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They may be one of Britain’s most popular breeds, but French bulldog bitches are more likely to suffer from a difficult birth than other breeds and crossbred bitches.

According to a series of studies from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) published today, French bulldog bitches are almost 16 times more likely to suffer from dystocia and 2.4 times more likely to undergo invasive caesarean sections than crossbred dogs. Once they have birthing problems, researchers found out that brachycephalic female dogs are almost two times more likely to need a caesarean.

The research carried out as part of the RVC’s VetCompassTM programme, aimed to improve the understanding of common birthing problems (dystocia) in dogs. Researchers studied 20,000 bitches that required emergency treatment at 50 Vet Now veterinary clinics between 2012 and 2014 and their findings have been published in two papers in The Veterinary Record.

The first paper reported that 3.7% of female dogs suffer from dystocia, with French bulldogs, Boston terriers, Chihuahuas and Pugs most at risk. The second paper, which examined the effects of difficult births more closely, found that a quarter of pups and 1.7% of bitches do not survive a problem birth.

RVC veterinary epidemiologist and VetCompass researcher Dr Dan O’Neill said, “This new research is another piece of evidence suggesting that mankind may have gone too far in modifying dog breed shapes towards extreme conformation that can interfere with basic biological functions. We all need to fall back in love with dog-shaped dogs and move away from the current fascination with extreme-shaped dogs.”

Kennel Club Charitable Trust Chairman Steve Dean said, “These current findings demonstrate the importance of understanding the risks associated with breeding a litter and the importance of planning a pregnancy carefully to ensure that you fully understand the journey for your dog from conception through to birth and beyond, including some of the potential complications that might be experienced, especially those occurring during the whelping process, as highlighted in this research.

“The Kennel Club recognises the rewarding experience of breeding a litter of puppies successfully, nevertheless breeding dogs comes with a fundamental responsibility for supporting the bitch and her puppies throughout the breeding process and this responsibility should not be taken lightly.”

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