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RSPCA Cymru shares concerns about flat-faced dogs during Crufts season

12 Mar 2024 5 minute read
A Bulldog struggling to breathe. Image: RSPCA

The RSPCA has shared concerns about the unhealthy and ‘extreme’ breeding of flat faced dogs such as pugs and French bulldogs which have been celebrated during the recent Crufts championship.

Short-nosed and flat-faced animals such as French bulldogs, pugs and English bulldogs are extremely popular, and are featured heavily across social media and at annual dog shows like Crufts, according to the RSPCA.

The animal welfare charity says that, while these breeds are suffering, they’re also being rewarded for their extreme looks and are being normalised to the public.

Worse still, they say, is that irresponsible breeders are profiting from their pain.

Brachycephalic breeds

Brachycephalic dog breeds have shorter snouts and flat faces. According to experts, this can lead to a lifetime of suffering.

Their extreme conformation means that many dogs have airways that are obstructed and abnormally narrow nostrils and windpipes. This means that every breath can be a struggle.

The RSPCA is concerned that it is not just breathing problems that affect these dogs. Due to their extreme body shape, these beloved family pets often suffer from other lifelong diseases.

Mr Pugh – a pug from Aberdare that suffered a spinal issue that ultimately cost him his life

Brachycephalic dogs can experience:

  • A constant struggle to breathe
  • Heat regulation problems
  • Difficulty with exercise
  • Struggle to sleep properly, causing chronic tiredness
  • Difficulty giving birth (dystocia)
  • Chronic skin conditions
  • Eye issues
  • Dental problems
  • Spinal deformities

Say ‘no’ to extreme breeding

A spokesperson from RSPCA Cymru said: “These animals can live a life filled with physical pain and distress, and should not be promoted in ways that suggest they are happy and healthy.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that we play our part in stopping this.”

A flat faced breed receiving oxygen. Image: RSPCA

76% of people in Wales believe breeding dogs with genetic health problems – such as French bulldogs and pugs – is unacceptable.

The polling highlights the level of public concern about the welfare of flat-faced dog breeds, with the RSPCA fearing these animals are too often Born To Suffer.

Despite these concerns, however, many of these breeds have become popular in recent years – with many unsuspecting owners unaware of the devastating health issues faced by these dogs.

“Born to suffer”

As part of the charity’s Born To Suffer campaign – launched as Crufts concluded over the weekend and with dog breeds in the spotlight – the animal welfare charity hopes new heartbreaking images showing the reality of health issues a flat-faced brachycephalic dog faces will make people think twice about buying one.

The campaign urges people to sign a pledge against supporting extreme breeding – and to instead prioritise the health and welfare of dogs and pups.

It comes as recent research shows French bulldogs are among the most popular breeds for buyers.

But often, owners may not realise that these dogs struggle to breathe because of the structure of their faces – which can lead to them suffering and expensive vet bills for owners.

“Imprisoned”

Esme Wheeler, dog expert at the RSPCA, said: “We love all dogs at the RSPCA, but we can’t hide behind the fact that flat-faced breeds suffer because of how they look. To put it bluntly, they are imprisoned in a body which is painful, inhibiting and prevents the dog from being a dog.

“The three breeds with the greatest health and welfare issues – pugs, English bulldogs and French bulldogs – have become increasingly ‘normalised’ and celebrated across advertising and promotion and social media.

“If you Google ‘cute dogs’, it is these breeds which often come up first. They are ubiquitous in advertising and social media and this relentless exposure has fuelled demand but it has also normalised what can be described as totally abnormal – but behind the ‘cuteness’ there is a whole lot of suffering.

“We hope that our new Born to Suffer campaign will make people think twice before buying one. It’s important people know when they see ‘cute’ photos of a pug on Instagram, the reality behind the photo is very different.

“These breeds have been selectively bred for exaggerated features over the years and, sadly, the outcome is dogs cannot function like normal, happy, healthy animals.”

“Saddening”

The most known health issue for a flat-faced breed is brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) – a lifelong, progressive obstructive airway disease caused by the excess of soft tissues that essentially have nowhere to go since the skeleton has been reduced.

Esme added: “BOAS can have a huge impact on a dog’s life and I find it one of the most saddening aspects, given that dogs are olfactory animals so their primary sense is their smell and scent. This filters down into every part of how they experience the world.

“Putting this animal in a body in which half its nose has been reduced is so incredibly sad.”

Research shows that, heartbreakingly, brachycephalic breeds have a significantly shorter lifespan than other breeds, with research showing that French bulldogs will have a much shorter life expectancy than other breeds with an estimated 4.5 years.

The RSPCA’s campaign, Born To Suffer, encourages people to join the battle against brachys by pledging online to say no to designer breeding, and yes to health and wellbeing.

RSPCA Cymru wants the public to take a stand and say no to extreme breeding, and yes to health and wellbeing.

By taking this pledge, the charity hope people will promise not to celebrate their suffering online or in their day-to-day lives, and will stand up for generations of unhealthy animals.

Find out more about the RSPCA pledge and the health issues faced by flat-faced breeds here.


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Richard 1
Richard 1
1 month ago

Maybe the charities ought to bring a test case, prosecuting a breeder for causing unnecessary suffering. That would concentrate minds a bit.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago

Get a mongrel, they aren’t inbred and tend to live longer.

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