Are Flat-Faced Dogs An Unfortunate Trend?

Animals |

Kendy Tend, co-author of research published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology says, "Australians are favouring brachycephalic breeds, dogs with shorter and wider heads, such as the Pug and the French bulldog, more than those with longer and thinner heads. Looking at data spanning 28 years, we found that the demand for smaller dogs has increased every year from 1986."

By looking at pedigree dogs registered between 1986 and2013, researchers found that there was a dramatic decrease in the number of dogs in the registry; this decrease was from 95,792 to 66,902. Although, that is not the only tread the study revealed, larger dogs saw a bigger decrease as opposed to dogs of small and medium stature, and there was a substantial surge towards dogs that had wide, flat faces.

Brachycephalic dogs, like French bulldogs, Pugs, and other breeds are known for their wide, flat snouts. In non-technical language, it looks like these dogs’ skulls have been compacted from front to back, giving them their classic flat faced appearance. The genetic factor of breeding these dogs, like many other designer dogs, can lead to severe health problems. One of these issues is the difficulty in breathing; despite the shorter airways and narrower nasal passages, brachycephalic dogs maintain all the internal soft tissue, thus making it more difficult for the animals to draw in air. This also gives rise to why we hear these breeds wheeze and snore.

In addition, the eye sockets of brachycephalic dogs are shallower, causing their eyes to obtrude making the cornea more exposed. Furthermore, because of the excess skin on the dog’s face, folds and crevices form giving rise to bacteria and yeast infections as well as inflammation; however, regular cleaning only treats the symptoms of these problems and not the cause, which is genetics. 

"Veterinarians are concerned about brachycephalic dogs' welfare, as these breeds commonly suffer from breathing difficulties, skin and eye conditions, and digestive disorders. In New Zealand, brachycephalic breeds are number four of the top five dog breeds considered by veterinarians to be unsuitable for continued breeding due to compromised health and welfare. We expect to see vets in Australia treating more dogs with the conditions described,” described Teng.

While this trend isn’t secluded to the island nations of Australia and New Zealand, the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom has also reported higher rates for these types of breeds. It is unknown; however, what is exactly causing the increase in popularity of brachycephalic dogs. Researchers suggest several factors, such as city-dwelling people are downsizing their homes and cannot take in larger breeds, or even dogs are now more companion-based rather than work animals. 

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Rebecca Smith


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