By Katy Cable-TWR
A 3 min. Read
This week, Norway banned the breeding of English Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. They deemed these “brachy” dogs a product of cruelty due to their inherent, man-made health problems.1 This got me wondering exactly what this means for the fate of these breeds and also, will Pugs be next?
If you're like me your heart melts over the Pugs (and/or Frenchies, King Charles Cavaliers, Bostons, and English Bulldogs!) You dote on their darling wrinkles while spending a king's ransom on Botox to remove your own. Their bulging eyes, curly "cinnamon bun" tails and soft folded ears that feel like rose petals make your day! I bet you can't imagine life without these special breeds!
We "smooshy-faced" dog lovers are not alone. Look no further than your TV and you're bound to see a Pug or two promoting products. They are adored by some of the biggest celebrities. Jessica Alba, Robin Williams, Hugh Laurie, Gerard Butler, Paris Hilton, George Clooney, Andy Warhol, and Valentino, are Pug lovers. While Lady Gaga, Madonna, Hugh Jackman, Reese Witherspoon, Micheal Phelps and the Beckham's own Frenchies. They have replaced the Scottie dog and Poodle gracing everything from T-shirts to gift wrap to decor. Doug the Pug is currently one of our most celebrated pug-lebrities.
In Great Britain, the French Bulldog replaced the Labrador Retriever as the most popular dog breed. With Pugs and English Bulldogs not far behind.
However this popularity does come at a price and in the case of Pugs, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, Kind Charles Cavaliers, and other Brachycephalic** dogs, it can be an extremely high one. -Enough to leave you with both an “achy-brachy” heart AND pocketbook.
When it comes to pugs and other brachy (smooshy-faced) dogs, it's buyer beware. What many are surprised to learn is these breeds come with a laundry list of common conditions that can be astronomically expensive. And, due to their exploding popularity, irresponsible breeders hoping to cash-in, are perpetuating the problem. We currently have an epidemic of suffering, compromised pets and heartbroken owners facing financial ruin.
In fact, veterinarians in Britain are likely going to follow Norway’s lead. They’re already running huge public campaigns urging people to stop getting this breed due to their plethora of costly, serious health issues.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) president, Sean Wensley sends a strong warning that flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs typically come with numerous debilitating health problems, and "breeding them just encourages more pain and suffering."
Due to their altered facial construction, flat-faced breeds have what is called brachycephalic respiratory syndrome to varying degrees. These pets often have very small, tightly scrolled nostrils that are so narrow it can be hard to move air in and out. We would liken it to us as humans having to spend our entire life breathing through a drinking straw.
Brachycephalic respiratory issues are often progressive conditions, so breathing problems tend to worsen over time leaving many older dogs in complete respiratory distress. Because of all their respiratory issues, they are at severe risk when needing anesthesia and most are banned from airplane travel. They also overheat quickly and easily develop serious heatstroke.
They also have an elongated soft palate, which is a flap of skin at the back of the throat that causes the characteristic snorting and other respiratory sounds often heard in "brachy" breeds. Another common problem for these breeds is collapsed trachea, which also causes breathing issues.
The Pug also has a "highly desirable" double-curl tail, which is actually a genetic defect that can result in paralysis. Other breed-specific issues include: high blood pressure, heart problems, low blood oxygen levels, dental issues and skin fold dermatitis.
If you own a Pug, Frenchie or English Bulldog and have ventured into social media you have no doubt experienced the backlash of haters. Calling your precious fur baby everything from ugly to wanting to kill you for owning a dog they feel is suffering.
So is the beloved Pug and these other “brachy” breeds soon to be extinct? Thankfully the answer is an overwhelming NO! With their enormous popularity and appeal, these darling dogs are in no danger of going away anytime soon. However, there will be much stricter laws to prevent irresponsible breeding. In addition, breeders will be working with animal welfare agencies to verify humane and regulated breeding practices. Also, using s isn’t cross-breeding to try and weed out inherent health issues.
