WSAVA warns of welfare crisis for brachycephalic dogs
Dr Jerold Bell, chair of the WSAVA HDC.

New video highlights health and well-being problems.

The Hereditary Disease Committee (HDC) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has released an educational video to raise awareness of the welfare issues around short-nosed breeds.

The 17-minute video, available to watch online in several languages, features contributions from experts around the world, including academics from Tufts University, the University of Copenhagen, and Cambridge University.

“We hope our video will help educate breeders, owners, and all those involved in or influencing the breeding and care of short-nosed dogs,” said Dr Jerold Bell, one of the contributors to the video. “We also hope it will give them useful advice on the steps they can take to help as we work together to resolve a serious welfare issue. All dogs deserve to live healthy lives.”

Breeds of brachycephalic dogs, such as English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and pugs, are increasingly popular with pet owners. For many people, their distinctive faces are seen as adorable. However, the increased number of these dogs is causing a growing welfare crisis.

Selective breeding for exaggeratedly short noses has led to a significant rise in health problems. The most serious issue is Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Affected dogs can find it difficult to breathe, leading to them tiring quickly with exercise and struggling to control their temperature during hot weather. They can also suffer from a range of secondary effects, including heart failure, due to the extra strain put on the organs.

Some short-nosed dogs require life-saving surgery and have much shorter lifespans than other breeds.

"Breeders did not purposefully select for dogs with impared breathing but there is no doubt that breeding to create dogs with ever shorter muzzles has created serious health issues in these breeds," said Dr Bell.

Although selective breeding has caused the problem, it can also be the solution. Many kennel clubs have started using Respiratory Function Grading to screen against BOAS. Where such screening isn’t possible, breeders should test that breeding dogs can go on a brisk three-minute walk about without labouring to breathe.

But for this approach to work, it needs support from breeders, owners, regulators and veterinary surgeons, as well as the media. The WSAVA’s video calls on them to work together to improve the health of short-nosed breeds and put their welfare above perceived cuteness.


Image (c) WSAVA