Posted on August 23, 2016: The English Bulldog may be one of the most coveted breeds (the American Kennel Club states that it is the fourth most popular breed) but it’s one of the most unhealthy dog breeds as well. New research indicates that these canines don’t possess the genetic multiplicity to better the breed. Also, they cannot improve from their erstwhile level of health. This study which was published in the Canine Genetics and Epidemiology has been conducted by University of California's Center for Companion Animal Health. Because of the lack of genetic diversity, breeders will be unable to create stronger and healthier versions of the breed. Niels Pedersen has helmed this study. Ashley S. Pooch and Hongwei Liu of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine collaborated with him.
This is because the bulldog has a limited genetic base. This breed was created from simply 68 canines, and was officially registered in 1835. Intensive breeding may also have led to this. Currently, there is just a wee bit scope to bring a change to the breed. This spells bad news for the breed in black and white. Bulldogs are after all battling an array of ailments. Their life span is around six years, and a maximum of ten years. The English Bulldog suffers from ailments right from the embryonic stage till old age. The breed ranks second among dog breeds in congenital diseases and puppy related ailments. It may be born with birth defects like splayed legs, flat chests and cleft palates. If a bulldog develops breathing problems, it may die early.
The wide array of ailments which plague bulldogs during their living years include: respiratory problems, hip dysplasia, cyst formation between toes, cancer, allergies and cherry eye, to name just a few. The skin folds on the bulldog’s face, makes it prone to infections. Their incredibly small nostrils make it tough for them to cool down their bodies, thereby making them susceptible to overheating, which leads to hyperthermia.150 years ago bulldogs didn’t have wrinkled skin or inward faces. They had straight tails, long faces and minimal wrinkling. In the current day, the bulldog is no more a symbol of strength and tenacity.
These dogs were particularly bred to give birth to dogs with flattened faces. This spelled doom for them as a breed as that caused a myriad of health problems. This has made the skull smaller, which has created health complications, which may even be fatal. Because of this natural birth isn’t advisable for the breed. Surgical intervention is necessary for delivery.
It is over breeding that has given the bulldog its unique appearance. Great portions of this breed’s genome has been changed because of these morphological conditions which have arisen. This has led to an immense loss in the diversity in the part of the genome which brings about normal immune functions. Neither interbreeding nor breeding with other dog species can now help the bulldog in any way to improve its breed.
The bulldog’s genome has been gradually changing for hundreds of years. These changes have however been particularly noticeable in the recent years. Breeders are making the best of the little diversity that remains. Many bulldogs are still being born of parents who have been immensely interbred. Eliminating all problematic mutations will not solve any problem as it will lessen genetic diversity further. This may cause rare colours to be supplemented to the coat, more wrinkles to be added and the body to become smaller. This will not ameliorate the situation.
To research the genetic make of a bulldog; examination was done on more than 102 of the species. 87 of them were from the USA and 15 were from other nations. These canines were compared to another 37 bulldogs who had complicated health problems. This was carried out to ascertain if this was because of the puppy mills or commercial breeders. It was discovered that neither was the cause, according to one news report. Another news report, however seems to support this claim.
Last ray of hope
To combat this problem, Swiss breeders are breeding the English Bulldog with the Olde English Bulldog (a currently created American dog breed) to bring about a new breed called the Continental Bulldog. This out-crossing of bulldogs may help the breed. The researchers are however skeptical of this. Moreover, some breeders are complaining that this mixed breed has obviously lost the purity of the original English Bulldog. It’s been argued that these purist breeds should emphasize more on the health of the dog, rather than the kind of appearance it may be born with.
With the popularity of bulldogs rising, they are purchased at the exorbitant price of $30,000 in the USA. Some animal activists opine that the American Kennel Club could help by relaxing their breed standards.
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