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Posted on: June 18, 2019 at 8:01 pm

Pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and similar ‘squish-faced’ dog breeds are popular nowadays because of their cute personalities, endearing but odd faces, and being the pets of many well-known actors and singers.

However, there is a dark side behind this trend. Many of these dogs suffer from health issues from their genetics, that have been selectively bred.

“We find that our veterinary surgeons are finding increasing numbers of flat-faced dogs are coming into their practices with problems which are related to the way these animals are made,” said John Fishwick, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

“One of the things that is causing this increase that we have seen over the last few years appears to be celebrity endorsements and their use in advertising.”

What Kind of Health Issues Face Brachycephalic Dogs?

1.Breathing Disorders

These dogs’ faces are often structured with narrow nostrils, deformed windpipes, and soft tissue inside their throats and noses. These traits lead to breathing difficulties and heart conditions. They are also prone to overheating because dogs release heat through panting, which is difficult through their small wind passageways.

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2. Dental Problems

Selective breading shortened the upper jaws of these dogs. This crowds their mouths and increases their risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

3. Skin Disorders

The deep folds and wrinkles on the dogs’ faces, one of their most iconic and adorable features, cause bacterial and yeast infections.

4. Eye Conditions

The shape of the head and wide eyes put these breeds at risk of eye disorders, such as ulcers. Additionally, brachycephalic dogs cannot properly blink, which is detrimental to their tear production. Eyelashes and the folds of the nose can rub against the edges of the eyes and damage them.

5. Birth Complications

These dogs are often unable to give birth naturally, so most of their puppies are born through cesarean sections. This is due to the disproportionate size of their babies’ heads. Over 80% of brachycephalic dogs, including bulldogs, French bulldogs, and Boston terriers are born through C-section in the U.K. [2]

Why Don’t Veterinarians Speak Up?

Many veterinarians don’t talk about the unethical background of these selectively bred dogs, despite performing corrective surgeries and arranging treatment plans to alleviate their suffering. Simple to say, it’s bad for business.

“If I stood up and told the truth about these breeds,” says a vet who prefers to remain unknown, “I would immediately alienate [the owners] and they would up sticks and move to the neighboring practice where the vet was not as outspoken. “Vets in general practice simply cannot afford to be honest and to speak out.”

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is free from that inhibition and frequently make statements about the issue of breeding and buying brachycephalic puppies.

“The surge in popularity of these dogs has increased animal suffering and resulted in unwell pets for owners,” says Sean Wensley, Senior Vice President of the BVA, “so we strongly encourage people to think about choosing a healthier breed or crossbreed instead.”

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Crossbreds vs Purebreds

Much to the chagrin of breeders who claim purebreds are naturally healthier than crossbreeds, they were disproved by a study in 2013.

The researchers examined the medical records of over 27,000 dogs and compared the occurrence of 24 genetic disorders. Their findings are astonishing:

  • The incidence of 10 disorders was 42% higher in purebred dogs.
  • The incidence of 1 disorder was 4% greater in mixed breeds.
  • The remaining 13 disorders had no discernable differences between the dogs. [1]

How to Protect Brachycephalic Dogs

1. Research before buying

Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club urged owners to do their homework before buying a squashed-faced dog. “As soon as you get a market drive then the puppy farms just say ‘ooh we’ll breed those now.’”

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Dr. Rowena Packer of the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) suggests that prospective owners should be made aware of squashed-faced dogs’ expensive commitment. “They need to be aware of both the emotional and financial hardship that they could be putting themselves and their dogs through for potentially 5 to 10 years.” [3]

2. Avoid dogs in promotional material and campaigns

The BVA encourages people to send letters to brands to remove squashed-face dogs from their ads. It’s hard to deny the effects of media, and these dogs being portrayed as cute and trendy can increase their sales and therefore breeding.

The negative effect of celebrities promoting their beloved pets can be turned into a positive one, by educating their fans about the health complications affecting these breeds. [4]

3.Spread the word

“They are lovely breeds of dog, they are very friendly and they make good pets,” says Fishwick.

“The problem is a lot of them are really struggling, and we really want to make sure people understand this and encourage them to think about either going for another breed or a healthier version of these breeds—ones which have been bred to have a longer snout or possibly even crossbreeds.”

Spreading awareness about these dogs’ plight, can create a healthier future for these beloved breeds.

  1.  Health of purebred vs mixed breed dogs: the actual data https://www.instituteofcaninebiology.org/blog/health-of-purebred-vs-mixed-breed-dogs-the-data
  2. Proportion of litters of purebred dogs born by caesarean section. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20136998
  3. Things to think about before buying a flat-faced (brachycephalic) dog https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/things-think-about-buying-flat-faced-dog
  4.  Health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs https://www.bva.co.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/policy/companion-animals/brachycephalic-dogs/
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Sarah Biren
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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