Dog health and welfare

There are an estimated 9.3 million dogs in the UK making them the most popular pet in UK households. However the PDSA Paw report 2015 revealed concerns around the welfare of pet dogs, showing many do not receive adequate exercise or training, and a high number have poor diets.

    The 2014 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey results also revealed 95% of companion animal vets said that better weight control would have a significant impact on canine health and welfare.

    This priority area focuses on the following aspects of dog health and welfare:

    Responsible pet ownership is also a priority area for us and incorporates the health and welfare of both dogs and other pets.

    Buying a puppy

    We advise anyone buying or selling a puppy to use the free AWF and RSPCA Puppy Contract. This will help to reduce the chance of buying a puppy from an irresponsible breeder.

    If you are buying a puppy, or would like to provide information to clients on buying a puppy, we recommend the following resources:

    Puppy farming

    The practice of puppy farming occurs in the UK and Europe and may lead to suffering for the animals involved and significant financial consequences for the owners. We believe this irresponsible practice must be tackled as quickly as possible.

    Problems associated with puppy farming

    • Puppy farming compromises the health and welfare of bitches and their litters
    • Consequences of poor breeding leads to suffering for the animals and their owners
    • Bitches are often kept in small pens without natural light or contact with other dogs
    • Bitches are made to produce multiple litters a year
    • Puppy farming facilitates the spread of infectious diseases
    • Behavioural problems are common in puppy farmed in bitches and their pups

    View our policy position on puppy farming (83 KB PDF)

    Tail docking of dogs

    Since the 1960s, we have campaigned successfully with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) against the non-therapeutic docking of puppies’ tails because it is not in the animal’s best interests.

    View our policy position on tail docking (144 KB PDF)

    Related information on tail docking

    Dog breeding and hereditary defects

    The aim of responsible dog breeding is to produce healthy, well-socialised puppies. Different breeds and crossbreeds of dog may suffer from various hereditary defects and the irresponsible breeding of these animals may leave owners facing serious health and behavioural problems in their new pets.

    The latest data from the Hip and Elbow Schemes show a clear and sustained reduction in the incidence and severity of these conditions.

    Reducing the risk of hereditary defects

    We advise dog breeders to use the Canine Health Schemes, a service we provide in collaboration with the Kennel Club to screen dogs for inherited diseases. This helps breeders make informed decisions as to whether those dogs are suitable for breeding.

    Reporting caesareans and surgical procedures

    It’s important for vets and breeders to report caesareans and any procedures that alter the natural conformation of a dog to the Kennel Club.

    Use the Kennel Club report form for vets

    Download and display our awareness poster on submitting data (94 KB PDF)

    Find out the reasons for reporting conformational changes and caesareans

    View our position on dog breeding (32 KB PDF)

    Preventative healthcare for dogs

    In order to ensure dogs have healthy and happy lives as pets, we strongly support methods of preventative healthcare, these include:

    • Microchipping dogs which will help tackle puppy farming, encourage responsible ownership and reunite dogs with their owners if they become lost
    • Neutering of dogs to reduce unwanted litters and help prevent the perpetuation of genetic defects
    • Owners wanting to take a dog abroad should follow pet travel guidance and speak to their vet in plenty of time before travelling

    Watch our Veterinary View video for more information about the benefits of preventative healthcare.

    Our activity on dog health and welfare

    Related legislation on dog health and welfare