Amended guidelines regarding French Bulldogs - Veterinary Practice
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Amended guidelines regarding French Bulldogs

The Kennel Club has amended its guidelines regarding French Bulldogs and urges the public to avoid exaggerated features that can lead to health problems

The Kennel Club has reviewed and updated the breed standard of popular French Bulldogs to further underline the importance of avoiding extreme features that can lead to health problems. They are also urging puppy buyers to beware, as demand for these dogs in the UK continues to rise.

The French Bulldog, favoured by celebrities and popularised by social media and advertising, has surged in popularity over the last decade, increasing by 1,682 percent since 2010. However, as a “flat-faced” brachycephalic breed, French Bulldogs can face health problems, such as poor breathing and eye and skin-fold issues, which have been compounded by huge demand and disreputable breeders filling the supply, with no regard for health or welfare.

The Kennel Club, concerned with the soaring demand for French Bulldogs and both the irresponsible breeding and buying of these dogs, has reviewed the breed standard and updated its guidance in line with proposals from the breed clubs, aiming to further ensure extreme and exaggerated features are avoided.

While all breed standards make it explicitly clear that any exaggerations that are detrimental to health should be avoided, the amendments help to further underline this point, with changes including the insertion that the well-defined muzzle should also “be clearly viewed in profile” and that the nostrils should be “visibly” open.

These amendments come following the organisation launching its Respiratory Function Grading Scheme in 2019, developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge to support and encourage the responsible breeding of French Bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds. The scheme assesses a dog for the likelihood that it has BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome), which can affect some French Bulldogs, so that better informed breeding and puppy buying choices can be made and the right care given to any affected dogs.

“Certain health problems in French Bulldogs have been impacted by their huge increase in popularity, and we continue to be extremely concerned that exaggerations which are perceived to create a ‘cute’ look or sound, have gradually become seen as normal and even desirable,” commented Bill Lambert, health and welfare expert at The Kennel Club.

“All breed standards are regularly reviewed, informed by ongoing breed-specific health data and are explicit that any physical exaggerations should be avoided. These changes to the French Bulldog breed standard aim to ensure it cannot be misinterpreted and that dogs are bred with their health and welfare as the absolute priority.

“While breed standards are not really a reference point for the vast majority, we hope these amend[ment]s send a strong message about the importance of ensuring that the puppy that you buy does not have exaggerated features. We hope that this, alongside our Respiratory Function Grading Scheme for breeders and owners – and the further research into brachycephalic health which we’ve committed to with the University of Cambridge – will help to improve and protect the breed’s health.”

Dr Laura Hamilton, veterinary surgeon and French Bulldog breed health coordinator added: “Many people love owning French Bulldogs, but it’s crucial that the public are aware of the breed’s complex health concerns and prioritise health over what they might think looks ‘cute’, and that breeders do all they can to produce healthy puppies.

“Although these changes to the French Bulldog breed standard are important, these days social media can often be influential on the way that dogs are bred to look, so we urge any would-be owners to fully research the breed before making any decisions, speak to experts and find a responsible breeder who health screens their dogs.”

The French Bulldog breed standard was reviewed by breed clubs and experts, alongside The Kennel Club, vets, academics and welfare organisations who make up the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG), formed in 2016 to improve the health and welfare of flat-faced dogs. 

Dr Dan O’Neill, chair of the Brachycephalic Working Group commented on the changes made: “The BWG welcomes the amends to the French Bulldog breed standard, having worked collaboratively to put forward suggestions based on scientific evidence. These changes show that all breeds can, and must, evolve to redress any serious health issues associated with conformation.

“We encourage would-be owners to place good health, welfare and temperament above human desires when choosing a breed and we urge more people to ‘stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.”

More information about brachycephalic dog health, advice on buying a flat-faced dog and what health screening is available for French Bulldogs can be found on the flat-faced dogs page of the Kennel Club website. Further advice from the Brachycephalic Working Group, including why it’s encouraging the public to “stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog” and why good health, welfare and temperament overrides all other considerations for dogs, is available on their website.

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