Vets are asking potential dog owners to avoid buying "flat-faced" breeds because of their significant underlying health problems.
Dogs such as pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs and shih-tzus — known as brachycephalic breeds — can have debilitating issues related to their short muzzles, including risk of breathing and eating difficulties and eye problems.
Despite these problems, these kind of dogs have become popular in the U.K., partially due to their cute squished in faces and wrinkles.
Pugs can have major health problems such as difficulty breathing and eye issues.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) says the popularity of brachycephalic dogs has "increased animal suffering" and they are encouraging dog lovers to buy healthier breeds or crossbreeds.
"Vets are seeing concerning trends in dog health and welfare because of the rise in ownership of brachycephalic breeds,” said Sean Wensley, president of the BVA. “Prospective dog owners need to consider that these dogs can suffer a range of health issues throughout their lives, from eye ulcers to painful spine abnormalities and severe breathing difficulties that can result in otherwise preventable surgery."
This isn't the only warning that has come from dog experts about these breeds. The U.K.'s Kennel Club said the problem was caused by breeders who were deliberately breeding dogs with exaggerated features — features that can be severely harmful to the dogs.
"Breeds such as the French bulldog and pug have seen a sudden increase in popularity in recent years, leading to a huge demand for them," said Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club. "This has provided a ready market for unscrupulous breeders to effectively churn out puppies for profit, outside of any regulation or umbrella of influence, with no regard for their health and welfare.”
French bulldogs can also have significant health problems.
The health problems faced by brachycephalic dogs come from the body shapes that have been developed over the years through selective breeding.
A 2012 survey by the Royal Veterinary College suggests many owners of brachycephalic dogs are not aware of their common health problems.
"Most owners — and some vets — think airway noise, and consequently reduced activity, is normal, so the problems are rarely discussed," said Caroline Reay, chief vet at Bluecross Animal Hospital in the U.K.. "And I think the number of operations we are carrying out is really only the tip of the iceberg."
If you're thinking about buying a dog, please look into adoption first, through shelters, humane societies or rescue groups. If you are thinking of buying a brachycephalic breed, Kisko says potential dog owners should speak to the dog's relevant club for advice.
Do not buy dogs or puppies through sites like Craigslist or Kijiji, and if you are considering buying from a breeder, do your research and ask questions so you know you're getting a healthy puppy from healthy parents.