The French bulldog is the UK’s most popular dog breed overall, and despite the often prohibitive purchase price of dogs of this breed, they are in huge demand among prospective puppy buyers all over the UK.
However, the expense doesn’t necessarily end once you have bought a new French bulldog and taken them home – and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) warns prospective French bulldog buyers that choosing a dog of this type might result in a lifetime of costly veterinary bills too.
The French bulldog is one of the most high-profile dog breeds when it comes to health issues and conformation exaggerations – and dogs of the breed that are entirely healthy with no hereditary or conformation health issues at all are few and far between. Health issues in the French bulldog can range from chronic but manageable to serious, debilitating and apt to shorten the dog’s lifespan and affect their quality of life – and many first time French bulldog owners simply don’t do enough research to learn the warning signs of problems to look out for before making a purchase.
If you own a French bulldog, are considering breeding from your dog or are planning to buy a dog of the breed, you need to know the facts. In this article, we will look at the Royal Veterinary College’s warning to French bulldog buyers in more detail, and examine the issues involved. Read on to learn more.
French bulldog numbers in the UK are at an all-time high, and the growth in popularity of this breed over the last 15 years has occurred at an unprecedented rate – according to figures published by The Kennel Club and the RVC, over 12,000 new French bulldog puppies are bred for sale in the UK each year, representing an increase of 7,500% since 2003.
These figures only reflect dogs with known histories bred in the UK and registered formally – and does not include unregistered dogs of the breed, which means that the true figure is apt to be a lot higher.
This huge and rapid level of growth in demand for dogs of the breed means that not everyone breeding French bulldogs for sale does so with the best interests of the dogs at heart – and may be breeding in exaggerations and health problems to meet demand, without care for the impact that this has on the dogs and their future owners.
Health problems across the breed as a whole have become so prevalent that there are almost certainly more French bulldogs with some form of chronic health issue (ranging from very mild to very severe) than without – which impacts upon not only the quality of life of individual dogs, but the state of the breed’s health and future improvement itself.
Senior Lecturer at the RVC Dr Dan O’Neill, who composed the RVC report, states that “as well as the health risks associated with their extreme physical features, the public’s insatiable demand for French Bulldog puppies is fuelling a hugely profitable market for unscrupulous dealers and breeders.
Many puppies are farmed in very low welfare conditions, often outside of the UK, and then passed off as healthy happy UK-bred puppies.
This can contribute to many later behavioural problems, such as aggression. Owners who still decide to buy a French Bulldog puppy should research carefully about where the puppy comes from and ideally only buy from a breeder that is a member of the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme.”
Researching the breed’s health and potential challenges is hugely important for any prospective puppy buyer – particularly for a high-profile breed like the French bulldog. How and where you buy a French bulldog puppy also has a huge impact on the breed as a whole, and avoiding unscrupulous breeders and importers of dogs with health issues is a key part of this.
The high level of demand for French bulldogs, combined with their high purchase prices, has led to the development of a huge market of illegal puppy smuggling, to bring dogs from abroad into the UK bypassing the usual controls to meet this demand.
Puppies farmed abroad may be purchased by smugglers for as little as £40 per pup, then brought to the UK and sold for anything up to £2,000 each. As many as 100 puppy smuggling crime syndicates are thought to be operating in the UK, importing a total of around 200 pups every day. These pups are usually unvaccinated and may be ill or carrying diseases, as well as having no records of their ancestry, health, or potential problems.
Puppy farms operate in the UK too – and both smugglers and puppy farmers often go to great lengths to convince prospective buyers that their pups were responsibly bred and kept within family homes.
The largest study to date into French bulldog health and health issues involved assessing a total of 2,228 individual dogs of the breed, returning a number of concerning results about the prevalence of health conditions within the breed as a whole.
These health issues ranged from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome and skin fold dermatitis to eye problems, digestive disorders, and a tendency to develop ear infections.
Dogs with highly exaggerated physical features (like a very flat face) are those most at risk of breathing and overheating problems.
This list is by no means exhaustive – but every one of the conditions mentioned can result in a lifetime of expensive veterinary bills, high insurance costs, and huge care implications for the dogs in question.
If you think you want to buy a French bulldog, you should consider this really carefully with your eyes wide open, ensuring that you thoroughly understand the potential health problems that can affect dogs of the breed.
Finding a responsible breeder selling healthy French Bulldog puppies can take time – and will almost certainly cost you significantly more than simply buying any old French bulldog at a lower price point.
Choose a breeder whose dogs are Kennel Club registered, who performs all of the recommended health tests, and ideally, who is a member of the Assured Breeder Scheme.
Always see the pups with their dam, ask to inspect all of the paperwork, and remember that if something is missing or doesn’t feel right, there might be something going on behind the scenes.