Sunday 16 March 2014

French Bulldogs - an enviable life?

A picture of health. Not.

An anonymous poster tipped me off to this 'letter' featured on the French Bull Dog Club of America's website

A Letter To My Vet
by Jan Grebe
"Hi! I’m a French Bulldog, and unless you are extremely lucky, you may not have any other patients of my breed. If that is the case, please let me alert you to some special health needs of Frenchies, as our friends call us.
"Though our Minimum Daily Requirement for human companionship and love is high, our day-to-day needs are simple. Petting keeps our coat shiny; praise keeps us happy. The best medicine for a Frenchie is TLC. But we do have a higher incidence of certain structural problems that go along with our-flat faced, dwarf status than do other breeds (the ones we think of as spindly and pointy-nosed).
"As with other brachycephalic breeds, we have airways that are easily compromised. We overheat very easily, often have an elongated soft palate that may need to be shortened, and anything that causes swelling in the mouth or pharynx (trauma, insect stings, tonsillitis, etc.) can cause a respiratory emergency. Sometimes our nares are rather stenotic; this does, however, give us the most endearing snore. Cleft lip/palate, of course, is more frequent in short-faced breeds. And it has been suggested that we are more likely to have oddly-formed thyroids and anterior pituitaries, since the pharynx, from which these structures develop as outpocketings, is so abbreviated. Whether these glandular abnormalities cause any functional problem is uncertain, but it’s worth considering if any problems are seen that could have an endocrine basis.
"Anesthesia, of course, is a constant worry. Thanks to our laid-back attitude, many procedures requiring a general anesthetic in other, more excitable breeds can often be done without it in Frenchies. When a general anesthetic is required, we are very hard to intubate; even more so than Bostons, we’re told. First, please note that our necks tend to be rather squatty (no way to put it delicately). The endotracheal tube may have to be shorter than in a longer-necked dog of comparable size; if it is too long, it will end up in a bronchus and we’ll only be half-ventilated. Also, we must be kept lying on our bellies and watched closely after extubation, until we are up and walking around, because our large tongues and/or floppy palates can easily relax and obstruct the airway. And any swelling in the pharynx or larynx, which is an ever-present danger with intubation, is doubly serious in our breed. With our generally calm nature, we may also require less anesthesia than other dogs of comparable size, as anesthetic depression can occur more easily in us than in, say, a Fox Terrier. Please note that any time we are anesthetized it should be done with a slowly administered injectable induction agent, intubation, and maintenance with the safest available inhalation agent. Never, ever “mask down” a Frenchie (or any other brachycephalic patient) as this is contraindicated in short-faced breeds.
"Probably our most important and serious built-in anatomical problems (other than the airway) are back problems caused by the chondrodystrophic dwarfism that gives us our distinctive shape. Like the other dwarf breeds, we suffer from a high incidence of hemivertebrae and premature disc degeneration. The incidence of the former in our breed is high based on data that have been collected, but most dogs that have malformed vertebrae never have problems related to them, so that they are often only detected incidentally on a radiograph done for some other reason. If they do occur, they are most often seen between T5 – T11; a single vertebra may be involved, but often there are two or more. Depending on which part of the vertebra is malformed, they may cause scoliosis or kyphosis; and this can produce secondary changes in the rib cage.
"Premature intervertebral disc degeneration most often is seen in 3- to 5-year old dogs and generally affects the discs between C2 – C4 and T11 – L2. Disc degeneration that is a consequence of age is more likely in the cervical region. If you should note any hemivertebrae, calcified discs, or narrowing of discs spaces on an x-ray, or palpate any bony deformities, please instruct my owner about how to best protect my back, and what neurological signs to watch for in case problems should develop. Should I develop sudden pain and hindlimb weakness with neurological signs suggestive of spinal cord compression, an injection of steroids followed by a Prednisone taper and strict crate rest for several weeks will generally allow the problem to resolve without surgery. However, should my condition worsen in spite of this, speedy surgical decompression is needed. Many Frenchies are frisking happily about today after extensive spinal surgery, because their owners quickly sought help at the first sign of trouble, before the cord was permanently damaged.
"As is the case with Bostons and Bulldogs, we often have whelping difficulties. Though some Frenchies are free whelpers, the combination of the big head and narrow pelvis combined with uterine inertia often necessitates cesarean delivery. (Considering the anesthesia risk, this helps explain why finding a Frenchie puppy may not be an easy task.) We also seem to be plagued by pyometra more often than other breeds; some believe that our odd construction tilts the female reproductive tract in such a way that it doesn’t drain properly. Whatever the cause, this is a problem to watch for.
"Impacted anal glands may also afflict us (especially if the screw tail torques sharply to one side and compresses a duct.) We may suffer from most of the other usual canine ills. Some people feel that Frenchies with lighter coat colors have more skin problems than do the darker ones. Whether this is a factor, skin problems tend to be more common in hot, damp climates, where every variety of fungus and bacterium tends to flourish. Atopic skin disease is also common, and skin fold dermatitis can occur when the deep folds on the face and in the rear are not kept clean and dry.
"Though hip dysplasia is not known to be a major clinical problem, it has been reported in the breed.  But Frenchie hips that do not look very good on a radiograph may never cause any clinical problems because our massive thigh muscles and good ligaments can compensate well, so even if OFA doesn’t give us good scores, we can generally go through life without developing degenerative hip arthritis.
"Our breeders are constantly trying to produce sounder pups, and the French Bull Dog Club of America has established a Health and Genetics Committee to gather information about health problems in the breed that might be inheritable, serve as a liaison with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, raise funds for health research, and to help educate breeders about potential inheritable problems. We would appreciate your help in this regard. If you should detect in a Frenchie patient any problem that you believe is genetic, please discuss this with the owner and/or breeder of the dog so that we might avoid the spreading of harmful genes through the breed. Our gene pool is so small that a recessive gene in a popular sire could spread like wildfire; and early detection requires the help of our vets.
"We Frenchies are a proud lot, and are rapidly increasing in popularity. We would appreciate any new observations or information that you might give us about our breed to help our breeders and owners keep us sound and happy, both as a breed and as individuals.
"And, finally, should the time come when — because of age, injury, or illness — my life should become more burden to me than blessing, please help my owner/friend make and accept the most loving and kind decision. Tell him to “Sing no sad songs for me,” but to know that my life, however short or long, was an enviable one. I was a French Bulldog."
The tragedy - as if it needs to be said - is the total absence of any awareness of the role French Bulldog breeders and owners play in perpetuating the dysfunction and disease in the breed.

