Health

Veterinarians warn of a global welfare crisis due to the popularity of brachycephalic dogs

Vets around the world are warning of an emerging canine welfare crisis caused by the rapidly increasing number of flat-faced dogs (brachycephalic). These dogs have exaggerated anatomical features that can seriously affect their health and well-being. The most worrisome of the health problems they face is brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).

The Committee on Hereditary Diseases (HDC) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has posted an educational video highlighting the problems that BOAS can cause in brachycephalic breeds, including french bulldogthe English bulldog and the pug.

During the video, members of the WSAVA HDC and other experts explain how the appearance of flat faced breeds has been affected by breeding for a extreme and exaggerated anatomical shaping.

While these types of dogs are considered cute by some people, experts point out that these traits are not normal and that dogs are constantly “fighting for breath.” In fact, many brachycephalic dogs need surgery to survive and they have a much shorter life than the others.

In the video, the expert Peter Sandøedirector of the Center for the Welfare of Companion Animals of the University of Copenhagenpoints out that with French bulldogs now being the most popular breed in many countries, and English bulldogs and Pugs as well, the number of affected dogs is increasing dramatically.

“Selective breeding for excessively short muzzles has created dogs whose health, in many cases, is compromised for the sake of perceived ‘beauty’. It is unethical to breed dogs that have trouble breathing“, criticism.

For this reason, the WSAVA Committee on Hereditary Diseases makes an appeal all stakeholders—breeders, owners, veterinarians, media, regulators, and others—to work together to improve the welfare of these breeds in the future, and change the perception of what is “healthy” in these dogs.

VETERINARIANS PROPOSE BREEDING STRATEGIES BASED ON THE HEALTH OF DOGS

Thus, interested parties are encouraged to work together in health-focused breeding initiatives to produce dogs with less exaggerated anatomical features, so that BOAS and other related health problems are not perpetuated.

The selective breeding that caused these problems in the first place can restore these breeds to better respiratory health selecting for a more moderate anatomical conformation and for normal breathing.

Many kennel clubs have instituted the Respiratory Function Scoring (RFG, for its acronym in English) to test potential breeding dogs against BOAS. If the RFG classification is not available, prospective breeding dogs must be capable of giving a three-minute brisk walk without having to work for breath. If they cannot do so, they should not be used for breeding.

The need for a common approach is supported by the expert Monique MegensWSAVA HDC member, who contributes to the video, explaining that brachycephalic dogs are bred—legally and illegally—all over the world and transported across borders, so a global approach is the only way to make progress.

The 17-minute video, available in multiple languages, also features contributions from experts such as Jerold Bell, WSAVA HDC President and Fellow of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine; Y Åke HedhammarWSAVA HDC member and Senior Professor of Internal Medicine at Uppsala University of Agricultural Sciences.

Among the experts participating in the video is also Jane LadlowClinical Director of the BOAS Research Group at the University of Cambridge.

According to Jerold Bell, “Breeders did not purposely select for dogs with respiratory problems, but there is no doubt that breeding for dogs with ever shorter muzzles has created serious health problems in these breeds.

“We hope our video help educate breeders, owners, and everyone involved or influencing the breeding and care of dogs brachycephalic We also hope it will provide helpful advice on steps you can take to help as we work together to solve a serious wellness issue. All dogs deserve to lead a healthy life. We must not let them down”, they conclude from the WSAVA.

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