For an example of how this crisis transpired, one needs only look at pugs over the years. Since the early 1900's pugs seem to have gotten larger heads, flatter faces, smaller nostrils, shorter legs, double curled tails and more exaggerated barrel chests. Carolinе Kisko, thе Kеnnеl Club sеcrеtary, said thе problеms with brachycеphalic dogs are bеing perpetuated by puppy farms.
“Brееds such as thе Frеnch Bulldog and Pug havе sееn a suddеn incrеasе in popularity in rеcеnt yеars, lеading to a hugе dеmand for thеm. This has providеd a rеady markеt for unscrupulous brееdеrs to еffеctivеly churn out puppiеs for profit, outsidе of any rеgulation or umbrеlla of influеncе, with no rеgard for thеir hеalth and wеlfarе." She adds,
“It’s likеly that thеy’rе dеlibеratеly brееding еxaggеratеd dogs in thе hopе that thеy’ll appеar ‘cutе’ to puppy buyеrs. Rеsponsiblе brееdеrs will brееd with hеalth as thе top priority, and thе Kеnnеl Club brееd standards makе it clеar that еxaggеrations in any brееd should bе avoidеd.”
Norway will be taking the lead on these practices. Hopefully it won’t be long before all countries follow suit.
Sadly, what I see all too often are well-intentioned pet owners who can no longer afford the astronomical costs associated with these dogs and they’re relinquished to shelters and rescues in their senior years. Unfortunately, it’s not only happening here in the USA!
According to a headline in the UK's Telegraph, "While the purchase of flat-faced dogs in the U.K. is trending upward, dog parents are also reportedly abandoning their brachys in alarming numbers." The reason? Owners can't cope with the health problems associated with these breeds.
At the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in South London, the number of older Pugs, Frenchies and Shih Tzus entering the shelter almost tripled in just five years. And the rescues I work with here in So. Cal are also over-run with sick, older Pugs who have expensive conditions to treat.
Here’s what you can do to help:
1. First and foremost, educate yourself on the breed of any dog you’re considering. It will give you indicators on energy levels, temperament, lifespan and possible health issues.
2. Always consider rescuing or adopting a pet from a shelter. Many times shelters have pure-bred dogs and certainly rescues can be a wonderful resource and support system.
3. Only use responsible breeders. Responsible breeders thoroughly interview perspective owners and take the utmost care and selection in breeding.
4. Whatever you do: DO NOT SUPPORT backyard breeders, pups being given away, sold or “re-homed” on Craig's list and other sites. Stay clear of that neighbor who has a cousin that is breeding his cute pup.
5. If you are the parent of a brachycephalic dog, it's important to understand that breathing difficulties can prevent your furry companion from enjoying the very simplest things dogs naturally love to do, like eating, sleeping, play and exercise. Especially as they get older.
6. It's important to know the difference between normal and abnormal breathing sounds, and to make an appointment with your vet if you notice any unusual breathing or other signs of respiratory distress.
7. It’s vital to keep a “brachy” dog fit and trim. Overweight and obese dogs have much more serious respiratory difficulties ANYWAY but keeping them at an ideal weight is imperative.
8. Keep your Pug dog out of hot, humid environments is also crucial in order to prevent overheating.
9. Stress exacerbates virtually every health problem, especially breathing difficulties, therefore keeping your brachy's life as stress-free as possible is a must. It will do wonders for their health and quality of life.
I’ve said many times that I poured more money into my dogs than a vacation home or luxury car and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. However, I do want people to be well informed before they’re blind-sighted by these irresistible, yet sensitive/expensive little creatures. Heck, it’s one of the main reasons I do this blog. Thanks for reading, and please pass this on to any new “smoosh-faced” pet parents that may benefit from the info. Pugs & 😘 Kisses! -Katy
**Brachycephalic dogs: "Brachy" is a Greek word meaning short, and "cephalic" means head. Brachys are short-headed, short-muzzled breeds. Other examples of brachy dogs include the Boston Terrier, Boxer, Shih Tzu and Pekingese.