Elsewhere on the site the US Club refers to its health surveys and highlights all the things "responsible" French Bulldog breeders should be doing in terms of genetic testing etc. Except of course, it neglects to mention the one thing that would truly make a difference.

Which is changing the conformation of the dog.

Those breathing problems? Entirely down to breeding a dog with a flat face with all the other features that contribute to brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Those spinal problems? Entirely down to breeding a dog with no tail.

Those whelping problems? Yep, that will be the conformation again.

And so on.

And, just to remind that the Frenchie once used to be a much more functional dog, here's the 1899 model. Note the longer legs, lighter frame, longer muzzle, open nostrils and, although you can't see it here, this dog would have had a bit of a tail (with much less likelihood of the spinal defects that come for breeding a dog with no tail).

The UK Frenchie Club is no better.  The picture at the top comes from the Kennel Club's 2013 Dog Health Group Report which highlights all the wonderful things the Club has done to warrant removing this breed from the need for vet-checks at championship shows.

They couldn't actually find a picture of a Frenchie without stenotic nares.

Because there isn't one.


  1. Well, if the stats are correct and the French Bulldog is growing rapidly in popularity, the KC will not want to jeapordise registration fees from a good proportion of the high numbers of puppies being bred. So, of course, they will now extol the health of the breed and pat the club on the back for achieving same. I really do not understand how Steve Dean, who is a retired vet, and currently chairman of the KC can allow/accept/acknowledge this utter nonsense. Not forgetting the most important thing about him, which is of course, his love of dogs. He more than any other of us know the detrimental effects these deformities have on dogs. Would he be happy if he accidentally bred a dwarf, snub nosed, closed nostril, pop eyed border terrier, would he be alarmed or would he just think, "well that just happens in dogs, it's an accident". But how would he truly feel if some idiot thought, "oo I really like borders to look like that, I'm going to breed them like that for the future". Do we think he'd take any action to stop that possibility. If he did because he thinks it is wrong, then why oh why doesn't he take a long hard look at the Braccy breeds overall, because it isn't just wrong for borders it is wrong for any dog to be disrespected in such a horrible way, he can't pass of all of those breeds as "accidents" - can he??? Obviously he isn't personally responsible for the development of these breeds but he accepted the position of chairmanship of a club that promises to develop and promote good breeding and welfare. Or am I wrong with my assumptions??? -

  2. Just as the English and Scottish sent there over large carriers to Ireland, so the English sent their smaller and deformed Bulldogs to France. Obviously, the breed has not been improved by enty to the kennel club.

  3. "Endearing snore" , Arn't oxygen compromised dogs just so cute !

    1. And even if it wasn't that (which it is), snoring isn't cute. I had a whippet that snored (at least in that case it couldn't be tight airways) so I couldn't sleep.
      He also farted a lot, which people say bulldogs and mastiffs are supposed to do.

  4. Excuse me while I weep...another picture in the Times 'Style magazine' today of a Pug with Stenoic nares, nose roll and bulging blistering eyes. This coupled with a speech bubble 'I look adorbs'. It's really quite worrying indeed. But if the bloody breeders are clueless and lack responsibility, what hope do the uneducated GP have in making sensible decisions with regard to dog health and welfare? They will continue to be toted on advertisements and fashion magazines as the latest faddy accessory to make you look cool.

    I hate banning anything, banning breeds for aggression is counter intuitive as it is fundamentally human beings who fail dogs in this regard. I would actually favour a ban on brachycephalic dogs though. I am utterly incensed by this lunacy. It is aform of madness surely? To continue to knowingly breed sick animals and defend it is akin to animal cruelty. These people are guilty of failing dogs fundamentally in the basic standards of animal welfare.

    1. While I agree with most of your post, I take serious issue with your assertion that "banning breeds for aggression is counter-intuitive." I've been studying the pit bull issue (along with their close relatives) for 3 years. These dogs have been bred in one continuous line since Elizabethan times to do nothing but rip animals and humans into small pieces. Look at any painting of a bull- or bear-baiting dog circa 1550--they are identical to pit bulls. These dogs were bred to rip a chained bull or bear to pieces in front of crowds. They were described even than as actively mauling and killing humans, with their grip & shake maneuvers. By 1898, an entire registry was formed for them--the UKC, now the second largest dog registry in the world. Until the 1950's every single pit bull registered with UKC had to win 3 fights before they could be registered. Every pit bull is descended from these dogs. And since dog fighting was only very recently outlawed in some U.S. states (and is still practiced in great numbers anyway), pits are no more than a couple of generations removed from narrow selection for fighting-related traits.

      Aggression might be "pathological" for many breeds, but in pit bulls (and their relatives) it is a desireable trait. Pits have been bred to attack without warning or provocation, to attack any type of human or non-human animal without prejudice, and to continue gripping and shaking until long after their victim has died, ignoring any signals that the victim gives up.

      Pit aggression is exactly the same as border collies using "eye" or crouching... pointing breeds pointing... or retrievers retrieving. Their aggression is a man-made characteristic that is GENETIC and requires no training. Pits attack and kill no matter what kind of owners they have. Half of all pits that kill people are beloved indoor family pets raised from puppyhood by the owners. (Pits are 6x more likely to kill their owners than any other breed, BTW). One day, they just decide to scale the fence, run a few yards down, and kill an elderly person that is gardening. In the U.S., pit bulls kill a human about every 8 days. The fatality yesterday was a typical case. The adult owner's mom was preparing dinner and offering an occasional titbit to the family pit bull, who was hanging out with her in the kitchen. With no warning, the dog jumped up and attacked her, and she bled to death. In a case a few months ago, a pit bull named "Kissyface", who was raised since puppyhood with two children, a cat and a rabbit, silently went into another room of the house and ripped the head off a toddler while the mother was in the lavatory. Just like a Lab retrieves, this is the HEREDITARY predisposition for pit bulls.

      Humans created these maulers, and there is certainly as much reason to ban them as to ban dogs with stenotic nares. Sign me up for both.

