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The French Bulldog is a highly popular dog breed but is linked with many serious health issues. A holistic view of breed health in French Bulldogs would assist efforts to appreciate the overall health strengths and weaknesses in the French Bulldog and to take appropriate steps to mitigate these. Based on random sampling of French Bulldogs and non-French Bulldogs under primary veterinary care during 2016 within the VetCompass Programme, a cohort study design was used to estimate the one-year (2016) period prevalence of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in each group. Risk factor analysis used multivariable logistic regression modelling methods. The analysis included 2,781 French Bulldogs and 21,850 non-French Bulldogs. French Bulldogs were younger (1.51 years, IQR 0.86 – 2.77 vs. 4.48 years, IQR 1.94 – 8.14) (p < 0.001) and lighter (12.45 kg, IQR 11.00 – 14.03 versus 13.80 kg, IQR 8.10 – 25.12) (p < 0.001) than non-French Bulldogs. Of 43 common specific-level disorders across both groups, French Bulldogs had significantly increased adjusted odds of 20/43 (46.5 %) disorders and significantly reduced adjusted odds of 11/43 (25.6 %) disorders compared to non-French Bulldogs. Highly predisposed disorders in French Bulldogs included stenotic nares (OR 42.14; 95 % CI 18.50 to 95.99; p < 0.001), Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (OR 30.89; 95 % CI 20.91 to 45.64; p < 0.001), aural discharge (OR 14.40; 95 % CI 9.08 to 22.86; p < 0.001), skin fold dermatitis (OR 11.18; 95 % CI 7.19 to 17.40; p < 0.001) and dystocia (OR 9.13; 95 % CI 5.17 to 16.13; p < 0.001). At a grouped-level of diagnostic precision, French Bulldogs had increased adjusted odds of 12/32 (37.5 %) disorders and reduced adjusted odds of 6/32 (18.8 %) disorders compared to non-French Bulldogs. These results identified ultra-predispositions with worryingly higher odds in French Bulldogs for several disorders, suggesting that the health of French Bulldogs has diverged substantially from, and may be lower than, the health of the wider non-French Bulldog population. Many of these predispositions are closely associated with the conformational extremes that define the French Bulldog breed. Shifting the typical conformation of the French Bulldog population towards a more moderate phenotype is proposed as a logical opportunity to reduce the serious health issues endemic in the French Bulldog breed. The French Bulldog is currently a hugely popular dog breed in the UK. However, the breed is linked with a range of serious health issues. Using veterinary clinical data from the VetCompass Programme at the Royal Veterinary College, this study aimed to compare the frequency of common disorders in French Bulldogs against that of all remaining dogs to identify health strengths and weaknesses in French Bulldogs. This overall view of breed health can assist owners, breeders and veterinarians to take appropriate actions to improve the health of French Bulldogs. From an overall population of 905,544 dogs, random samples of 2,781 French Bulldogs and 21,850 non-French Bulldogs were included in the analysis. French Bulldogs were younger (1.51 years versus 4.48 years) and lighter (12.45 kg versus 13.80 kg) than non-French Bulldogs. French Bulldogs had increased risk of 20/43 (46.5 %) specific disorders and decreased risk of 11/43 (25.6 %) specific disorders compared to non-French Bulldogs. The disorders with greatest relative risk in French Bulldogs compared to non-French Bulldogs were narrowed nostrils (x 42.14), Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (x 30.89), ear discharge (x 14.40), skin fold dermatitis (x 11.18) and difficulty giving birth [dystocia] (x 9.13). When the disorders were grouped into broad disease categories, French Bulldogs had increased risk of 12/32 (37.5 %) disorder groups and reduced risk of 6/32 (18.8 %) disorder groups compared to non-French Bulldogs. This study suggests that the health of French Bulldogs is very different, and largely much poorer, that the health of the wider non-French Bulldog population. Many of these differences are closely associated with the extreme body shape that defines the French Bulldog breed. Shifting the body shape of French Bulldogs to become more moderate, and hence less extreme, is proposed as a logical opportunity to reduce the current serious and common health issues in the French Bulldog breed.
O’Neill, D. G., Packer, R. M. A., Francis, P., Church, D. B., Brodbelt, D. C., & Pegram, C. (2021). French Bulldogs differ to other dogs in the UK in propensity for many common disorders: a VetCompass study. Canine Medicine and Genetics, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-021-00112-3