UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Genetics Laboratory

Do healthier Bulldogs exist in the world?

Some Bulldog breeders and owners have challenged the assertion that Bulldogs are an endangered breed based on the health and longevity of their own dogs. In our paper A Genetic Assessment of the English bulldog we relied on the results of DNA from 139 dogs, 102 were registered breeding dogs mainly from the US, but from several other countries as well. Thirty seven dogs were seen at our veterinary teaching hospital for various health problems and were presumed to represent the pet-grade dogs that were being sold by both professional and commercial breeders.  Both populations proved to be genetically indistinguishable.  People interested in this study can find it in a freely accessible and downloadable at:  http://cgejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40575-016-0036-y.

We believe that this paper accurately portrayed the current genetic and health problems of the breed, but we did mention that there was still phenotypic variability among Bulldogs and that there are Bulldogs that breathe freely, move freely, reproduce naturally, and that are free from skin and eye problems, allergies and other immunologic disorders. We did state, however, that it might be difficult to find a single dog that met all of these criteria.

Therefore, we are offering a challenge to Bulldog breeders and owners from around the world to provide us with proof that their dog is a registered Bulldog/English Bulldog and to include a narrative and photographs/videos that supports their health status.  Please email us at: healthybulldogs@vgl.ucdavis.edu with this information and if we feel that this is indeed a dog that meets the criteria listed above, our Veterinary Genetics Laboratory will provide you free of cost with a DNA collection kit and from this a genetic profile of your dog that can be compared with the information provided in our genetic assessment paper. 

We will also add genetic information from your dog to our genetic profile database for the Bulldog. Hopefully, this information will allow us to identify a genetic profile that is conducive to greater health. We may share your information online, but like the email alone any personal information regarding the owner, the dog and the breeder will be either redacted or changed.  We do not make personal information public. This study is funded by the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health and donations made by numerous individuals interested in improving the health of all dogs. A list of Dr. Pedersen’s research publications dealing with canine health and genetic diversity can be found at: https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/pedersen/canine.php.

This particular project was sparked by the receipt of an email from a Bulldog owner that begged to differ with our portrayal of his dog. We would like to introduce you to a Bulldog that we will call Spike and his story as related by his owner. The information provided by Spike’s owner is exactly the type of information that we desire and you can use this owner’s email as a format for your submission.  You might also notice that health may not just involve genetics, as this owner has deliberately kept Spike’s weight down and exercise levels high.    

Head of Spike, purebred bulldog from India“We bought Spike in Bangalore, India, in 2014. The Breeder and the food packets recommended significantly more food than our vet did and we had read about English Bulldogs having complications due to their weight. We deliberately kept Spike lean. He was also actively exercised two or three times a day for between 45-90 minutes depending on scheduling. We then transported him from India to the UK in January 2015 and again, we wanted to keep him healthy for this strenuous journey. Upon arrival in the UK, each vet/nurse he has seen has remarked on his excellent body definition for the breed. Twice other dog owners have remarked on his body shape being “old fashioned” for the breed. One was an elderly lady who remembered the shape of English Bulldogs from her youth and the other was a gentleman who was a keen dog enthusiast – he remarked that Spike’s shape reminded him of English Bulldogs from the late 19th Century.

Again, we continue to exercise him daily and he loves nothing better than playing with other dogs or a football. Just last week he had a 45 minute play with a cross-breed Lurcher (Australian farm dog with excellent energy) without much problem. We actually rescued a runaway dog one Sunday and they played robustly in the garden for over two hours with occasional drinks breaks! Like all English Bulldogs, Spike snores but otherwise, he seems to have pretty good breathing. His nostrils are not perfect circles, but not terribly closed over, so he seems to be getting a good air supply for his play. Of course he pants in the heat or after a strenuous play, but nothing more remarkable than other breeds in my (albeit limited) experience. Health wise, there have been no signs of any form of illness other than the usual scrapes and one bout of diarrhoea. He passes his vet/nurse appointments with a full bill of health.”

Top, side view of Spike laying on grass

Front view of Spike running on grassFront view of Spike running on grass


"Spike" is registered with the Kennel Club of India as a purebred Bulldog.
Kennel Club of India registration certificate


Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Tel 530-752-2211, Email VGL