    2. sky - agreed. And I do understand the nature of predatory instinct and the difference between that and aggression. Breeding dogs with a tendency for potent dog fighting and a high drive for herding and stalking sheep is counter intuitive to keeping these types of animals as pets too! Failing to properly socialise, de-sensitise and manage can result in tragedy, both for dogs and owners. Very, very few people truly understand the principles of animal learning - including a lot of dog trainers and behaviourists. And these types of difficult high drive and predatory dogs are simply unsuitable in the vast majority of pet homes. There are a lot of Pitt type dogs in the USA flooding rescue centres of course, with rubbish temperaments. People take pity on these animals and stress that although they may fight dogs, they tend to be great with humans. The tendency to kill dogs doesn't necessary cross over into propensity for human aggression though. However, I would agree that these dogs are not the type of dogs we want in a world witj ever more people and dogs...

      With management, there is always failure. And when working with a dog with a low genetic ceiling for predatory drift, you're working against nature anyway. Doesn't make sense to continue to select dogs that are set up to fail with temperament. We've had a few cases recently in the UK with child fatalities - a combination of high drive predatory dogs, insufficient socialisation and lack of supervision results in dog attacking screaming baby thinking it's prey. A couple of TV programmes are scheduled this week dealing with the rise in dog attacks in the UK. Although, we do have to keep in mind that these are relatively rare. Slippers and balloons do kill more people,

      The reason I don't like banning pit types of dogs specifically for fighting is because the people who breed them are the root cause of the problem. You ban one breed, they'll move onto another type of dog and make that yucky too. Enter the poor unfortunate English Staffy who has got a rotten reputation due to the disenfranchised young men who think they make a good pitty type dog substitute. Where do you draw the line? Regulating breeding and owning of pet dogs and working type dogs?

      This is a fascinating area and would love to discuss more but in essence, I do agree with your post. Just we are on the wrong hobby horse for this blog post! Sorry Jemima!

    3. Great post. However, it took at least 600 years for people dependent on fighting income to create the killing machine that is the pit bull. Their over-muscled, large-headed, thick-headed phenotype and their 30+ minute grip/shake maneuvers were already perfectly developed by the 1500's. Pretty much every other dangerous breed (Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, etc.) is a very close relative of the pit bull. If pits and their relatives were to undergo a breeding ban right now, it would almost certainly take a few hundred years for breeders to recreate successful fighting dogs from retrievers, beagles and keeshonden. :-)

      Also, I must note that Border Collies still play an active role in herding all over the world. I have personally worked BCs in America, England and Brazil. In a pet home, they may be a bit sensitive or chasy, but they are not killing people every 8 days, or every months, or even once a decade.

      Pit bulls and their relatives have a breeding history with exactly NO useful purpose in today's society. They are not useful even as protection dogs, because their style is to never release. (Also, they tend to go for faces). With the exception of competitive weight pull, pits today have no use as pets or working dogs that is not fulfilled better by numerous other breeds.

    4. First we demonized Blood Hounds, then the Northern breeds like Malamutes then Huskies. Next was German Shepherd, then the Rottweilers, and Dobermans. Now it's the Pitties and often times breeds that look like them. Times progress, Rin Tin Tin's emerge and people move their prejudice on to different dog breeds. If we banned all the breeds before we would just move on to a different breed. Eventually there won't be any breeds left to ban. Focus on the deed not the breed. Dogs are individuals. Rather then focusing on specific breeds we should have laws that apply to dogs of any breed. (I hate to sound all holier then thou) Let's avoid anymore Lennox situations and focus on punishing irresponsible owners and dangerous dogs rather then on punishing innocent dogs that are deemed dangerous because of their breed. Irresponsible breeding and irresponsible owners is causing the massive surge of unstable dogs here in the US.

      Btw As of February 14, 2013 870 APBT were testes by the American Temperament Test Society Inc. They have an 86.8% pass rating. 785 Golden Retrievers were tested and the have a 85.2% pass rating. 129 Staffies were tested they have a 90.7% pass rating.805 Labrador Retrievers were tested they have a 92% pass rating. The amount of dogs tested isn't even so you have to take it with a grin of salt. Despite their bad rep the Pitties did pretty well.

    5. I`m against breed bans as well but I would not consider the temperament tests as a study. The amount of dogs of each breed vary greatly,their is no test for animal aggression in them,the dogs are not tested without the owner present,their more about testing confidence than aggression being they allow some lunging at people by certain breeds. Also people can make up their own breeds,they don't have to prove it that's why theirs a English Pit bull,American Pit bull terrier,American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier all counted as different breeds on their website. As well as the fact that nobody tests their dog unless they think its going to pass in the first place.

      I like Pits but they do have some issues,they still are euthanized more than any other breed. They have killed way more people than any other breed,ever. In fact if you group up all the other controversial breeds it would ad up to about the same amount as Pits. Their also one of the only breeds where aggression is defined by them,a Pit is just not a pit without DA they say. Sure their are other breeds that can do the same amount of damage but that doesn't mean that their doesn't need to be some changes with Pits if they want to thrive into the future as well. At least with those other breeds most are rare,not sold off as nanny dogs on the street corner. I feel denying these issues is just causing more harm than good,they are not just like any other dog. We need less breeding of them and more responsible owners that realize the potential these dogs have.

    6. Daniela, I’m afraid you’ve hit on one of my pet peeves – the misuse of the ATTS’s statistics by Pittie advocates. They shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt – they should be ignored completely because they are totally invalid.

      From the ATTS website:

      “The pass-fail rate is not a measure of a breed’s aggression, but rather of each dog’s ability to interact with humans, human situations, and the environment.”

      There are numerous problems with using the statistics the way you have, Daniela.

      1. The number of dogs is cumulative since 1977. How many Pit Bulls have there been in the USA over the past 37 years? What percentage of this total number does 870 individuals represent? Not a high percentage, I’m sure. In fact, my guess is that the percentage is so low that it is statistically invalid for the purpose of saying anything at all about the breed.

      2. The reasons that 13.2% of Pit Bulls failed the test are not given. (The same is true for all breeds tested). It could be because the dog panicked. It could be because the dog showed avoidance. It could be because the dog displayed severe aggression. Without this information, the results are incomplete and generalizations about the breed cannot be made. If you knew that the majority of that 13.2% failed because of severe human-directed aggression (and I’m not saying they did – we don’t know why they failed), would that information change how you felt about the breed as opposed to how you feel about it when focussed on the pass rate?

