Irish vets call on advertisers to stop using flat-faced dogs in the media: Pete the Vet on Pat Kenny Show vet spot

To listen to this week’s podcast, click on the link at the foot of this page

Vet Ireland calls for advertisers and promoters to cease using images of Pugs and other flat-faced breeds of animals

I have often discussed this topic before but there has been a development on the brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs issue.
As a reminder, the main problem is that Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers have become so popular that they are being bred without due care to their physical health.
This means that a high proportion of them have difficult breathing (“snuffling” is almost seen as normal in some breeds), and some even collapse because they can’t breathe properly
They then need surgery to open up their airways, with some even needing extreme intervention such as permanent tracheostomies.
Vets across the world have been highlighting this issue: it’s plainly wrong to artificially create animals whose bodies are incompatible with a normal healthy life and that is effectively what breeders are doing.
Vets have decided that it’s sensible to tackle this at two ends: supply and demand.

Supply

This means encouraging breeders to produce flat faced dogs that are healthier, which means breeding from dogs with slightly longer muzzles that have more open, easier breathing

This can partly be done simply by educating all breeders (don’t breed from dogs that have snuffly breathing) but also through official channels, eg by not giving prizes at dog shows to dogs with extreme featuresThere have also been calls on Kennel Clubs to change the “breed standard” (ie the written description of what dogs are meant to look like) to encourage healthier specimens

Demand

Flat faced dogs have become “trendy”, so that they are seen as desirable commodities e.g. I heard one young guy say that his cute Pug was “the best ever chick magnet” . Registrations of these breeds have sky rocketed – they are so popular that prices are high, and the wrong sorts of people are encouraged to breed from them, just to make money So vets are now trying to reduce the demand for the animals It is difficult to do this, but measures include

  • Persuading celebrities not to buy extreme versions of these breeds.
  • Stopping the use of the breeds (especially extreme versions) in popular media

Irish vets have decided to take action

The body that represents vets, Veterinary Ireland, had its national council meeting last week, where the following motion was passed
“Veterinary Ireland calls on the media for the cessation of the use of flat-faced dog and cat breeds in all forms of advertising.”
This motion was agreed and was subsequently passed unanimously at the AGM.
It is not easy to speak out about the issues with these types of dogs “nicely” – I have people come up to me, with their Pugs at the end of a leash, saying “why do you hate my dog?”
This is missing the point completely – I love these little dogs as individuals, but the point is that it is wrong to allow animals to be bred that cannot breathe properly
But the consequence of this common negative attitude to any criticism is that up till now, many vets have refused to get involved with the campaign, because they think people will get the wrong impression and will take their business elsewhere.
​As an example, while this campaign has been widely supported by vets in the UK, Scandinavia and Australia, ​it has had almost no uptake in the USA because of the fear of vets that they’ll be cast as “Pug-haters”
See this recent short video from Australian TV

UK vet clinics are beginning to take a stronger stance

Meanwhile across in the UK, The Valley vet clinic has put this statement on their website:
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Brachycephalic dog breeding: our position statement.

Our clinical team have taken the decision not to help promote the future breeding of any brachycephalic dog – dogs with flattened faces / short muzzles such as the French bulldog, pug and English bulldog.
Our decision will be reconsidered once the Kennel Club and Brachycephalic Working Group* have reviewed current breed standards and implemented changes to develop better breed health.
In practical terms, this means that:-

  • we no longer offer pre-mate tests for brachycephalic bitches
  • we no longer treat infertility in brachycephalic breeds
  • our team will strongly advise prospective pet parents against the purchase of brachycephalic puppies
  • we will not use, or condone the use of, brachycephalic breeds in any form of advertising

However, a brachycephalic puppy, or dog, that is already owned and loved by a pet parent will be afforded all the veterinary care and loving attention he, or she, needs and deserves. We will most certainly not discriminate against any canine patient.

Our team feel very strongly that the huge current demand for brachycephalic puppies is causing a veterinary health crisis, which will only worsen as the current puppies and young dogs become older. Rescue charities are already becoming inundated with brachycephalic dogs – Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has seen a 288% increase in the number of French bulldogs handed in over the last two years.

It is our team’s opinion that when animals are selectively bred to be companions, physical body features that may improve, or maintain, their health and wellbeing should be selected for and features that may damage their health and wellbeing should be selected against.

We appreciate that harmful traits are not deliberately selected for to be harmful. However, health-limiting consequences may inadvertently accompany selection for other desired physical features.

In the case of brachycephalic dogs, selecting for a flattened face shape has unintentionally led to associated health problems in a substantial proportion of individuals. These problems include:

  • Anatomical defects of the upper airway, causing breathing difficulties – Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)
  • Recurring skin infections related to skin folds
  • Eye disease
  • Inability to give birth naturally (requiring Caesarean section)
  • Spinal disease which may, or may not, be related to having a screw-tail or short-tail.
  • Reducing and eliminating these health problems is a shared goal of our team and everyone who cares about dogs and their health and welfare.

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To listen to the radio discussion on this topic, see the podcast below.

Pet questions from listeners

  • Seven months ago my sister got a Cockapoo puppyand everything is going really well except for one thing; the minute she picks up the car keys to head out the dog goes into complete panic and starts “sweating and shaking”. He will get into the car but is terribly distressed and once the car is in motion he starts to vomit. She’s bought him a jacket which is supposed to help but really there is very little change. She’s checked with the place where she got the pup but he’s been with the mother and the other pups until she got him. The owner lives in the country and he has no idea why the dog would be so panicked about getting into a car. He is so unwell in the car that his coat is completely soaked when she gets to her destination that she needs to bring a towel to dry him. Is there anything she can do to help with the situation? Thanks Olivia
  • I have a one year old terrier x corgi dog who is the happiest dog I have ever known and the world is his playground. when he sees another person/dog he bounds over to them ecstatically and as you can imagine this is not always welcome. How can I curb his enthusiasm without making him feel that being happy and confident is wrong? I socialise him regularly and on that day he settles but the next day he is back to his ‘I think you are the most wonderful person in the world’ behaviour. On the lead he does somersaults!!
  • I have a pet newt and I’m wondering what I should feed it. Thanks, Craig
  • Pete my minature yorkie get poo stuck on her bum and it is so hard to remove it without hurting her Ann
  • We got a Cockapoo puppy 6 months ago and we LOVE her. She is happy and healthy and beautiful. Are there any breed specific health issues we should be aware of?
  • My Weimaraner ‘Woody’ is fed exclusively lamb and brown rice. But his farts are terribly smelly. Is there anything I can do

To find out the answers to the questions above, click on the play button below

Listen to the podcast:

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