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Why Does The Dogue De Bordeaux Have Such A Short Lifespan?

The Dogue de Bordeaux first really came into the public image after starring in a hugely popular 1989 film “Turner and Hooch,” with the titular Hooch being a dog of the breed.

Hooch’s unique combination of both charming and disgusting traits won the public attention, and subsequently, the breed became really popular both in America, and shortly after, across the rest of the world too. Originating from France and ergo sometimes known by alternative names such as the French mastiff or Bordeaux mastiff, this is a large, very muscular breed of the mastiff type, with all of the core mastiff traits including deep loyalty, a slight wariness of strangers, and a calm, slow-moving demeanour.

However, perhaps the most notable trait about the Dogue de Bordeaux and potentially the one that is the greatest cause of discussion surrounding the breed is that they hold the dubious distinction of being potentially the breed with the shortest lifespan, out of virtually all recognised breeds.

The average lifespan of the Dogue de Bordeaux is just five to seven years-even many giant breeds (which share short lives as a trait) usually reach an older age than the Dogue de Bordeaux. In fact, dogs of the breed reaching the age of seven years old is so unusual, that the American breed club for the Dogue de Bordeaux collates a list of dogs of the breed that make it to eight years old, so unusual is this occurrence.

But why does the Dogue de Bordeaux have such a short lifespan, what traits contribute to it, and can anything be done to keep the breed healthy and potentially, able to reach older ages? In this article, we will attempt to answer these questions.

Read on to learn more about why the Dogue de Bordeaux has such a short lifespan.

The background of the Dogue de Bordeaux

The Dogue de Bordeaux is an ancient breed descended from Molossoid dogs, which has a long and variable working history of roles as diverse as hauling carts filled with supplies to guarding flocks to fighting wolves and other large animals that may threaten the flocks that they guard.

Dogs of this type have been recorded back as far as the 1400’s, although the breed only really became standardised in terms of traits and appearance as recently as the 1920’s.

The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but the most viable explanation for the breed is that they were created from the crossings of bulldogs, bull mastiffs, and potentially other bull type breeds too.

The average lifespan the breed reaches in the UK and America is just five to six years of age, and the oldest recorded Dogue de Bordeaux was twelve years old, which is an age several years more advanced than most owners can hope for their own dogs to reach.

Why so short?

In order to make a critical assessment of why the Dogue de Bordeaux breed as a whole has such as short lifespan, it is important to view the health of the breed as a complete picture rather than as individual elements.

First of all, while dogs of the breed tend to have reasonably large litters (eight or even over ten pups per litter not being uncommon) they also have a high rate of still birth-over 14% in fact-as well as a high rate of pups dying within their first week or so of life, with a further 10% of pups of the breed not surviving past their first week.

Additionally, around a quarter of all dogs of the breed require delivery by caesarean section, which can lead to further risks and complications, as well as of course associated costs.

All told, the Dogue de Bordeaux has a fairly patchy start to life, before they even have the chance to reach maturity and potentially, allow other problems to develop.

In terms of hereditary health problems that tend to afflict the breed, the Dogue de Bordeaux has several potentially serious risk factors.

First of all the breed’s brachycephalic face puts them at heightened risk of breathing problems and issues such as overheating in hot weather, and this can also lead to ectropion of the eyelids, which while not a fatal issue in and of itself, reflects a wider pattern of questionable traits in terms of health, and can also affect the dog’s quality of life.

However, the heart health of the breed as a whole is ultimately what causes their prematurely short lifespans, and because of the reasonably small gene pool of unrelated dogs of the breed, chronic hereditary heart issues are hard to eradicate from the breed itself.

Aortic stenosis in the breed leads to narrowing of the aortic valve, which can lead to exercise intolerance, fainting fits and other issues that often shorten the dog’s life, and also affect their quality of life.

Additionally, dilated cardiomyopathy is a common problem with in the breed, which leads to a progressive weakening of the heart to the point that the heart cannot pump blood around the body efficiently, which leads to a sudden and often, unexpected death.

Congestive heart failure too is a common problem in the breed even in younger dogs, and all of these issues combined mean that the average Dogue de Bordeaux is apt to succumb to heart problems before they reach old age.

Can anything be done about it?

The issue with improving the health of the breed as a whole is that heart conditions are so prevalent across the breed, there are not enough truly healthy dogs within the gene pool to reinforce and improve heart health without outcrossing.

This means that ultimately in order to improve bred health, unrelated DNA would need to be crossed in, which would in effect mean crossing the Dogue de Bordeaux with a dog of another breed-which is not currently accepted within the breed standard.


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