      3. Not all dogs are judged the same way. They are judged according to how the breed is expected to behave. In other words, a German shepherd is not expected to react to a scary stranger in the same way as a Golden retriever is expected to. A German shepherd with Schutzhund training is not expected to react the same way as a German shepherd that does not have this training. Comparing the results for one breed against another in order to make a general statement about either breed’s temperament is meaningless. A Golden retriever could be failed for exhibiting the same behaviour as a German shepherd that passed. Look at the description of Subtest 10 on the website:

      4. Aggression in Pit Bulls is most commonly exhibited toward other dogs (which is also a problem for most pet owners, who do not want to deal with a dog that is a danger to their neighbours’ pets, or other animals in the same household). The ATTS test does not test for reaction to another dog. In other words, it says absolutely nothing about this breed’s biggest issue.

      5. The dogs can take the test as young as 18 months old. Most Pitties that are going to develop aggression do so somewhere between 2 and 3 years old, though some do so at a younger age. There is no information about the age of the dogs tested.

      6. The test is voluntary. In other words, you take it if you think your dog is going to pass. It is entirely possible that people with Pit Bulls have more at stake and are more careful than people with other breeds about taking through (young) dogs that have a high chance of passing.

      I have nothing against the ATTS test. I am against the misuse if the results. They mean nothing more than that of X dogs tested, Y passed. Nothing further can be extrapolated.

      For the record, I’m also against BSL, not because I think Pitties are great pets for everyone. I don’t. I’ve met some very nice Pit Bulls but they have a genetic heritage that can make them extremely difficult, problematic pets and I would not recommend them as pets for Joe or Jane Average Pet Dog Owner. I just don’t think BSL is practical or achieves what people think it will.

      Sorry, Jemima – I know this is going way off topic but I also think it’s important to understand why statistics can be so misleading without knowing the whole picture.

    7. Sorry, but you clearly misinterpreted what I meant. I wasn't saying it measured breed aggression. I was indeed talking "each dog’s ability to interact with humans, human situations, and the environment[in the way the breed was intended to].”

      Let's go to the UKC breed standard shall we? (I'd go AKC since it is the AMERICAN-PBT, but the AKC standard lacks most things about what the dog's attitude should be.


      The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm. APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children. Because most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression and because of its powerful physique, the APBT requires an owner who will carefully socialize and obedience train the dog. The breed’s natural agility makes it one of the most capable canine climbers so good fencing is a must for this breed. The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable. This breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work."

      People aggression is not supposed to be part of their character, people aggression isn't part of a Labrador's either. Neither breed is supposed to be human aggressive. As it is not all dogs want to make friends with other dogs, they shouldn't have to either. CORRECTLY MANAGED it shouldn't be an issue (as long as the people around them aren't letting THEIR dogs menace their dogs as well]. 86.8% of the APBT brought in passed. I don't know where you think I said they were flawless creatures. I DID say however that dog's are individuals. I DID NOT SAY every person should own an APBT, People have different lifestyles/need/etc. a single dog breed isn't best for everyone.

  5. The 'Letter To My Vet was written 26 years ago in the US and by the way has copyright on it as does the picture. Fact , the dog in the picture did not snore , could walk 5 miles easily., could run and jump like any other dog. as could his mother and father. Average life span of his family 12 - 13 years, despite being brachycephalic .Read the report about what the French Bulldog clubs are doing about improving health

    1. We have a brachy dog that can run & jump. dangle from a treebranch by his teeth , he sounds like a steam train doing it though. Body & mind is willing and able but the airways are not . Though he would carry on until collapse

    2. I've linked to the report above. But my case remains that for all the fine words, you are breeding a dog that is inherently dysfunctional - and, thanks to the slow creep of the exaggerations that the show-ring promotes, *more* dysfunctional than it used to be. Fact... the dog above has extremely stenotic nares. Just try pinching your nostrils... just the slightest pressure... and then tell me that this is OK. It isn't.

    3. And, PS, is that ectropian in his left eye? Or perhaps the drooping of the lower lid was due to an injury at the time of the pic?

    4. ' Fact , the dog in the picture did not snore , could walk 5 miles easily., could run and jump like any other dog. as could his mother and father. Average life span of his family 12 - 13 years, despite being brachycephalic'
      None of this is factual! Where is the evidence?? It's your biased opinion in a desperate attempt to defend this unethical breeding. And just because the dogs' relatives could run, jump and lived past a decade does not mean that they were not suffering or in respiratory distress during that time does it?

      What on earth are you measuring your standards on here? Modern veterinary medicine can certainly help prolong the agony for these types of dogs! It's quality of life that's important here. Animal welfare.

    5. The Finnish Kennel Club's database shows an overall lifespan for Frenchies of under six years. More dogs have died of spinal ailments than made it to old age, so I would say there are problems. (Three times more dogs died of unspecified ailments than of old age so it's hard to pinpoint the problems). [Many surveys of longevity loose track of dogs that die young and omit some forms of mortality, such as accidents, so lifespan numbers must be interpreted with skepticism].

      Why the discussion of the photograph? Where did that photo come from? It doesn't seem to be on the US Frenchie Club's website.

    6. Jeeeezzz don't you get bored of blaming the show breeders, fact is frenchies and other squishies are exceptionly popular with people in general, they like the look of just fell on your face, there is no coincidence that every dog on a advert lately happen to be a pug or a frenchie. There is/no shortage of sickly pet bred ones either that has had no influence from show breeders.

    7. No excuse. if showing is so great they should be aiming to be the best they can , not saying " oh someone else in the world is a little worse than me so i can do what" I like Pet breeders bought their dogs from show breeders anyway.

    8. Anon 6:20 what an appalling image your words have created. "Other squishies" - disgusting. A cruel description of a gross deformity that causes a child/dog/cat great distress when trying to breathe. Really, really unkind of you. This is a serious blog about the future well being of all breeds/types of dogs. Nobody thinks of these/their dogs as toys that can wobbly about, fall over, bash their face just so that we can call them squishies and have a jolly good laugh because it is "all so endearing and comical". If that's the case go buy an inanimate "weeble toy" that rolls around hilariously every time it is kicked. "There is/no shortage of sickly pet bred ones" you are correct, but it also seems that there is/no shortage of sick people who think dogs bred for exaggeration and consequently suffer, is very amusing.

