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March 16, 2023

Now that French Bulldogs rank number one in popularity in the USA in 2022 (according to AKC stats) a real disaster will get much, much worse. Here's why (with data) from Nationwide's Veterinary Analytics team that released chunks of new data and analysis about brachycephalic dogs earlier in 2023. The medical risks due to selective breeding for weirder and weirder faces in these dogs are simply too high, leading to death due to pregnancy (mom and puppies) and rampant, lifelong suffering and death of the puppies who survive birth. It isn't just breathing problems. Several other health risks in extreme brachycephalic breeds, including French Bulldogs, remain scary high. Lovers of Pugs and English Bulldogs will also find relevant stats and charts.

Background from Nationwide's Veterinary Analytics Report on Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

The data team identified 15 dog breeds commonly classified as brachycephalic (literally means "short head"). Of those 15 brachycephalic dog breeds, 3 of them commonly get classified as extreme brachycephalic breeds, including:

  • English Bulldogs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Pugs

In particular, the team notes that pet insurance policies with the company for French Bulldogs increased more than 400% in the last 10 years. 

They looked at about 50,000 individual brachycephalic dog insured by the company, representing 450,000 "dog years at risk (DYAR)." Essentially, that's how many combined years of risks all of the dogs contributed to the information used in the analysis. 

The first paper describes specific health problems experienced by brachycephalic breeds (compared to non-brachycephalic breeds) and "reveals new insights on breeds with an extreme brachycephalic phenotype."

The second paper outlines the diseases that often go together or lead to one another (comorbidities) in brachycephalic dogs. The second one "reveals insights into the dramatic increase in the risk of certain respiratory, gastrointestinal and spinal disease comorbidities in extreme brachycephalic dogs with BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome)." The paper later calls BOAS "a disease of brachycephalic dogs." 

french bulldogs post main graphic

French Bulldogs Disaster

It's painful, kids. The Nationwide team compared dog insurance claims for all brachycephalic dogs, for extreme brachycephalic dogs, and for non-extreme brachycephalic dogs for problems like these:

  • Respiratory diseases
  • Esophageal diseases
  • Ocular diseases
  • Hyperthermia (heat stroke)
  • Complications of pregnancy
  • Allergic reactions
  • Neurological disease
french bulldogs post quote graphic 2

Their chart below shows the relative risks for each category of brachycephalic dogs. Anything under 100% means lower risk. Anything over 100% means higher risk. Extreme brachycephalic dogs, including French Bulldogs face double, quadruple, and even higher risks of these 7 diseases and life-threatening conditions:

  • 4.8 times higher risk of respiratory diseases
  • 2.7 times higher risk of esophageal diseases
  • 4.7 times higher risk of ocular diseases
  • 5.3 times higher risk of hyperthermia (heat stroke)
  • 4.2 times higher risk of complications of pregnancy
  • 2.8 times higher risk of allergic reactions
  • 2.9 times higher risk neurological disease
  • french bulldogs disaster chart 1 showing risk of various diseases compared to non-brachycephalic breeds
    french bulldogs post quote graphic 3

    More on French Bulldogs Health Risks

    The risk of BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome) is 17 times higher in French Bulldogs than in other brachycephalic breeds. Read that again and then keep reading to see how BOAS then puts extreme brachycephalic breeds at higher risk for other serious problems. 

    french bulldogs post quote graphic 4

    Pneumonia. French Bulldogs and other extreme brachycephalic breeds are more likely to develop pneumonia, including aspirational pneumonia, which makes longer anesthesia episodes more dangerous.

    Breeding risks. French Bulldogs are 5.8 times more likely to face risks from breeding, pregnancy, and birth than non-brachycephalic dogs. The report says, "The risks of breeding brachycephalic dogs are well-known to veterinarians and breeders and include size mismatch between the dam's pelvis and the puppies' heads." The paper recommends planning c-section births for all brachycephalic breeds. However, even that isn't a guarantee of safe delivery as #VetTwitter recently revealed. 

    One veterinarian recently shared the following: 

    "Lost a Frenchie today during C-section. Crashed shortly after induction, nigh on impossible to intubate, tried everything, blood in the ET tube, couldn’t get her back so went to exlap, one dead giant pup. F***. F*** backyard breeders. #breedtobreathe#vettwitter#vetmed"

    french bulldogs risk of pregnancy even with c-section

    Allergic reactions. French Bulldogs are 3.5 times the relative risk than non-brachycephalic dogs of experiencing dangerous allergic reactions. [Makes me wonder about their risks of adverse vaccine reactions.

    The French Bulldogs News Gets Worse

    The second paper from the Nationwide Veterinary Analytics team "delves into the risks
    surrounding comorbidities in extreme brachycephalic dogs with brachycephalic obstructive airway
    syndrome (BOAS) compared with extreme brachycephalic dogs without BOAS."

    So, if we know that BOAS *only happens in brachycephalic dogs, then how much worse is it for extreme brachycephalic dogs — and NOT just with BOAS, but the other problems that seem to happen too? The report calls BOAS "an effective sentinel disease for other conditions (e.g., pneumonia, spinal disease, esophageal and gastrointestinal disease) that are exacerbated by extreme brachycephalic morphology."

    The theory is that the pressure changes inside the body caused by BOAS lead to secondary medical problems. 

    Let's start with pneumonia. The report says, "in almost 75% of dogs with BOAS the initial claim is submitted before 2 years of age." It goes on to say that "26% of first-time pneumonia claims are made at the same time as the initial BOAS claim, 50% are submitted within 3 months, and the remainder of first-time pneumonia claims are almost all submitted within 1 year of the initial BOAS claim."

    French Bulldogs with BOAS >> 4.7 times higher relative risk for pneumonia. 

    french bulldogs with BOAS risk of pneumonia chart
    chart showing timing of pneumonia and BOAS diagnoses in extreme brachycephalic dogs

    Next, let's look at esophageal problems. French Bulldogs with BOAS >> also 4.7 times higher relative risk for esophageal disease. 

    french bulldogs with BOAS risk of esophageal disease

    Things look a little less awful for spinal diseases, but still nearly double the risk for French Bulldogs with BOAS. 

    french bulldogs with boas risk of spinal disease

    It gets more complicated when you look at extreme brachycephalic breeds with BOAS ... AND ... pneumonia ... AND other combinations of diseases that French Bulldogs and others are at higher relative risk. Their chart below shows that 31.2% of extreme brachycephalic dogs with BOAS and pneumonia also have at least 1 other medical problem with the esophagus, eyes, spine, or eyes.

    french bulldogs post quote graphic 5
    french bulldogs with BOAS and pneumonia and other diseases or problems common to brachy breeds

    Toward the end of the second paper you'll find this gem, which says, "The path dictated by extreme brachycephaly and BOAS leads to a maze of additional health problems. These additional diseases tend to appear early in the dog’s life, with somewhat predictable patterns."

    Tend to appear EARLY in the dog's life. That means a lifetime of suffering, worrying, and spending for families choosing French Bulldogs as current and future family members. 

    I won't be one of them — partly because I don't have money to burn, partly because I will not support unethical breeding and the suffering it causes. 

    Others make different choices. I simply want them to understand the risk and what's really what. 

    About the Author Roxanne Hawn

    Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

    I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

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