Australia is a nation of dog lovers, but some of our most popular breeds—including French bulldogs, pugs, British bulldogs, dachshunds and Shar-Peis—are suffering serious health conditions because they have been bred to look a certain way.
That is the worrying message from the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the RSPCA, which are running the joint campaign Love is Blind, to raise awareness of the animal welfare issues for dogs with exaggerated features.
It is a timely message as many people consider adopting a new pet over the summer holiday period. Moreover, as the weather hots up, these breeds are at even greater risk of developing a range of problems.
Campaign spokesperson, Dr Rachele Lowe, said she sees a lot of dogs in her practice that require ongoing treatment, and in many cases surgery, to correct problems caused by exaggerated features.
“Some of the features that we’re particularly concerned about include the very short muzzle that we see in dogs like pugs and French and British bulldogs. This can lead to severe breathing problems, chronic sleep deprivation, heat stress and heat stroke,” said Dr Lowe.
“Another feature that compromises the health and welfare of a dog are the excessive skin folds, which are common in dogs like pugs and Shar-Peis. Ongoing medical treatment and even surgical intervention in some cases is required to manage chronic skin infections caused by the excess skin.”
That is not all, adds Dr Lowe. The stunted growth and short stature of dachshunds, corgis and bassets means they frequently suffer from serious spinal and neurological problems causing severe pain and difficulty walking. These spinal problems can lead to paralysis and often require treatment in the form of major—and costly—surgery.
RSPCA Australia’s Jane Speechley said that the aim of the campaign is to encourage the community to work together to address these welfare concerns in affected breeds.
“These breeds have adorable personalities, but we’d urge anyone who is thinking of adopting one of these dogs to carefully consider the risks and find out more before they make a decision that could end up being very expensive and heartbreaking,” Speechley said.
“We want dog breeders to avoid breeding for exaggerated features, and for prospective buyers to help by choosing a puppy or dog that has been bred with healthier features for a healthier future.”
Dog lovers and owners who would like more information, or are keen to help create a healthier future for these breeds, are encouraged to sign the pledge here.