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Bulldog Breeding Problems

The following has been requested as a result of a column I wrote:

PLOS |Genetics – Bulldogs’ Screw Tails Linked To Human Genetic Disease

Mansour, Tamer A., Katherine Lucot, Sara E. Konopelski, Peter J. Dickinson, Beverly K. Sturges, Karen L. Vernau, Shannon Choi, et al. “Whole Genome Variant Association across 100 Dogs Identifies a Frame Shift Mutation in DISHEVELLED 2 Which Contributes to Robinow-like Syndrome in Bulldogs and Related Screw Tail Dog Breeds.” PLOS Genetics 14, no. 12 (December 6, 2018): e1007850.

“Bulldogs’ Screw Tails Linked to Human Genetic Disease.” ScienceDaily.  Bulldogs’ screw tails linked to human genetic disease

Journal of applied physiology:

The English bulldog: a natural model of sleep-disordered breathing – J. C. Hendricks, L. R. Kline, R. J. Kovalski, J. A. O’Brien, A. R. Morrison, and A. I. Pack

Journal of applied physiology:

The Effects of Ondansetron on Sleep-Disordered Breathing in the English Bulldog

FROM PERFECTION TO PATHETIC PATHOLOGY IN 100 YEARS – A Literature Review of Evidence-Based Health and Welfare Concerns, with Special Reference to the English Bulldog – Gaia Research Institute

One of many bulldog specific references in an RSPCA report: Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern?:

In some breeds, selection for very short or screw tails associated with misshapen tail vertebrae may lead to
the tail lying tightly against itself or the body and being prone to infection. Amputation is needed in the worst
cases (Bulldog Rescue and Rehoming 2008). The vertebral malformation needed for the screw tail may occasionally also affect other parts of the spine, causing kyphosis or scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) and narrowing of the spinal cord. These in turn may lead to hind limb weakness or paralysis, urinary or faecal incontinence, and/or spinal pain (Braund 2003).

Universities Federation for Animal Welfare – Genetic welfare problems of companion animals

Breed: English Bulldog

Condition: Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome

Related terms: brachycephalic ocular disease, exophthalmos, exposure keratopathy, exposure keratopathy syndrome, keratitis syndrome, pigmentary keratisis, macropalpebral fissure syndrome, medial canthus syndrome

Outline: Because of their extreme brachycephalic (short) head shape and its consequences on the anatomy (shape and positioning) of the eyes and surrounding tissues, English bulldogs are prone to several eye conditions that tend to lead to chronic irritation and pain. It seems likely that prevalence of these diseases will be lower in those with less extremely abnormal head shapes (compared with more typical canine head shape).

Also: Pulmonic Stenosis

Breed: English Bulldog

Condition: Pulmonic Stenosis

Related terms: Pulmonary valve stenosis

Outline: Pulmonic stenosis is a congenital narrowness or constriction of the outflow from the right side of the heart. It occurs much more commonly in the English bulldog than on average for dogs and is believed to have a genetic basis, probably involving several genes. If the constriction is mild there may be no welfare effects but when more severe it can lead to right-side heart failure causing chronic malaise.


Dystocia due to Foetal-Pelvic Disproportion

Breed: English Bulldog

Condition: Distocia due to Foetal-Pelvic Disproportion

Related terms: foetal-maternal disproportion, dorso-ventrally flattened pelvic canal

Outline: English bulldogs have difficulties giving birth. This is because there is commonly a serious mismatch between the size of English bulldogs pups and the birth canal of their mothers, caused by changes in body shape (of both puppy and mother) due to selection for particular features. This means that unassisted birth is not possible and, unless a caesarean section is carried out, the birth is likely to end in the painful death of the mother.

Report from the Kennel Club/ British Small Animal Veterinary Association Scientific Committee Summary results of the Purebred Dog Health Survey for British Bulldogs

Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats

Alex Gough MA VetMB CertSAM MRCVS & Alison Thomas BVSc CertSAM MRCVS


Cardiovascular conditionsVentricular septal defect• Marked risk in this breed (relative risk 5.0) • No sex predilection• Not known to be inherited in this breed

Tetralogy of Fallot

• Uncommon • Congenital

Aortic stenosis

• Common congenital disease

• Relative risk > 5.0

• No sex predilection

• Inheritance possibly autosomal dominant with modifying genes, or

Pulmonic stenosis

• Third most frequent cause of canine congen- ital heart disease

• May be polygenic mode of inheritance

• Relative risk 12.9

• May be associated anomalous coronary artery development in this breed

Dermatological conditions

Muzzle folliculitis and furunculosis

• Possible genetic susceptibility


• Males predisposed

• Front feet more commonly affected

Generalised demodicosis

• Bulldogs are in the ten breeds at highest statistical risk of this
disease in the Cornell, USA, population


