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Flat-faced dogs: so adorable they can hardly breathe

ByKarolina Zieba

Jan 15, 2018

French bulldogs, as well as other flat-faced dogs, might not be a responsible choice when deciding on a pet. In fact, veterinarians are urging pet-owners to withhold from purchasing brachycephalic, or short-muzzled dogs, because of their many breed-related deformities.

When breeding these fashionable dogs, professionals look for specific DNA variations that result in shortened skulls. Even when being responsible, breeders cannot avoid certain medical conditions that come with this characteristic.

Sure, those charming features like gigantic, wide-set eyes and round faces melt all of our souls, but is it worth it considering more than half of short-muzzled dogs require treatment for health issues directly related to the way they have been bred?

The dogs’ normal-sized lower jaw and smaller upper jaw that make them so adorable, also give them narrow nostrils and windpipes.

Their tightly squeezed teeth that add to their appeal make them more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.

The thick folds on their face that give them those squeezable cheeks are breeding grounds for yeast and bacterial infections.

Their gigantic baby eyes prevent them from blinking properly and therefore cause the formation of ulcers and problems with tear production.

Last but not least, their disproportinately large heads make it much more difficult – if not impossible – for females to give birth; as if birth isn’t painful enough!

If you didn’t know this about your dog, you are not alone. Results of a survey of 671 vets questioning them about their flat-faced patients and their owners showed that 10 per cent of pet parents “recognised their short-muzzled dog’s breed-related problems” and 75 per cent “were unaware” of potential issues said the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

Even though the list of health problems these dogs can experience is lengthy, the demand for them is growing.

Nine out of 10 vets reported an increase in short-muzzled dogs being registered at their practice.

French bulldogs were especially popular. According to the Kennel Club, registration of the breed grew by 47 per cent from 14,607 in 2015 to 21,470 in 2016. Only 692 were registered in 2007.

The BVA is partially placing responsibility on celebrities and social media for the increase in demand.

It’s perfectly normal to want to show off your dog, but when celebrities like Lady Gaga or David Beckham post cute photos with their French bulldogs, fans begin wanting those same dogs too.

49 per cent of vets in the survey said that social media “was among the reasons behind the surge in demand” and 43 per cent said celebrities were to blame.

To “challenge the pervasiveness of these ‘cute’ images,” the BVA created the #BreedtoBreathe campaign on Twitter with the aim of educating pet owners about the many potential health issues brachycephalic dogs can experience.

Other than getting informed, the campaign urges people to appeal to brands to not use such dogs in advertisements.

Perhaps we should consider choosing healthier or crossbred dog breeds to avoid selectively breeding dogs just for their cute faces while disregarding their wellbeing, health, and comfort.

Image: Matthew Henry

By Karolina Zieba

Karolina is a former Science Editor and Editor-in-Chief of The Student newspaper. She is also an editor for EuSci magazine and contributes to The National Student and the Oxford Scientist. She is interested in the relationship between science and society.

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