The French Bulldog Fad & The Cost Of Being Cute

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(DOG BREEDS) There’s no denying French Bulldogs are irresistibly cute, but these dogs are far more fragile than they appear. Despite being the sixth most popular dog breed in the U.S., health problems often plague their lives.

This became a point of concern after Kokito, a 10-month-old French Bulldog puppy, died aboard a United Airlines flight upon being stored in overhead storage compartment. While placing any animal in a storage bin can lead to overheating and asphyxiation, the risk is particularly serious for “brachycephalic dogs,” or dogs with flat, wide heads.

Read on to learn more about the health risks associated with overbreeding French Bulldogs. With so many great dogs in need of homes, we must steer away from this designer dog breed infatuation and always remember to adopt, don’t shop! — Global Animal

“Brachycephalic dogs,” or dogs with flat, wide heads are often prone to health issues like food allergies and respiratory problems. Photo Credit:

New York Times, Jacob Bernstein

Big eyes. Pointy ears. Snub nose. With its compact bundle of a body and inquisitively puckered face, the French bulldog is irresistibly cute.

According to the American Kennel Club, it’s the sixth most popular breed in the United States. And they have quite the celebrity cult following. Madonna, Hugh Jackman and Ashley Olsen all have French bulldogs. So does Reese Witherspoon, who has been photographed all over Los Angeles with hers, a black Frenchie called Coco Chanel. The households of Dwayne Johnson and — according to People — Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have two each.

On Monday, Kokito, a 10-month-old French bulldog puppy, died aboard a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York after a flight attendant stored the dog in the overhead compartment. The death sparked a national conversation about animal cruelty and acceptable transportation policies for our four-legged companions.

According to Kitty Block, the president and C.E.O. of the Humane Society of North America, placing any animal in a storage bin can lead to overheating and asphyxiation. But the risk is particularly serious for “brachycephalic dogs,” which, she said, in veterinary speak means “those with flat wide heads.”

The cranium of a Frenchie, in particular, is so out of proportion to its body that puppies are typically birthed by means of C-section. Health problems plague their lives.

This doesn’t mean they deserve to die in overhead bins. But it means that French bulldogs are far more fragile than they look — an unfortunate fate that has been guaranteed to them by the choices humans have made in breeding them.

“People buy these animals not realizing that the animal may be sick from the time they take them home, or that they’re going to need lots of surgery as they get older. It’s horrible for the dogs and it’s horrible for the owners,” Ms. Block said.

The breed standard has been continually refined around physical requirements that make the dogs attractive, but put their health increasingly at risk.

“The same thing that makes them cute is what makes them sick,” said Philippa Pavia, the medical director at the Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners outpost in Manhattan.

Cuteness is good for business. After all, Ms. Pavia noted, “downtown Manhattan is a very skewed population” where Frenchies are concerned. Even the manager of that clinic, Terri Ciaramello, is the proud owner of two lovely French bulldogs — both with their own share of health problems.

One of the dogs, Baron, had to have airway surgery when he was just 13 months old. Daisy, the other dog, had to have back surgery at age 2. “She was a daredevil,” Ms. Ciaremello said. “She liked to jump and their backs are not made for that.”

In 2006, Jenny Comita, a journalist who has worked at the magazines Vogue and W, fell in love with the breed and purchased Louise, an 8-week-old puppy, from a breeder in Texas.

According to Ms. Comita, Louise never barked and required little exercise. She was also uniquely attuned to the emotions of people. “If you were crying, she’d jump up on your lap and start kissing you,” Ms. Comita said.

Ultimately, Louise wound up being nearly as expensive as she was lovable.

Because of food allergies, Ms. Comita had to cook specialty items for Louise. By age 7, Louise was paralyzed by her back problems. Ms. Comita and her husband, Seth Yellin, took her to get an M.R.I. at New York’s Animal Medical Center — essentially, the Memorial Sloan Kettering of animal hospitals. Louise died while under anesthesia.

“She was miserable,” Ms. Comita said. “She had health problems her whole life.”

Today, Ms. Comita and Mr. Yellin own a mutt named Scout.

They rescued Scout from the Humane Society, which meant the dog was several thousand dollars cheaper than Louise from the start. He’s not necessarily as sweet, Ms. Comita said. If you’re upset, he doesn’t jump on you and start kissing you to make you feel better. But Ms. Comita can’t conceive of owning another Frenchie.

“I love them, but I would never get another one. I was young and dumb. Basically, they shouldn’t exist,” she said.

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