2.6 percent of French Bulldogs) and Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) (2.4 percent of French Bulldogs).
  • Of the 343 identified disorders in French Bulldogs, aggression was ranked the 13th most common. This suggests some concerns given that the French Bulldog is often considered to be an ideal family pet.
  • Males were more likely to be diagnosed with eight of the 26 most common health problems associated with French Bulldogs, whereas there were no issues that females were more likely to get than males.
  • 72.4 percent of French Bulldogs studied had at least one disorder recorded.
  • French Bulldog populations have grown substantially over the past decade – accounting for 0.02 percent of puppies born in 2003 and rising to 1.46 percent of all puppies born by 2013.

Dr. Dan O’Neill, senior lecturer at RVC and the main author, said: “As well as the health risks associated with their extreme physical features, the public’s insatiable demand for French Bulldog puppies is fuelling a hugely profitable market for unscrupulous dealers and breeders.

“Many puppies are farmed in very low welfare conditions, often outside of the UK, and then passed off as healthy happy UK-bred puppies. This can contribute to many later behavioural problems, such as aggression. Owners who still decide to buy a French Bulldog puppy should research carefully about where the puppy comes from and ideally only buy from a breeder that is a member of the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme’.”

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary, added: “There has been an unprecedented surge in popularity of the French Bulldog, as well as irresponsible breeders, who want to make a quick profit, are cashing in on this trend by churning out puppies with no regard for their health, temperament or welfare. The paper shows that many of the health problems seen in the breed can be caused by low welfare standards, often seen on puppy farms.

“We urge puppy buyers to seek out good breeders, who will always show the pup’s breeding environment.”

VetCompass is technology from the RVC which analyses the veterinary records of 10 million animals from 1,000 veterinary practices in the UK and is now the world’s largest research database of anonymised clinical records.

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