Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation which could mean the end of breathing problems for bulldogs.
Researchers have discovered that short-nosed pets such as bulldogs carry a gene linked to fluid retention and swelling in the tissue that lines their airways.
This causes the the lining of the airways in the animal’s nose to swell, resulting in the dogs’ breathing problems.
The study could change the way dogs are treated - and could help breeders to produce pups with fewer breathing difficulties.
It had long been assumed that the breathing problems stemmed from the dogs’ scrunched-up noses, pinched nostrils and squat skulls.
According to the Kennel Club, about half of English bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs have serious trouble breathing and critics have lambasted bulldog breeders as irresponsible.
However, this study seems to change that thinking.
Dr Jeffrey Schoenebeck and his team at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh's Royal School of Veterinary Studies analysed DNA from more than 400 Norwich terriers.
The tests looked at the ADAMTS3 gene in dogs,
Vets also carried out clinical examinations of the dogs to check their airways for signs of disease.
“We conclude that there are additional genetic risk factors, that if inherited, will likely lead to airway disease in dogs regardless of their face shape,” said Dr Schoenebeck.
“The challenge ahead is to integrate these ideas, and implement sensible breeding practices and treatments that consider various health risks including those presented by the mutation of ADAMTS3.”
Senior specialist surgeon Dr Jon Hall, who leads a specialist clinic for dogs called BREATHE, said: 'This discovery is a step change in our understanding of upper airway problems in dogs, which we hope will allow us to identify dogs at greater risk of catastrophic airway swelling before it happens.'
The study was published in the journal PLOS Genetics.