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News Article

Study of breed health in British Bulldogs

Large UK study finds common disorders are otitis externa, pyoderma and overweight/obesity

Research, led by the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) VetCompass™ programme, reveals that British bulldog ownership doubled from comprising 0.35% of all puppies born in 2009 to 0.60% in 2013. However, the findings show that due to breeding trends 12.7% of British bulldogs suffer from ear infections, 8.8% from skin infections and 8.7% from obesity.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, finds that there are a number of conditions that are more prevalent in British bulldogs than in other dog breeds: 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%). Many of these issues are linked with certain desired aesthetics encouraged when breeding British bulldogs such as the wrinkly face.

Only 3.5% of the 1,621 British bulldogs analysed in the study were diagnosed with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). The authors of the study say this suggests owners consider breathing problems such as snoring as normal for this short-muzzled breed and therefore not taking the dogs for needed check-ups with their vet.

The results of this study will support initiatives by the Kennel Club and the UK Bulldog Breed Club to improve breeding and also help owners and vets prioritise tackling the leading issues British bulldogs face.

Other key findings by the researchers include:

  • Males are more likely than females to develop skin infection, interdigital cysts, atopic dermatitis and aggression, whereas females are more likely to develop dental disease and obesity
  • The average adult bodyweight for a British bulldog is 26 kg
  • The average lifespan of bulldogs is 7.2 years
  • The most common causes of death are heart disease (11.8%), cancer (10.9%) and brain disorder (9.1%)


Dr Dan O’Neill, VetCompass™ epidemiologist at the RVC and Chairman of the Brachycephalic Working Group, said: “The UK has seen unprecedented increases in the popularity of certain short-faced breeds over the past decade. This has led to a series of well-documented welfare issues relating to how these dogs are bred and sold for the UK pet-owning market, high levels of dumping of unwanted dogs into the UK charities and health problems that are intrinsically linked to the extreme body shape of these dogs. This new study gives firm evidence for the first time on the true levels of popularity and also of disease diagnosed in the wider population of bulldogs in the UK. This information can help to move the conversation on welfare from ‘what are the issues’ to ‘how do we deal with these issues’. Reliable evidence is pivotal to good decision-making.”

Article: O’Neill, D.G., Skipper, A.M., Kadhim, J., Church, D.B., Brodbelt, D.C., Packer, R.M.A. (2019). Disorders of Bulldogs under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2013. PLoS ONE 14(6):e0217928, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217928

Article details

  • Date
  • 18 July 2019
  • Source
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals