London, July 31 : The English bulldog, one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, is also one of the unhealthiest and has little chance of improving its notoriously poor health, geneticists have concluded.
The lead researcher of a study condemned dog breeders and owners, saying more people appeared to be "enamoured with its appearance than concerned about its health," reports the Independent.
English bulldogs suffer from a range of terrific health problems, however, some breeders have tried to improve the animal's' health.
Bulldog's excessive wrinkles are prone to infection unless they are regularly cleaned. It also has breathing problems due to its narrow nostrils and a number of eye conditions that cause chronic irritation and pain.
It has deformed spinal bones that can also lead to incontinence and weaken its back legs. However, a study published in the journal of Canine Genetics and Epidemiology found this would be difficult to do from the existing gene pool because it has been inbred to an extreme degree.
According to the lead author of the paper, Professor Niels Pedersen, "The English bulldog has reached the point where popularity can no longer excuse the health problems that the average bulldog endures in its often brief lifetime." "Improving health through genetic manipulations presumes that enough diversity still exists to improve the breed from within, and if not, to add diversity by out-crossing to other breeds.
We found that little genetic 'wiggle room' still exists in the breed to make additional genetic changes," he added.
To study the genetic constitution of this breed, Pederson and his colleagues examined 102 English bulldogs- 87 from the United States and 15 from other countries.
These dogs were genetically compared to an additional 37 English bulldogs, all of which exhibited serious health problems.
This was done to determine if the genetic problems were the result of commercial breeders or puppy mills, neither of which turned out to be the case.
Pedersen said that the rate of genetic changes had been "particularly rapid over the last few decades".
"Breeders are managing the little diversity that still exists in the best possible manner, but there are still many individuals sired from highly inbred parents," he added.
The study was the first time DNA analysis has been used to assess the English bulldog's genetic diversity.