People are being urged to ‘stop and think’ before buying flat-faced dog breeds, like pugs and English bulldogs, due to serious health concerns in the animals.
New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has found that the features that so many people find ‘cute’ – such as deep wrinkles and noisy breathing – are actually major welfare issues rather than desirable novelties.
The research found that English Bulldogs are more likely to suffer health conditions like breathing problems, skin and ear diseases and eye disorders than other dog breeds due to their problematic characteristics.
The breed has risen sharply in popularity in the last few years but its distinctive short muzzle and stocky body shape could be putting these adorable dogs at serious risk.
Similar research recently found that the ‘extreme body shape’ of pugs is causing the breed health problems, and that pug health is now so poor they can no longer be considered ‘typical dogs’.
Like Bulldogs, pugs are characterised by their flat, wrinkled faces, as well as bulging eyes and a tendency towards obesity.
The RVC has warned that urgent action is required to protect both breed.
Vets hope that the data will discourage people from breeding and buying animals with ‘extreme conformations’, saying that the power really lies with the public to stop the demand.
Those looking to buy English Bulldogs, pugs or other flat-faced breeds should look for a longer face, smaller head, and non-wrinkled skin – a more moderate and healthier conformation.
People who already own such dogs are encouraged to monitor them carefully for breed-related issues, such as eye problems, breathing difficulties, and skin fold infections.
Dr Dan O’Neill, lead author of the paper and Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC 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.
“For breeds such as English Bulldogs where many dogs still have extreme conformations with poor innate health, the public have a huge role to play by demanding dogs with moderate and healthier conformations. Until then, prospective owners should ‘stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.”
Dr Alison Skipper, co-author and veterinary historian, said: “Around 1900, some Bulldog breeders were already concerned that the exaggeration of ‘certain typical points’ was ‘intensifying predispositions to disease’ and producing ‘cripples and deformities’ with ‘a sadly shortened duration of life’.
“This new research provides strong evidence that modern Bulldogs remain troubled by many diseases linked to their body shapes, most of which have been recognised for more than a century.
“It confirms the need to follow the example of more responsible breeders who prioritise health in breeding decisions to improve the welfare of this popular and iconic breed in the future.”
Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club, said: “This research, funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, enables us and all those who care about improving Bulldog health to understand more about these complicated issues.
“Careful, responsible breeding can help address health problems and progress has been made to improve and protect Bulldog health by those reputable breeders and caring owners who make use of evidence-based tools, like The Kennel Club/University of Cambridge Respiratory Function Grading Scheme.
“However, as this research shows, there are increasing numbers of Bulldogs bred outside any sphere of influence and in a certain way because it is perceived to be ‘cute’, with little regard for health and welfare.
“A collaborative approach to tackling these issues is crucial; we must continue to work together with breeders, vets and welfare organisations to reduce and ultimately eliminate the health problems faced by brachycephalic breeds, asFoo Fighters announce line-up for Taylor Hawkins tribute concert, including Liam Gallagher well as reduce mass demand for these dogs.”
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