• Rare

• Affects older, intact females

Canine follicular dysplasia

• A marked predilection in this breed implies a genetic basis for this
group of diseases

Seasonal flank alopecia

• Tends to occur in spring or autumn

Primary lymphoedema

• No apparent sex predisposition • Only seen in certain populations


• May occur due to intentional breeding for excessive skin folding

Skin tumours

• See under Neoplastic conditions

Endocrine diseases


• Reported in some texts to be at increased risk • Often middle-aged
(2–6 years)

Gastrointestinal conditions

Cleft palate

• Congenital disorder with inheritance sus- pected in this breed

Musculoskeletal conditions

Ununited anconeal process

• A true fracture of the process occurs in this breed

Congenital elbow luxation

Type II luxation occurs in this breed (prox- imal radius displaced

Usually 4–5 months old at presentationHemivertebrae• Mode of
inheritance not known

Sacrocaudal dysgenesis

• Congenital

• See also under Neurological conditions


Hip dysplasia

• Although not ranked in the top 20 in the BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme,
due to small numbers sampled, the breed mean score was 41

Neoplastic conditions

Mast cell tumours

Possible breed predisposition

May be seen at any age (from 4 monthsonwards), but usually seen in
older animalsPrimary brain tumour• See under Neurological
conditionsLymphosarcoma (malignant lymphoma)

• Higher incidence noted in this breed

• Most cases are seen in middle-aged dogs (mean 6 –7 years)

Neurological conditions

Congenital deafness

• Signs seen from birth


• Congenital

• Relatively common

• Onset of clinical signs: <3 months


• Congenital

• Occasionally seen

Spina bifida (and myelodysplasia)

• Congenital

Sacrocaudal dysgenesis

• Congenital

• Occasionally reported

Stenosis of the vertebral canal

• Congenital

Primary brain tumour

• Higher incidence noted in this breed • Older dogs affected (mean 9–10

Ocular conditionsEntropion (usually lower lid)• Breed predisposition; polygenic inheritance likelyMacropalpebral fissure resulting incombined entropion–ectropion

(‘diamond eye’)

• Breed predisposition; genetic basis incompletely understood


• Breed predisposition


• Breed predisposition; inheritance suspected

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

• Breed predisposition

• Age of onset: 4–7 years

Prolapse of the gland of the nictitating membrane (see plate 4)

• Breed predisposition; possibly inherited • Usually presents before 2
years of age


Possible breed predisposition

Generally seen in male dogs at 4 months to 5 years of age

Urethral prolapse

Refractory corneal ulceration

• Breed predisposition • Usually middle-aged

Multifocal retinal dysplasia

• Simple autosomal recessive suspected

Physiological conditions


• Genetic dwarfism

• Skull and limbs affected

• Accepted as a breed standard

Renal and urinary conditions


Sacrocaudal dysgenesis (causing urinary incontinence)

• Congenital

• Occasionally reported

Cystine urolithiasis

• Cystinuria results from an inherited defect in renal tubular
transport of cystine and predis- poses to cystine urolithiasis

• Higher incidence reported in this breed in some American surveys

• Average age at diagnosis is 1–8 years • Males seem predisposed

Urate urolithiasis

• Higher incidence noted in this breed; familial predisposition

• Average age at diagnosis is 3 – 6 years • Males seem to be predisposed

Reproductive conditions


• Breed predisposition due to combination of narrow pelvis and large
head/wide shoulders

Vaginal hyperplasia

• Possible breed predisposition


Developmental defect believed to be in- herited as a sex-limited,
autosomal recessive trait

Believed to be a breed at increased risk of the conditionUrethral
prolapse• See under Renal and urinary conditionsRespiratory
conditionsHypoplastic trachea• This breed accounts for 55% of cases

Brachycephalic upper airway syndrome

• Complex of anatomical deformities • Common in this breed

Ectopic ureters

• Congenital anomaly; ported in this breed higher incidence

Usually presents < 1 year of age

More commonly diagnosed in femalesUrethrorectal fistula

• Possible breed predisposition

• Males more commonly affected than females

Likely to be a consequence of selective breed- ing for certain facial

May be associated with non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema in this breed

Aerophagia associated with this condition may lead to excessive

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2 thoughts on “Bulldog Breeding Problems”

  1. This is awful. It’s there any hope that this will change and that breeders will see the error of their ways? Poor sweethearts. I had no idea but wondered why I’d heard of these problems in the English Bulldog. We will look at rescue I suppose but we so wanted a puppy to work with. Thank you for this information. These facts back up your article!

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