Owners could soon be banned from breeding bulldogs unless their features are changed to avoid a growing number of health issues.

The Royal Veterinary College has issued the warning with the dog's shortened muzzle, folded skin and squat body causing breathing, eye and skin conditions.

Currently the breed, which is synonymous with Britishness and Winston Churchill, only lives to an average age of eight with the study recommending that people "stop and think" before buying them.

Bulldogs were found to be 38 times more likely than other dogs to get dermatitis in skin folds, nearly 27 times more likely to get an eye condition called cherry eye, over 24 times more likely to have a jutting lower jaw and ran nearly 20 times the risk of obstructive airways causing breathing problems.

Other conditions that are more commonly seen in bulldogs include having a cyst between the toes (13 times more likely), dry eye (12 times), inward eyelids (11.5 times), mange (eight times), foot infections (five times) and a skin infection, wet dermatitis and dermatitis (three times).

Originally developed as an athletic and muscular dog for bull-fighting, it is now bred as a show and companion animal with a short skull, protruding jaw, skin folds, and squat, heavy build.

The Netherlands and Norway have already restricted the breeding of English Bulldogs in recent years.

Study author Dr Dan O'Neill said: “Every dog deserves to be born with equal and good innate health by having a natural ability to breathe freely, blink fully, exercise easily, have healthy flat skin, mate and give birth.

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"What is most concerning is that so many of the health conditions that English Bulldogs suffer from, are directly linked to the extreme structure of their bodies that has been selectively bred for.

"The body shape of the typical pet English Bulldogs should be redefined towards more moderate physical characteristics. Until then, prospective owners should stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog."

The research examined a random sample of 2,662 English Bulldogs and 22,039 dogs from other breeds, with only 9.7 per cent of the former aged over eight compared to 25.4 per cent of the latter.

Despite the concerning results, the bulldogs were, however, at reduced risk of some conditions such as dental disease, heart murmur and flea infestation compared to other dogs.

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