Pugs, bull dogs and other squashed-nosed dogs have been trending for a couple of years now. People seem to love these ugly/cute little creatures and if you’re still unsure why, then you might like to follow some of the internet’s most famous squashed-nosed dogs. These include Minnie and Max the pugs, who have more than a million likes on Facebook and Manny the Frenchie who is very close to reaching two million likes on Facebook!
Despite the popularity of this breed of dogs, veterinarians around the world will tell you that brachycephalic dogs (including pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs and shihtzus) “are an anatomical disaster." This is what one veterinarian has written for The Guardianin an article explaining the suffering these dogs go through.
Despite their small stature, this breed of dogs has a long list of things they often suffer from. Brachycephalic dogs are “selectively bred to become even shorter and smaller, making it difficult for the dogs to breathe and eat. Causing trickle down effects like cardiovascular stress, eye prolapses, overheating (dogs don’t sweat, so they need to pant to expel heat through evaporation,) weight gain because of that sedentary overheated lifestyle, dental crowding, soft-palate collapse, and skin-fold dermatitis.”
“Every structure that should make up the nose has been squashed flat,” explains the veterinarian. “The only time these dogs are not in some degree of respiratory distress is when you have them intubated under anesthetic. I have seen it myself: a bulldog comes in panting away with blue-tinged gums (normal for the breed), I anesthetise it and put the tube in and as if by magic it pinks up and breathes normally – presumably its body is overjoyed to actually be receiving enough oxygen for once.”
But these dogs suffer from more than respiratory problems. “Breathing aside,” writes the veterinarian, “most of these animals also have other genetic abnormalities that result in illness, from back problems to eye issues.” And yet, despite knowing about these problems, not many veterinarians have spoken out; even the veterinarian himself has chosen to remain anonymous for a very good reason.
“In light of all this,” the veterinarian writes, “the question has to be – why do vets not speak out more often?” Adding, “and therein lies the rub; the vast majority of us work in general practice and our income is based on mending people’s animals and getting paid for it, and, like it or not, a large number of those clients have brachycephalic dogs.” If a veterinarian would speak out about these issues, people would find another doctor for their dog and business would suffer.
“In my practice alone we have a number of pug, shih tzu and bulldog breeders and dozens of owners with squashed-nosed pets,” the veterinarian explains. “If I stood up and told the truth about these breeds I would immediately alienate them and they would up sticks and move to the neighboring practice where the vet was not as outspoken. Vets in general practice simply cannot afford to be honest and to speak out.”
And yet, someone has spoken out about the problems relating to brachycephalic dogs. “This week,” the veterinarian continues, “the British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) recommendation to think twice before buying one of these dogs hit the headlines and suddenly people are talking about the issue. But if you had asked any practicing vet in the past few years what they thought of brachycephalics they would have been as critical of these breeds as I am.”
“I am delighted that the BVA has come out with its headline-grabbing advice,” the veterinarian writes of the newly released story. “At last we can talk about the subject a bit more openly (although not openly enough for me to put my name to this column). My colleagues often debate the ethics of being in a profession that, despite its better judgment, helps to perpetuate these anatomical abominations – maybe it is time for us to take a stand.”
“I still remember when I was introduced to the concept of a “brachycephalic” (squashed-nosed) dog as a veterinary student,” the veterinarian writes. “We were having our first anatomy lectures on the skull and the lecturer put up various slides (yes, slides – that’s how long ago I trained to be a vet). What the professor was showing his students was X-ray images of dogs’ heads.”
“Various different-sized ones went up,” the veterinarian recalls, “a collie, a jackrussell, a beagle and then suddenly an extraordinary image of a skull with a crushed nose and distended forehead. ‘What is wrong with this patient?’ our lecturer asked. ‘Has it been hit by a car?’ The students responded. ‘Has it been kicked? Is there a birth defect?’”
Your veterinarian has always been aware of “the anatomical disaster” that is your dog. But veterinarians must face the difficult decision between being ethical and not losing their business. “You would be hard-pushed to find a general practitioner who likes the concept of a brachycephalic dog but you would be equally hard-pushed to find one being openly critical of them because this would put their livelihood on the line."