Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence.
According to the Morris Animal Foundation, "Epigenetics affect how, when and whether genes are read by cells. By altering the physical structure of a DNA strand, for instance, genes can be turned on (expressed) or off (ignored by the cell). Countless environmental factors can affect specific gene expression. What a dog eats, where he lives, his sleeping habits, exercise and age all influence what genes are expressed and when" (Read more here).
This is fantastic news, because we can have a huge impact on our dogs' epigenetics (as well as our own) by making healthy lifestyle choices, which includes food, hydration, exercise, medications, sleep, sunlight and vaccines exposure to toxins. All of these factors contribute to optimal health.
When it comes to bulldogs and genetics, they are notorious for all sorts of health issues. In fact, the entire breed is danger of becoming extinct. According to a recent study published in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, researchers say the lack of genetic diversity in the popular breed (English Bulldogs) is putting it at risk of ever improving the overall health of English bulldogs" and further 93 per cent of the 103 dogs they studied came from one paternal line" (Read more here).
This means that 93% of bulldogs bred can be traced back to one paternal genetic line. This is absolutely insane because we are sure that this genetic line has been over-medicated, over-vaccinated and largely fed a diet that lacks essential nutrients. This right here is epigenetics works and will turn on an unhealthy expression of genes, which will be passed down to puppies, who are then bred to reproduce more unhealthy puppies and around and around we go on the sickness merry-go-round.
I think we can stop the merry-go-round by making decisions around epigenetics. Even if the gene pool of dogs lacks genetic diversity, we can improve the genetic material that we have to work with by vaccinating carefully and not just because your vet or the AKC guidelines say so, we can feed an ancestrally appropriate diet which is raw food (next best thing is home-cooked and does not include kibble), medicate only in life-threatening situations and limit exposure to environmental toxins, and provide regular access to the outdoors, sunlight and exercise, we can turn off certain genes that create sickness and turn on genes that optimize health.