    9. Oh georgia you do talk some crap, jist incase you did not pick it up I will explain I do not like flat faced dogs one bit but mu point was general public do in huge amounts , they have never been more popular. A acquaintance has just bought 2 unpapered imports. They like them because they look like they've hit a wall not for any other reason. Get over your mock outrage and look at the bigger picture your responses are always so totally over the top I am suprised jh publishes them anymore.

    10. A dog being able to walk 5 miles is nothing. 'Normal' dogs are like people, in that they have a very efficient, stiff-legged gait, which means they can keep going for miles and miles. Dogs should be able to trot over long distances - wolves have been known to cover 100 miles a day.

      The Frenchie's size should be immaterial - most terriers are small, and they're capable of long walks.

  6. They forgot to mention the gastrointestinal issues that come secondary to the breathing issues.

  7. On the other hand, you gotta give it to them for being up front. I wish all clubs were as straightforward in describing problems. (Even PDE hasn't picked up on the problems of anaesthesia and how it complicates the problem of inability to whelp naturally).

  8. p.s. the Club's "Deciding Whether to Breed" decision tree doesn't gloss over health problems . . . quite unusual . . . it places temperament and good breathing/ability to exercise ABOVE conformation to the breed standard in the decision tree.

    1. Yes, but I have a feeling this is aimed at the average pet owner to discourage them from breeding - I'm sure the show breeders don't take their own good advice.

      Also, any sign of hemivertebrae or malformed vertebrae in another breed of dog, would be an instant disqualification to breed by a reputable breeder, but in the Frenchie, it's acceptable to have no more than two malformed vertebrae....

  9. I skipped over Jemima's intro and started at the beginning of the letter. Ironically, I was absolutely convinced this letter was written tongue-in-cheek, until I went back and checked where it had been published.

    I'm still struggling to see this letter as anything other than an underhanded jibe at the health problems in this breed. If it was written as intended, can they not comprehend what they are writing and hearing?

  10. If anyone presented me with something so rude I'd ask them to find another vet!
    Why didn't they just say what they meant? "Our dogs are deformed but if you dare say so we'll accuse you of incompetence and not understanding our breed."
    Perhaps I should write a vets reply...."Dear Owner, having undertaken 5years training at vet school and over 35hours training every year since I am well aware of the countless inherited health problems of the French Bulldog....etc"
    We actually see quite a few Frenchies where I work and most (not being the best show ring examples) have pretty good breathing and noses. I'll try and get a picture!
    So sad when rather than seeing life limiting issues as disabilities to be avoided people keep on thinking of them as cute quirks.

  11. Wolves and dogs are polymorphic, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. However, it's high time people stopped touting the "amazing" diversity of dogs, in all their 400+ breeds. Most of those breeds are of modern origin, and really should just be classified as syndromes rather than as viable forms for the canine body. If you take out all the brachycephalic, achondroplastic, droopy-eared, and flabby-skinned morphs, you're left with normal dogs. These may be tall or short, fuzzy or smooth, black or white, but those are the normal, healthy domestic wolves. It should be illegal to willfully breed such genetic disorders and codify them as "breeds."

    1. Excellent post. It may good to pick up on this in a further blog post. - perhaps focusing on type as opposed to breed. The fact that the canine genome is so malleable has been genuinely exploited by humans intent on 'celebrating' the diversity of the form, not the function. Just because you can, doens't mean you should. Particularly when evidence suggests that breeding for these morphological syndromes causes health and welfare issues in the animals that people are supposed to love and 'celebrate'.

    2. We could basically remove retrievers and spaniels from exisetnce, many herding breeds too, all with floppy ears. Assitance Dog organisations and guide Dogs will have to start from Scratch then.

      Personally I like my dogs with prick ears, they rarely cause any trouble.

      Oh dear, my pretty healthy primitive hunting breed has a curly tail (not born that way, so not linked to spinal issues). Not a wild canid trait though.

      Yet curly tails seem to be a sign of early domestication, and also occured in the Russian fur farmed foxes who were selected purely for placididty, as did white markings, and oh dear shorter legs.

      While we are at it we really shoudl remove all dogs with logn coats and short coats as a double coat is the natural form, isn't it?

      All forms of dwarfism/minaturisation, adn dogs bigger than a wolf of course should go?

      So little old ladies or those with small homes had best confine themselvesa to cats or Rabbits as pets perhaps?

    3. 'So little old ladies or those with small homes had best confine themselvesa to cats or Rabbits as pets perhaps?'

      Perhaps Barbara. We have absolutely no entitlement to continue breeding dogs to suit our own personal aesthetic desires, when evidence exists that 1) inbreeding within a paradigm of closed gene pools with no intriduction of new genetic material causes serious health issues. 2) deliberatly breeding exagerrated and disabling features (brachycephalic, low slung rear quarters etc.) to satisfy a Victorian era mentality of breed standard is not progressive or acting in the interests of animal welfare. And I think you have taken Gaddy's post a little too literally. Watching the Top Gear Burma special, I noticed that the village dogs in Burma mostly had spitz tails (curled over their backs). I don't think he is inferring that functional dogs such as retrievers and organisations that breed for function (Guide Dogs UK - deliberately cross breed for example) be included.

      And if you are going to keep rabbits instead of dogs, they need lots of exercise, stimulation and plenty of room to run about too.

    4. What I was saying tongue in cheek is that all domestic dogs are unnatural to some degree, the degree is just the difference.

      Drop ears are a negative feature, especially taken to excess, which is why breeds with prick ears rarely have eae problems, and those with dropped ears do.

      So what we need to determine is how far from the natural 'wild caniid' template can we safely go before we compromise the animals quality of life. Bear in mind that as domestic pets we can of course groom heavy coats, trim excess hair from eyes, keep eyes and ears clean, keep them warmer or cooler as needed.

