Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bulldog Ethics

I don't believe in the existence of the modern day bulldog.  These poor animals are plagued with chronic and debilitating diseases from the day they are born.   The list of maladies afflicting these dogs is almost endless as is the number of body systems involved.

They commonly have infections of the skin folds of the face and around the tail (often requiring daily cleaning or surgical correction), cysts between the toes, allergies, and ear infections.  Eyelid disorders and "cherry eye" or prolapse of gland of the third eyelid are the common diseases of bulldog eyes. Upwards of 75% of bulldogs have hip dysplasia and some have luxating patellas.  Cardiac disease is a common cause of death. On top of all this they are often severely affected with brachycephalic airway syndrome.  This is a cluster of conditions afflicting "short-faced" dogs including narrowed nostrils and tracheas, and elongated soft palate (the tissues in the back of the mouth and throat), any of which can cause respiratory distress on a daily basis but combined can spell disaster and lead to a difficult (and noisy) daily existence. Bulldogs can't tolerate heat or significant amounts of exercise and are significant anesthetic risks.  On top of this most bulldog litters are the product of artificial insemination and c-sections.  Natural selection would never allow for this breed to continue in it's current condition.
Old world style Bulldog

Modern Bulldog

If any other dog was afflicted with all these conditions most people would be horrified to hear of it being bred but since it's a bulldog people seem to overlook or accept it because "that's just how bulldogs are. "  Except it isn't.  Bulldogs didn't just appear on the planet looking like this.  All dog breeds as we know them today are the product of genetic manipulation and selective breeding over hundreds of years.  Bulldogs were originally used in the sport of bull baiting.  Fortunately for all involved this sport was ultimately banned and the production of bulldogs for pets continued but with further manipulation to magnify some of the breed's unique characteristics.  The one favor breeders have done for bulldogs over time is to alter their temperamant creating a docile and family friendly dog.  But what they have done for it's health-all in the name of aesthetics-is unforgivable.

And one might argue that the same could be said of other breeds whose unique characteristics have been exploited (shar-peis, basset hounds, dachshunds, and corgis to name a few) and I don't fully disagree with this.  However many of these dogs live all or most of their lives in good health.  While there are certainly risks and hazards associated with  long backs, floppy ears, and droopy eyelids they do not frequently affect the daily quality of life in the same way as bulldog diseases.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any of this is going to change.  AKC statistics for 2012 show the English Bulldog is the 5th most popular breed in the US.  This means there are plenty of unsuspecting pet owners lining up to fork over thousands of dollars to "breeders" for a roly-poly bulldog puppy.  What's even more sad is that due to the high rate of c-section in this breed, veterinarians are in the unique position of controlling the future of bulldogs.  If they would simply stop offering repeated c-sections and artificial inseminations to owners then it would force a more natural, healthier dog to be produced.  But not all veterinarians shares my viewpoint.  Some like bulldogs the way they are, some are in it for the money, some want to make clients happy at any cost and quite frankly, are not as opinionated as me.  But, that's why I have a blog and they don't.  Which more or less brings me to the end of my rant.  As always, thanks for reading.


Diana said...

you know, except for TV, I dont think Ive ever come across a bull dog. And I go lots of places with dogs. I knew that breed had problems but I had no idea how bad it was. Thanks

Abby (Doggerel) said...

I utterly agree! New York Times' Magazine's cover story on the bulldog was very excellent (came out last year, I think) and revealing. My heart breaks a little every time I see one, struggling just to breathe as it walks down the sidewalk.