how breeding for cuteness hurts dogs

The push to crack down on selective breeding coincides with Norway’s recent ban on the breeding of Cavalier King Charles spaniels and English bulldogs due to fears the practice could cause respiratory, heart and eye problems.

The Australian Veterinary Association is concerned about the recent rise in popularity of brachycephalic dog breeds, such as British and French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Pugs. He asks that dogs whose muzzle length is less than one-third the length of their skull be banned from breeding or showing at dog shows.

“The continued selection of a significantly shortened face has resulted in multiple anatomical changes that cause brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome… [which] affects the animal’s ability to breathe, exercise, thermoregulate, sleep, play, and engage in other normal behaviors,” it states in a new policy document.

The cutting-edge body for vets would also like to see these flat-faced breeds screened for spinal issues associated with their corkscrew tails.

Dr David Cou.Credit:Cottesloe Veterinarian

Veterinarian and association spokesperson Dr David Neck said that while there were laws in Australia aimed at preventing the breeding of animals with defects, they were not consistently enforced.

In Victoria, it is an offense to intentionally or recklessly allow an animal with a hereditary defect to breed. But Dr. Neck said the state’s list of defects did not include common defects such as respiratory problems that afflict brachycephalic dog breeds or intervertebral disc disease in dachshunds.

It is unclear how many ranchers, if any, have been charged. A spokeswoman for Animal Welfare Victoria, a branch of Agriculture Victoria, said the state government department does not keep compliance data on such offences.

“Victoria’s commercial dog breeding laws are the strictest in the country,” the spokeswoman said.

Dr. Neck said most flat-faced dogs have difficulty breathing due to reckless breeding and would benefit from airway surgery, a high-risk procedure that costs between $1,500 and $4,000.

“We want the dog to have his best life and that involves airway surgery so he can breathe later in life,” he said.

An RSPCA chief scientific officer, Dr Sarah Zito, has said breeders should be required to inform potential buyers of the health and welfare risks of dog breeds with ‘exaggerated characteristics’ and the cost management of these disorders.

“Unfortunately exaggerated features are still part of the ‘breed standards’ of the pedigree…although these exaggerated features cause health and welfare issues,” she said.

Dogs Australia, the leading body for purebred breeders, opposes any ban on dog breeds and believes it would drive the industry underground.

The organisation’s ambassador, Dr Rob Zammit, said in a statement that dogs and owners are suffering at the hands of unethical breeders who circumvent checks by reputable kennels, such as DNA testing. to monitor lines.

“Legitimate breeders are registered and regulated, so they can be easily identified,” he said. “Illegal operators usually only have cell phone contact – they are largely untraceable, so there is no pressure on them to observe health and welfare issues.”

Every week, a steady stream of dogs arrive at the Melbourne Bulldog Clinic in Cheltenham, in Melbourne’s southeast.

Surgeons at Dr. Marcus Hayes’ clinic then get to work, removing tissue from the bulldogs’ nostrils to improve airflow, thinning and shortening their elongated palates, and removing tonsils and saccules in the larynx.

“Breeders will tell you that most of these dogs have no problem,” Dr. Hayes said. “But these dogs suffer from nausea, chronic vomiting, an inability to exercise normally under normal conditions, and most lead sleep-deprived lives because they have restricted airflow. The surgery allows them to live their most comfortable life.What we have done to them as humans is absolutely horrible.

Dr. Hayes campaigned for a series of changes aimed at stamping out unethical selective breeding. He said breeders had no incentive to change their behavior because “flatter faces are more popular”.

Sara and Jamie Strachan and their daughters Isla, 9, and Holly, 6, with beloved British bulldog Maggie.

Sara and Jamie Strachan and their daughters Isla, 9, and Holly, 6, with beloved British bulldog Maggie. Credit:Joe Armao

Sara Strachan has paid $3,300 to have her 10-month-old British bulldog, Maggie, undergo airway surgery at Dr Hayes’ clinic.

Although the surgery was largely preventative, it dramatically improved Maggie’s quality of life. She no longer snores, vomits or suffers from reflux and can walk two kilometers with minimal recovery time. Prior to the operation, she was unable to walk more than a kilometer and would then collapse on the ground for an hour, panting heavily.

Ms Strachan would have liked to know more about the health issues associated with flat-faced dogs before buying Maggie from a local breeder.

“We came into this field so ignorant,” she said. “We feel very guilty.”


While Maggie is adored by the Strachan family and even gets her claws painted by 9-year-old Isla and 6-year-old Holly, they won’t be rushing to buy another British Bulldog.

“I don’t think we could ethically buy another one,” Ms Strachan said. “I feel like we would encourage bad breeders.”

It’s a similar story for Ms Holbrook, who has sworn never to buy another dachshund.

Although Ms Holbrook cannot bring back her beloved Angus, she would like consumers to be aware of the health risks associated with certain dog breeds.

“We need to take a step back from how incredibly cute and lovable sausage dogs are,” she said. “We have to ask ourselves questions about animal welfare. What’s the right thing to do?”

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