      I have to agree with many, I really cannot understand the fascination and popularity of the breeds with extreme traits like extremely Brachy traits, heavy wribnkles, or short legs, though have to admit I do find a few of these breeds attractive such as the boxer (whose muzzle is these days a lot longer here and in europe, but too short in some countries, do like the Swedish Vallhund with it's short but workmanlike legs, but not the excessively short ones on Corgi's and UK/US Dachsi's, and I rather like the Japanese Chin, but would prefer smaller less prominent eyes and some more muzzle, and have no issue with say the Tibetan Spaniel.

      If we take the 200+ breeds recognised by the Uk Kennel club we will find maybe less than 10% of breeds with such exagerated features that will affect the breeds ability to funciton as a dog. Though it depends where you draw the line. So why the constant critiscism of 'all breeds'.

      I don't think you can blame breed standards as such, (I have not read any that require unsoundness and exageration) but their interpretation, by some judges/breeders or total non adherance by casual/BYB breeders (who I doubt have even read a standard, let alone selected stock to breed from towards it) and puppy farming breeders, producing unhealthy dogs.

      For example the Boston standard calls for a muzzle a third of the length of skull (yes that's short) but I well remember one well known all rounder judge when juding to the standard being critiscised by some people within the breed for picking dogs with too much muzzle as the golf ball look was what many admired.

  12. VO2max is widely accepted as the standard gauge of cardiorespiratory fitness most often expressed in milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute . So one of the many factors which influence VO2max is body weight , so if a ‘fat’ individual lowers his/her proportionately high BMI , it increases its VO2max . Other factors are a/o levels of training , lung capacity , respiratory muscles , red blood cell efficiency , (environmental) temperature , air humidity & - pressure and one certainly can go on with other factors which influence cardiorespiratory fitness .

    There has been done a lot of intensive research about the brachycephalic airway syndrome , primary components being stenotic nares , an elongated soft palate and a hypoplastic trachea . Now , the increased airway resistance from pinched nostrils asks for increased efforts done by ‘muscling’ off the larynx ; if the larynx becomes overcharged it eventually can collapse with dramatic consequences .

    A purely empirical ascertainment re our two Pugs , like Frenchies brachycephalic and therefore to be considered subject to the hereabove mentioned problematics . Now if , by a certain interval , each inhalation should lead to lack of oxygen , then automatically the respiratory system increases the number of inhalations per time unit . When our Pugs are in repose (btw , mouths closed) , the interval of breathing (ca 15x/min) is about the same as for myself (w/out any asthmastic past) sitting next to them .

    So in empirical way I fail to recognise any substantial discomfort thereto . It’s true , they do snore but most of the time (in repose or common action) they breathe w/out particular noise(s) ; it’s true , you need to be careful with exercise if it’s hot & humid but the same goes , in a greater or lesser degree , for every breed or any living creature ; it’s true , they’re not well equipped for endurance/agility as p ex a Border Collie but if well bred , reared & built up in exercise they can be lovely companions on easy walks .

    To round up – 1) ‘judging’ breathing comfort/capacity solely upon width in nostrils is not correct as there are so many factors in play , 2) veterinary surgery practices are on the whole useful but beware , just like in other forms of pecuniary business , a number of instances may be considered as done by wolves in sheep’ clothing , ie making use of the owner’ gullibility to execute unnecessary but very costly operations . So , quite important to go for at least a 2nd opinion before making decisions re the wellfare of your companion .

  13. You know what's funny is that this breed was created in its current form in America. It was the AKC that first recognized it, and it was the AKC who made the bat ears standard in the breed. Before that, prick-eared and rose-eared toy bulldogs were common in Europe. This breed became popular here along with its indigenous toy bulldog cousin, the proper Bostonian, which is itself derived from a fighting bull terrier and the toy bulldog crosses.

  14. The letter is an excellent advertisement for not getting a Frenchie. Seriously, I would not want a dog that was prone to so many expensive - and avoidable - health and musculoskeletal problems.

    No matter how 'cute' they may look and 'adorable' their temperaments, who wants to constantly fret over a dog that could become paralysed at any moment? Who wants the heartache?

  15. Dear Frenchie,
    Apparently your letter was written 26 years ago, so you've probably been dead for at least 20 years given the short lifespan of your breed. However, as a vet I felt compelled to reply. Thank you for all the advice; however, it was unnecessary as most of us sadly have lots of experience of most of these problems . Even though I have blessedly few Frenchie patients, I have come across all of the ailments you describe in your breed, including one individual with most of them (you forgot to mention the luxating patellae and the horrendous dentition by the way, but hey, you sure ain't wrong about the atopy in addition to the conformation-related diseases).
    The last Frenchie I saw was a show winner sired by some big shot ultra sooper dooper show champion. His owner wondered why his gait was going funny and the poo was falling out of his bum. He turned out to have hemivertebrae, a transitional vertebra, a distorted looking sacrum, and no coccygeal vertebrae at all. Imagine that. A dog with less tail than a human. My boss advised that his owner take him home, and bring him back for euthanasia when the paralysis has progressed to be point where his quality of life is too poor - probably in the next few months. He's four years old. Apparently, a multi-show winning bitch by the same sire disappeared quietly off the show scene rather rapidly. I think we can guess what happened to her. The sire is still siring litters, by the way.
    Kind regards,
    The vet

  16. I agree retrieverman this is their history though not much by way of point scoring on this issue if you look at breeds across the board.

    My wife longed for a French bulldog and so I started researching the breed. I had working dogs and wasn't aware of the "pedigree dogs exposed" phenomenon at the time. But boy I was soon to be that's for sure.

    Breeders would tell me not to touch an American FB, too short in the back, heads too big faces too flat, whole thing too small compressed.....all the conformation problems leading to health issues, misery, early death, heart break and expense. Americans up on their sites condeming imports under no uncertain terms, untrustworthy full stop. However it very soon became clear to me that very few breeders anywhere outside of America would touch American FB's either not soley because of health either but because of colour issues lack of pigment. In fact cream is a disqualification in Europe but very popular in America.... This simple bne of contention leading breeders on either side of the continent to viciously point fingers at each other on all manner of other issues. I was told to read this blog in fact by a breeder in Sweden if I wanted the real story. So I was drawn into the whole pedigree dogs exposed.

