All caring guardians want the same thing for our dogs: a long, healthy and happy life. But even with excellent care, certain breeds will have you wandering to the vet rather than the dog park. While all “purebred” dogs are predisposed to genetic disorders that cause ailments and disabilities, one group stands out above the rest.
Dogs that have been bred (and typically inbred) to have the flat faces that the American Kennel Club and some social media influencers tout as desirable are afflicted with an awkward, debilitating, and sometimes fatal condition called brachycephalic syndrome. In short, it means they have a hard time breathing due to their disfigured snouts and narrowed airways. Far from being “normal,” the flat faces often associated with French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus, and certain other breeds cause countless Health problems including sleep apnea and coughing, choking, choking, vomiting, rapid fatigue, collapse, fainting spells, dental problems, eye problems from deformed skulls, and laryngeal collapse caused by chronic stress on cartilage and stress on the heart from fighting for air.
It can be difficult or even impossible for these breath-impaired breeds to walk or run and play with their handlers. And according to a recent study from the University of California-Los Angeles, such facial deformities can even impair their ability to smell. This condition affects all things that are most important to dogs.
During the hot summer months, impaired breathing can be fatal. Dogs need to be able to pant to cool down. And with narrow, constricted nostrils and windpipes, these dogs often cannot cope. They are at least twice as likely to suffer from heat stroke as other dogs.
No wonder in Germany breeds that are affected by breathing are referred to as “tormented breeds” and breeding practices that cause pain and distress to dogs are restricted, as are Austria, Norway and the Netherlands. Elsewhere, breeders insist, despite knowing the agony these dogs must endure just to cater to the latest fad. As long as people spend thousands of dollars to buy suffering “designer dogs,” breeders will churn them out.
The best way to save breath-impaired breeds from a life of misery is not to buy or breed them. If you already have one, please take extra precautions during physical activities and hot weather. Signs of heat stroke include restlessness, excessive thirst, excessive salivation, heavy wheezing, lethargy, dark tongue, fast heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination. If someone you know is interested in buying one of these breeds because they think it will get them Instagram likes, talk to them about adopting them. Animal shelters are full of “purebred” dogs that were bought on a whim and then discarded once the excitement died down or they became “too much work” or vet bills started to mount. They’re also overflowing with unique dogs that deserve it equally and are less likely to have chronic health issues.
Enabling a beloved adopted dog to lead a fulfilling, healthy and happy life – that should be the goal.
Michelle Reynolds is senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.