Veterinarians Urge Action on Low Welfare Dog Breeds

Is dog breeding cruel? Yes, sometimes it can be. Veterinary groups have voiced concern on the needless suffering of low welfare dog breeds.  These are breeds with extreme traits such as squashed faces, pendulous ears, hairlessness, wrinkly skin and shortened limbs. 

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association lent support to a position paper published by European veterinary groups condemning the extreme breeding that produces these low welfare dog breeds.

Extreme breeding is the selection of animals for a particular look to the point of animal suffering,’ explained Monique Megens of FECAVA, and urged that,  ‘Health and welfare should go before looks.

Unfortunately low welfare dog breeds – which include pugs and French and English bulldogs – are increasing in popularity.  The demand has been driven by advertising, films, social media and advertising, which in turn has encouraged increased breeding.  So there’s a clear need to educate owners to steer away from low welfare dog breeds with exaggerated features and unnatural bodies.

How Low Welfare Dog Breeds Suffer

The health implications for affected dogs can be enormous.  Squashed faced dogs for example can have difficulty breathing, particularly during exercise.  They are also less able to cool themselves through panting.

Poor teeth alignment can render even the act of eating a meaty bone a challenge and condemn the dog to eat only commercial, processed foods.  The limb deformities that are often associated with such breeds also cause needless suffering and may require expensive surgical correction.  Abnormal and excessive skin folds promote dermatitis.  Affected breeds characteristically have even difficulty birthing normally.

Consequences for Owners of Low Welfare Dog Breeds

If people didn’t want to own low welfare or extreme dog breeds then dog breeders wouldn’t breed them. So both breeders and low welfare breed enthusiasts should consider these disadvantages of such breeds:

• Owners (and breeders) of low welfare dog breeds can be faced with high ongoing veterinary expenses.
• Poor health and welfare or early death of their pet means heartache for owners.
• Care of low welfare dog breeds is complicated e.g. need to avoid warm weather, abstain from some activities or avoid over-exciting the dog.
• Having a dog that is unable to exercise normally and suffers the ailments associated with its poor design also makes for a disappointing ownership experience.

Suggested Measures

Aside from increasing public awareness on the issue to reduce the demand for extreme breeding, other measures proposed to combat the problem of low welfare dog breeds include a call for revised breed standards, pre-breeding screening programs and data sharing on corrective surgeries and caesareans.

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