Visit any park in the UK and you’re likely to find yourself panting, squirming, panting or panting. Because of their flat mouths and small airways, many respiratory-impaired breeds (BIBs), such as pugs, bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels, struggle to do the things that make a dog’s life happy and fulfilling. Going for a walk, chasing a ball, running and playing is almost impossible for many of these dogs. In fact, a study has been published Journal of Comparative Pathology notes that “affected dogs have little or no activity as they are entirely occupied with breathing”.
Skyrocketing demand for dogs with abnormally short snouts means that breeders continue to selectively breed dogs for this appearance, at great cost to the animals’ health and well-being. In addition to breathing problems, a wrinkled face and nose puts dogs at higher risk of eye problems, diabetes, obesity, skin problems, gastrointestinal disorders and dental problems, along with a long list of other ailments that shorten their lifespan and are harmful. For their quality of life. This is why the Dutch government has already banned the breeding of around 20 flat-faced dogs – citing animal welfare concerns – and now wants to introduce further restrictions on breeding these dogs. And this is why the UK government should follow suit.
A major problem in breeding dogs is that their airways must fit into this unusually small space. According to Dr Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association, this means that a dog’s airway is “basically shortened by the nose and skull” resulting in extremely narrow nasal passages. Wensley compares it to “man breathing through a drinking straw all our lives”.
Veterinary organizations – including the British Veterinary Association – strongly recommend that animals with highly exaggerated traits that negatively affect their health and welfare should not be bred. A recent study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College found that pugs can no longer be considered a “normal dog” due to their genetic health defects. Dr. Dan O’Neill, lead author of the study, concluded, “It’s time that we focus on the health of the dog rather than the wishes of the owner.”
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Speaking to BIB, another lead veterinarian, Dr. Scott Miller, said, “They are painful, they are uncomfortable and in many cases they require surgical correction.” One survey found that one-fifth of parents of dogs with BIB reported having at least one surgery related to their dog’s malformed physical characteristics.
Pugs and other flat-faced, or brachycephalic, breeds often undergo surgery to clear their airways or shorten their palates—procedures that are dangerous, painful, and traumatic. They come at a cost to many unsuspecting parents, not to mention heartache. As a result of hefty vet bills, many rehoming centers that are already bursting at the seams with homeless animals are reporting a huge increase in the number of BIBS surrenders – possibly because people are financially and emotionally overwhelmed trying to manage so many of their dogs. Health related.
It’s no wonder that those who mold dogs – molding them into shapes and sizes that nature never intended – are often motivated by greed rather than the animals’ best interests. Last week the BBC Panorama Investigations have revealed that organized crime is moving into the lucrative dog breeding market. A drug dealer has been seen running a dog breeding business from behind bars. Other breeders are known offenders with penalties for existing animal welfare offences.
The word “animal” comes from the Latin “animal”, meaning “to breathe”. By succumbing to fads and buying respiratory-impaired dogs because we like their looks, we encourage the breeding of traits that make life possible by making the things laborious. It is unfair to doom an animal to a miserable life for our arbitrary aesthetic preferences, which can change like the wind. And the absurd irony is that while breeders continue to profit from churning out these physically deformed dogs because people keep paying for them, there are thousands of healthy, highly adoptable dogs in animal shelters, waiting for someone to take them home.
We must take action to save dogs from suffering. Governments can do this by enforcing a breeding ban on BIB, as the Netherlands has already done and other countries are looking to do the same. Until then, we can help man’s best friend by choosing never Buy one from a breeder, pet store or website. Otherwise, there will be no end to these dogs’ suffering until they draw their last painful breath.