Over 12,000 vets have signed a petition calling for a working party to address the increasing health problems in brachycephalic dogs and cats. Flat faced dogs have become a huge sensation lately, it seems like everyone wants one. It’s hard to resist their adorable faces and quirky personalities. Dogs like Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers are proving extremely popular and fashionable in the UK, but unfortunately, these sort of dogs do come with certain health risks.
People are drawn to their wrinkled noses and squashed faces. Although this may be a look that owners want to see, it causes a lot of breathing difficulties and ongoing health problems. This has increased animal suffering, according to the British Veterinary Association.
Its president, Sean Wensley says “Prospective owners need to consider that these dogs can suffer from a range of health problems, from eye ulcers to severe breathing difficulties. We strongly encourage people to choose a healthier breed or a crossbreed instead.” And it’s not just the British Veterinary Association issuing this warning, other large organisations like the RSPCA, the PDSA, the Royal Veterinary College and even the Kennel Club are in agreement.
Bulldogs in particular are very expensive to insure, in fact, they are one of the most expensive dogs you can get when it comes to pet insurance. The main reason for this is the ongoing health issues they suffer due to the shape of their face and jaw. These types of dogs with flat faces are often called brachycephalic dog breeds or flat faced dogs.
It’s unclear why this look has delighted dog owners so much, and why people are willing to put up with the risk of serious health problems. But it turns out that some owners may have absolutely no idea of the health problems these dogs have and the potential challenge they are taking on. A recent survey by the Royal Veterinary College suggests many owners of brachycephalic dogs are not aware of the common underlying health problems.
Although a lot of people go out and buy these dogs, many don’t end up keeping them, because they can’t pay expensive vet bills or deal with dogs that have issues. Interestingly, there has been an increase lately in brachycephalic breeds turning up at rescue centres. Blue Cross Animal Rescue and Battersea Dogs Home saw a year on year increase of 39% more flat faced dogs coming into their care.
One of the main issues that these dogs suffer from is breathing difficulties, and rescue centres often end up having to carry out operations to help them breathe more easily and clear their airways. Many dogs with brachycephalic obstructed airways syndrome (difficult breathing due to having a short nose) get handed over to rescue centres.
These problems are a result of intensive selective breeding which has resulted in very unnatural looks that hamper breathing and activity. The Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko was questioned about whether breed standards should be altered to reflect healthier dogs, and she said, “I would say that in the here-and-now, after all of the changes to the standards that were made in 2009, we would expect dogs to be far healthier if they are winning prizes at dogs shows.” But is this enough? If we are still seeing dogs with serious issues seven years down the line, perhaps more should be done to tackle this problem.