Owners remain faithful to flat-faced dogs despite health woes

  • Flat-faced dogs face more health risks than dogs with longer muzzles
  • Some veterinarians think these dogs should no longer be bred
  • Flat-faced dogs are, however, very loving and extremely popular

In spite of serious health problems, flat-faced pooches such as bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs win the hearts of their owners, a new study finds.

Respiratory disease, breathing issues, eye disease, spinal disease, heat stroke and pneumonia are among the severe disorders that afflict these dogs. And they live an average of four fewer years than dogs with longer muzzles.

Some veterinarians consider the health of flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs too compromised to continue their breeding, the British researchers noted in the study, published in August in PLOS ONE.

And owners of pets with chronic illnesses report greater mental distress and a lower quality of life.

Loving personalities

Even so, the popularity of flat-faced dogs has soared in the past decade, which suggests they'll continue to be bred despite their significant health risks.

"Although dog breed popularity often follows a boom and bust pattern, our results are of real concern as they indicate that this 'brachy boom' is here to stay," study co-author Rowena Packer, of Royal Veterinary College in London, and colleagues said.

"Owners are becoming hooked on the loving personalities of these sweet dogs, but also accepting and normalising their shocking health issues," the researchers said in a journal news release.

To learn more about people's loyalty to Frenchies, pugs and bulldogs, researchers surveyed nearly 2 200 owners of flat-faced dogs. They found that 93% said they'd own their current breed in the future, and two-thirds said they'd recommend their current breed to someone thinking about getting a dog for the first time.

Good companion dogs

The chances that a current owner would get another dog of the same breed or recommend the breed to someone else was higher among first-time owners and those who had a strong bond with their dog. It was lower among those whose dog had a high number of health problems or behavioural issues.

Owners recommended their breed because their behaviour makes them good companion dogs, they're suitable for an inactive life with limited space, and they're good for homes with children.

Some owners recommended against their breed due to a high rate of health problems, the expense, ethical and welfare concerns, bad behaviour, and impact on the owner's lifestyle.

The findings could be used to educate people about the problems associated with "brachy" breeds in order to control their popularity in the long-term, the researchers suggested.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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