French bulldogs prone to birthing problems

Veterinary Nursing News

French bulldogs prone to birthing problems

New research conducted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), which shows that French bulldog bitches are 15.9 times more likely to suffer from difficult births (dystocia) than crossbred bitches, has been published in the Veterinary Record today.

Furthermore, the research found that among female dogs that had problems giving birth, French bulldog bitches are then 2.4 times more likely to undergo invasive caesarean sections than crossbred dogs.

This compared to brachycephalic bitches in general, which the RVC researchers found are 1.54 times more likely to need a caesarean compared with their longer-nosed pure breed or crossbred counterparts.

As part of the research, academics studied 20,000 bitches that required emergency treatment at 50 Vets Now veterinary clinics between 2012 and 2014.

Their findings, published in two papers in The Veterinary Record, highlight the substantial risks that bitches and their puppies face during the birthing process. 

According to the first paper1, 3.7% of female dogs suffer from dystocia. Alongside French bulldogs, other pure breeds such as Boston terriers, chihuahuas and pugs, are also particularly at risk of birthing problems. Compared to crossbred bitches, Boston terriers are 12.9 times more likely to face birthing issues, pugs 11.3 times more likely and chihuahuas 10.4 times more likely.

The second paper2, which is available open access, examines the effects of difficult births more closely. It found that on average, 25% of puppies and 1.7% of the bitches do not survive problem births. Apart from the risk of death, problem births also mean that many bitches have to undergo painful and invasive surgery, with 48.6% of problem births needing caesarean surgery.

Bulldogs (also known as British Bulldogs), border terriers and golden retrievers were the top three breeds at risk of caesarean section once they have difficulty giving birth. Bulldogs are 7.6 times more likely, border terriers are 4.9 times more likely and golden retrievers are 4.1 times more likely to need the procedure compared with crossbreeds.

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."


  1. O'Neill, DG., O'Sullivan, AM., Manson, EA., Church, DB., Boag, AK., McGreevy, PD., Brodbelt, DC. (2017) Canine dystocia in 50 UK first-opinion emergency-care veterinary practices: prevalence and risk factors Veterinary Record 181, 88.
  2. O’Neill, DG., O’Sullivan, AM., Manson, EA., Church, DB., McGreevy, PD., Boag, AK., Brodbelt, DC.(2019) Canine dystocia in 50 UK first-opinion emergency care veterinary practices: clinical management and outcomes Veterinary Record Published Online First:04 February 2019. doi: 10.1136/vr.104944.

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