    I could see problems on both sides of the Atlantic myself though It became clear I shouldn't touch an American FB either. At this stage I was still researching but the compressed short back, big head problems alone became very clear to me when I visited a top breeder and shower in Thailand while on holiday there. He has secured American champions for his breeding stock so I decided it was worth a look.

    I was appalled when he told me his bitches had not only litters every year until they could no longer but that all had to have caesarian births. He outsourced his dogs breeding to an English bulldog breeder there (also visited) because it's too specialised and risky. This breeder has a surgery at his kennel and his bulldogs were being kept just short of being in intensive care in a hopital. It was all an eye opener.

    I enquired about a dog from the Thai FB breeders web site and was told it died recently because it got its toe trapped in the crate. This accident led it to a fit of overheating and so it suffocating to death because it couldn't breath. This all in an aircon kennel building with fans between each "cage", a water cooling system on the roof and misters all churning day and night! He apparently spared no expense on the care of these unfortunate dogs I could see that. What but he couldn't see was what he was breeding complete cripples. So this post on PDE comes as no surprise at all. So caught up in the showing world and winning he couldn't see the pain he was causing in perpetuating the problems, they didnt matter as long as he managed to breed a winning model. And he was being rewarded by winning. Its a vicious cycle.

    On a positive note I accompanied him to a show where a top visiting international Belgium judge and breeder was judging, the biggest FB show in the country there were hundreds of FBs. These dogs of the breeder I was with previously top Thai winners didn't even get as much as a glance before they were dismissed.


  17. There was also a question of tail the Europeans like one the Americans don't care if its just a hole and nothing else......I was stunned into disbelief.

    My curiosity was immediately aroused by this judge and I did further research by contacting them. It turns out that this judge is world famous for their line of FB's and sees the problems all too clearly now. They are attempting to change the look of the breed for the better. He didn't mention colour for his choices in Thailand but only health, he said it was important to spread the message by awarding based almost purely on health in countries that might not be exposed to the very real crises. The Thai breeder was furious for even going to the show he thought it was all about colour and national prejudice against Americans. This judge/breeder is also in a very good position to influence breeders on the continent where some seem to have now seriously been able to look at the issue and about change as a result. However not enough yet for me to be able to say to my wife that she would be getting a healthy pet in any FB at the present.

    For me it was simply all too much and my wife luckily agreed. I couldn't wait to stop researching it was becoming all too clear why I was never involved with showing. We didn't look back after our first little Jack Russell, no pedigree, bought ironically from a pet shop too, yes by my wife. Luckily it all turned out extremely well the dog is a delight and healthy in every way. It can breath it can run it can play all day rain and shine and does it ever. Sigh! Yes probably a product of a puppy mill but healthier than a Champion pedigree dog will ever be!

    1. the fact that you delight in the possibilities of your puppy being at the expense of some poor overused bitch just for one upmanship again anyone who shows is really rather shameful and makes you no better than the people who breed these smooshies :(

    2. No not really there is no "upmanship" involved just irony. Puppy mills don't promote themselves as responsible breeders, do they?

      It's a real dilemma for the informed pet owner who simply wants a healthy long lived family pet and member to cherish and love. It's becoming increasingly difficult to know where to turn.

      I would never encourage a purchase from a known puppy mill.

      Sometimes it seems like you have no course but just to have to take your chances with a pup that catches your eye, trust your instinct. In all honesty this would be same process of chance were you to get it from a 'shelter".

    3. actually many puppy mills promote themselves as being responsible breeders, you only have to look at little rascals to see that.

    4. Most of course don't. The puppies are sold in batches to pet shops, they sell entire litters. They of course sometimes pose as "responsible" breeders on the internet to catch unwitting customers yes but don't as an organised group come out shouting loudly about how welfare always comes first like pedigree show breeders almost to the last do.

      Look on any so called "responsible" pedigree dog and showing breeders web site and they will tell you how reponsible they are in breeding their unhealthy freaks, look at what the kennel club is promoting.........and how unwise it is to get one fom a backyard breeder a puppy mill or a pet shop, god forbid an unregistered animal.

      Point is you are setting yourself up for tragedy expense and welfare issues if you get a dog from a showing pedigree dog breeder, the roll of the dice is more or less equal with that of a puppy mill though somewhat loaded in the favour of an unregistered dog where ever you get it.

      There lies the irony? Dont you think?

    5. RiverP - you don't need to buy puppies if you want a family pet. You can adopt an adult dog. I would never, ever buy a puppy when there are plenty of healthy adult dogs in shelters waiting to be adopted. The problem with the dog breeding world is that we think we have some sort of RIGHT to own a dog that suits are needs EXACTLY. 'I don't want a dog that sheds', 'I don't like black dogs', 'I can't be bothered to exercise so I want a tiny dog' etc. etc. The diversity has created choice for people where it actually should not exist, as it would not in nature

    6. Yes I understand your point and agree almost completely. Some people shouldn't honestly get dogs when you hear some of the strange reasons they give for wanting to get rid of them. But on the other hand some dog lovers do have serious life threatening issues like asthma and trying to reduce the chances of an attack is valid in my opinion, though the chances are quite small with dogs.

      I think a dog from a shelter should be an option whatever you need even for a working dog but its not always a given you will find what you need. But yes certainly puppy mills and showing breeders are not the only option. Some working dogs are also suitable as pets especially those with reduced aptitude for the job.

      Showing pedigree dogs are all almost useless for anything be it pet or work. It's those exaggerations. Health issues yes too obviously but most are just not suited for doing the job they were meant to do anymore be it because of coat length/maintenance, drive, size and etc. The care needed to just to keep a Sealyham coat healthy for exmple is astronomical same with a peke. Functionality has almost been completely lost for some these breeds to be suitable as pets quite frankly even where this is meant to be their sole purpose.

      A visit to the vet is as common place as a visit to a beauty parlour all part of owning a sad inbred dog.

      Im sure there are more suitable dogs for pets in shelters than found at any pedigree dog showing breeder. Absolutely.

      I grew up with dogs lots of dogs. We never bought a single dog. There are always dogs looking for homes from shelters to your neighbour. We had a white boxer puppy because it was going to be destroyed by the breeder as it is considered ironicaly a freak by showing breeders. This was a long time ago but she was fantastic functional dog with a hell of a lot less problems you find in showing boxers today of the right colour. You figure? Its completely insane to kill a dog beacuse of its colour.

