Behind those adorable wrinkly faces, pushed in nose and squat bodies, the English bulldog is suffering in silence, and it may well be too late to save them – new research suggests.
According to the study published July 28, in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, this dog breed is currently one of the unhealthiest creatures today walking on four legs because of its very low genetic diversity. The English bulldog is so deformed; they die young from physical and genomic abnormalities. The bulldog’s genome have been altered to create the breeder’s desired outward appearance, causing significant loss of genetic diversity in the region responsible for normal immune responses.
What pet owners see as adorable and unique looks are really disabilities which have not have been highlighted. Niels Pederson, the study leader, and veterinary researcher at the University of California believes that there is little ‘wiggle room’ left to make additional genetic change for the breed to survive. “In our estimation, it will be difficult, and possibly impossible, to back off and reverse breed in the dogs,” says Pedersen.
Living in Disability
Brachycephalic dog breeds like the English bulldog have health problems that hinder them from functioning well. These dogs have tiny nostrils and windpipes which make it difficult for them to breathe and cool off through panting – a discomfort that increases the chances of bulldogs’ death by heatstroke during extreme temperatures. The only way to address this is through surgery and may even be dangerous if the dog’s airway is beyond the reach of laser or scalpel.
The bulldog is laden with serious respiratory problems resulting to frequent fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Their wrinkly facial skin is prone to infection of yeast and bacteria. Their jaws are too short for their teeth, causing crooked growth and faster tooth decay. These docile, friendly creatures have bones and joints that are too short and malformed; they can’t give birth normally and are almost unlikely to live past the age of five.
The Dark Side of Breeding Dogs
Humans have been breeding dogs to highlight certain traits for more than a thousand years. Dogs were usually bred to highlight traits for hunting or better temperament for companionship. It used to be a good thing, until only two centuries ago, after the popularity of dog shows. Since then, dogs have been selectively inbred to have specifically desired physical features.
It was believed that during fierce dog show competitions, many owners started ‘faking’ their dog’s appearance to make them look more desirable. They would trim the dog’s ears, color their coats, and shape their heads or bodies as to make them look bigger, more elongated, or smaller. As a result, many of these purebred dogs have inherited diseases and health issues from their ancestors including hip dysplasia, dislocations, and physical deformities.
The problem gets worse when breeders are not doing anything to better the health of these animals. According to experts, many of these breeders knew about the health complications caused by selective inbreeding dogs with unhealthy genes. They were simply unconcerned about the future of the animal, and prioritized breeding the traits that looked consistent with the “breed standard”.
Is There Any Hope Left for the English bulldog?
Years of inbreeding have practically brought doom to the breed, and these unforeseen flaws may remain forever unchangeable. However, scientists believe there is still a way to save the breed, and it will include cross-breeding – a process that will alter the physical appearance of our short and stout bulldogs.
This is the only way to make sure that these dogs will survive and not end up becoming grotesque and deformed to the point of extinction. “Breeders have to realize they have a problem,” says Pedersen.
Bulldogs are wonderful pets that have brought joy and love to us for over so many years. From guarding our properties, helping us overcome depression, and simply being loyal companions – they have saved our lives in many ways. It’s time we pay them back and help them overcome this challenge. To save the breed and ensure that they live a longer and healthier life, pet owners must put the animal’s health first before their preference for consistency and looks.
Featured photo credit: Meredith Hunter via hd.unsplash.com