#Puglife aspirations prompting public to choose unhealthy breeds, say vets

05 January 2018

Vets fear that the number of dogs needing invasive surgery to correct painful breed-related deformities will continue to soar as their clients choose to copy big brands and image-obsessed celebrities in their choice of dog breed.

New statistics from BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey show almost half of vets believe their clients, who choose brachycephalic dogs, are swayed by social media (49%) or their celebrity idols (43%).

Social media stars, such as Zoella, have joined big-name TV and music stars, including Lady Gaga, David Beckham and Kelly Brook, by picking and promoting brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs and French bulldogs as pets.

With 9 out of 10 companion animal vets reporting that the number of brachycephalic dogs being brought into their practice has greatly increased over the past three years, BVA is urging vets, vet nurses and concerned members of the public to join its new #BreedtoBreathe campaign and help challenge the pervasiveness of these ‘cute’ images.

Celebrity dog owners and their followers are often unaware of the health issues common among flat-faced breeds. However, 56% of the brachycephalic dogs that vets see need treatment for health issues related to how they look, such as breathing difficulties, skin problems, eye ulcers or dental problems.

BVA’s figures reveal that vets found only 10% of dog owners could recognise their brachycephalic dog’s breed-related health issues, while 75% were unaware these potential problems even existed before deciding on the breed. When surveyed directly, the main reason owners gave for buying brachycephalic dogs is the perception that flat-faced breeds are ‘good companion breeds’. 

The majority of vets believe the additional costs associated with owning flat-faced dogs, such as corrective surgery and higher insurance, come as a shock to nine out of 10 owners.

With animal welfare a top priority for the profession, BVA has developed a position statement on brachycephalic dogs, which includes evidence of the health and welfare problems associated with brachycephaly and a ten-point plan, as well as an online #BreedtoBreathe toolbox to support veterinary practices in improving the health and welfare of future generations of brachycephalic breeds.

British Veterinary Association President John Fishwick said: "These dogs are more popular than ever with celebrities, and on social media, and vets fear that this is adding to their popularity with members of the public.

“There are thousands of pictures on Instagram of brachycephalic breeds tucked up alongside popular celebrities and bloggers, but these #puglife images don’t show the full story. Many of these ‘cute’ pets will struggle with serious and often life-limiting health problems. Whilst many people perceive the squashed wrinkly faces of flat-faced dogs as appealing, in reality, dogs with short muzzles can struggle to breathe.

"We often hear from owners that their flat-faced dog is healthy but they don’t realise that loud breathing isn’t ‘normal’.  Vets see these problems in practice every day and tell us that very few owners can spot their dog’s health issue before it is highlighted by the vet. 

“These hereditary problems are distressing for the animals and can be costly for the owners to treat. If you’re looking for a dog think about choosing a healthier breed or crossbreed instead.”

As part of the #BreedtoBreathe campaign, BVA is urging members of the veterinary professions and the public to use their letter template, and reach out to brands using brachycephalic breeds in their communications, in a collective effort to help combat the normalisation and rise in popularity of these extreme features. 

The leading body for vets has already raised concerns with Heinz, Costa Coffee and Halifax amongst others; all of whom have pledged to avoid using brachycephalic animals in future campaigns.

Find out more about BVA's brachycephalic breeds #BreedtoBreathe campaign or download the #BreedtoBreathe template letter

BVA Media Office