    7. Thank you, River, I found the story of your research very interesting. Would that more people took the time to research before buying/adopting/(insert the latest P.C. term for "get a dog" to appease Anonymous). And a Yay for the Belgian judge. How refreshing.

  18. Another problem with FBs is dog aggression. Go to a speciality show and watch they all seem to want to bite each other? Not especially equipped for fighting it does make quite a comical show. These are "lap" dogs?

    1. Stressed dogs wanting to bite each other comical!?

      Not for the dogs....

    2. Yes very comical. Im afraid you don't do irony either that's assuming you are the same anonymous?

      Dog shows are a laugh a minute that's not say there aren't very serious welfare issues involved either.

      To see a trembling, shivering with anger little poo poo its eyes on stalks trying to literally kill the dog on mamas lap next to it is very very funny.

      I would say there are definitely issues with character with this breed on top of everything.

      BTW One of these was an all American Champion! It had no tail nor pigment, its back was cripplingly short and it had a huge head like a rising moon, its breathing a kind of curdling sound!!!

      There is a funny side to everything or is that just us English?

      One of the things I like about this blog is the fact that there is definately still a sense of humour left intact in the horror show. Sometimes humour is a more forgiving lesson for the hard nosed.

    3. Goodness, you have a sick sense of humour

    4. Perhapse you are blind that you can't see the sickness of the breeder with poo poo on her lap?

      There is a lot of tragic irony involved with what these people do certainly and there is plenty to laugh at as well, believe me its not at the dogs expense we can laugh but the owners.

      You seem to be unable to tell the perhapse too subtle difference here? Little old ladies with fighting dogs?

      My seven year old has the same problem he's autistic.

    5. I feel sorry for your son.

      Do you also laugh at his unfortunate disposition too I wonder? Laughter is a great medicine but it's best to understand what it is driving your humour in this discussion and try to apply an appropriate response with a reasoned argument. Otherwise, it's just boring to read and adds nothing to the discussion.

      Understanding when and what to laugh at is indeed something that people with a healthy degree of empathy do have. Perhaps you lack that particular subtlety?

      Little old ladies with fighting french bulldogs just doesn't make me laugh. Call me old fashioned.....Fortunately, people have different sensibilities when it come to indulging in humour. I love dark comedy - Sean Lock, Stewart Lee, Monty Python - bring it on. I'd probably laugh my head off at a parody of the dog show world by a talented comedian. But I haven't read anything on here by you that has made me laugh.

      When I do 'laugh' at the show world, I am usually shaking my head in weary disbelief at the damage being inflicted by pretty selfish human beings on a vulnerable species....

    6. Thanks my son doesn't need your or any ones sympathy. His IQ by the way and by the way your argument is going is probably ten times yours.

      Little old ladies with fighting dogs is funny full stop. Hardly worth arguing about unless you're bored out of your mind.

      Monty Pythons dead parrot sketch is funny though? Me thinks you are bored out of your mind?

      Im not here to entertain any one nor are my posts but if you can suspend your literal mind set for sixty minutes or so you should watch the movie "Best in Show" a little more obvious humour perhaps? I wish it had gone a bit "deeper" (sic) and brought in the question of health in these animals.

      Humour is a very effective tool obviously, yes not every one is able to get it all of the time.

    7. IQ only gets one so far in life.

      Emotional intelligence and empathy is the key to understanding ourselves, other people and animals we share the planet with. Try focusing on the issues at hand here....French Bulldogs and the unfortunate mess they are in due to a combination of lack of education and empathy by the humans who profess to be experts and who also claim to love them too.

      It's challenging to try to think of ways to address this with the breeders and clubs who take issue with any criticism, constructive or otherwise. One thing is for sure, the last few posts on here have hardly been helpful in that regard. Try posting when you really have something to contribute to the discussion? Commenting on somebody's IQ is pretty insulting, not relevant to the blog and says more about you than the person you are

    8. It helps if you identify yourself. Even a pseudonym will do. One thing is for sure hiding behind "anonymous" is as backwards as many breeders approach to this problem at hand. But it also helps to know which anonymous a person is dealing with at which time?

  19. Next to the issue of ‘inherited’ breathing problems , there’s the most objectionable way of show handling (of course , not restricted to flat faced ones) , namely head highly strung up by a tight show lead , the latter regularly combined with a ‘thin’ choke chain/collar . This all certainly hampers ‘usual’ breathing , thereby quite counter productive re proper movement , ie resulting in stilted front stepping which , by reason of fore/aft coordination , also shortens length of rear strides , iow producing a non-economic movement by a dog who perhaps may have the right fore/aft joint angles to show up easy style in great extension .

    1. Yes I find this practise despicable and not only for brachycephlic breeds. Also the practise of stacking with the head strung up.

      I was watching some of the Borzoi classes at Westminster when I was over there on Holiday and I found this horrible to watch. Almost constant pressure on the dogs hyoid, larynx, epiglottis, trachea and oesophagus. Dogs can't even swallow properly like this. It's worse than the rollkur horses endured, and this is banned now.

      It should be realised that dogs don't carry themselves like this naturally so why would a judge want to se a dog stacked or shown in an artificial way? Not only that why is the "trot" so important they never get to see a dog free running. I bet a lot of them can't not properly anyway. English mastiffs, Neopolitans, Pekingese etc should be shown trying to run (:

      "Stenotic nares are only a problem if the rest of the dog is no good too" I was told by a top FB breeder, "if it is it's pet quality anyway" "My customers are rich enough to be able to have the nares operated on".....What about skin problems like allergies because of lack of pigment? "Oh no problem keep them off grass and out the garden and sun, use baby shampoo.....sun screen on the ears and nose especially as they tend to be liver or pink"

  20. Look Jemima, I found a Frenchie with nostrils

    oh wait..

  21. The letter says a lot. It might be trying to say the truth gently. Gently and without any blame. Like talking about a murder without naming the murder because that would hurt his feelings and make him mad.

  22. Perhaps new tech will allow an affordable spine scan while the dogs are on the judging table?

    But that's a sad joke isn't it? Because breeders might object to being exposed as people who breed dogs with spine problems. The clubs wouldn't want that, would they? What good is a health test if the breeders wont use it, and the club wont require it, and the public doesn't get it yet?

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.