Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

British Club Wants to Reshape Bulldog; the Intent Is to Reform the Breed's Health Woes, but Some Are Skeptical

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

British Club Wants to Reshape Bulldog; the Intent Is to Reform the Breed's Health Woes, but Some Are Skeptical

Article excerpt

Byline: LEE SHEARER

ATHENS - The British Kennel Club plans to change the look of the bulldog - the University of Georgia's iconic mascot - to create a sleeker and healthier breed.

But the decree across the Atlantic cuts no ice with the owners of the Uga line of bulldogs revered by Georgia fans here and across the sea.

"I don't care what the British do," said Sonny Seiler, owner of the bulldog line that has become the most celebrated sports mascot in the United States.

Critics in England and in the United States say breeders have transformed bulldogs and some other dog breeds into genetic monstrosities prone to chronic disease and sometimes early death.

A BBC documentary aired in August detailed the illnesses that bulldogs and other breeds are prone to because of the way they've been bred to look. The British TV network also announced it would no longer televise England's premier dog show, where dogs are judged against standards of appearance and behavior that the British Kennel Club defines as ideal.

The kennel club subsequently announced it would review breed standards in the light of the animals' health, and has unveiled new standards for more than 200 dog breeds - including the bulldog, which will have longer legs, a trimmer torso, a smoother face and fewer skin folds.

Like other dog breeds with short faces, bulldogs can have trouble getting air in and out of their lungs because of the structure of their upper respiratory tract, said Chad Schmiedt, a small animal surgeon at the UGa College of Veterinary Medicine.

The condition makes the dogs' breathing noisy, makes them prone to snoring and restricts their ability to get around, Schmiedt said.

"They're not going to be athletes," he said of the breed that, at Georgia, serves as an on-the-field mascot.

In the heat, when tissues may swell in the dogs' throat, nose or larynx, the restricted air flow actually can cause a life-threatening emergency, Schmiedt said.

Because bulldogs' heads are so big, their puppies have to be delivered by Cesarean section.

Like other breeds with wrinkly skin, bulldogs are prone to skin infections, he said. …

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