If you’re a pet parent to a flat-faced breed like the Bulldog, Pug, or Persian, recent headlines about these kinds of pets may have you worried.
Talk has heated up in the news about a possible UK flat-faced breed ban in the future. So let’s take a look at what is going on and how you can support your brachycephalic (flat-faced) pet.
Vets, researchers, and pet charities like RSPCA and Blue Cross have long petitioned for better education on flat-faced breed health issues.
In February 2022, Oslo District Court ruled that breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and English Bulldogs breached Norway’s animal welfare legislation.
And new studies in 2022 – including several from the Royal Veterinary College – also highlight the critical health issues faced by brachycephalic breeds.
All of this has prompted renewed discussions about what the UK is doing to help improve flat-faced breed welfare.
Flat-faced cat and dogs have surged in popularity in the UK, with French Bulldog ownership showing the sharpest growth. Kennel Club registrations of French Bulldogs suggest there’s now 13 times more Frenchies than there were 10 years ago.
But many owners don’t realise how years of selective breeding have caused flat-faced pets to develop serious health problems.
A 2022 report on UK companion dogs found that French Bulldogs have an average life expectancy of just 4.5 years – largely caused by their health issues. Out of 18 dog breeds in the study, Frenchies, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and Pugs had the shortest average life spans.
The VetCompass study on English Bulldogs in the UK looked at how their exaggerated body shape and features have led to extreme health issues.
English Bulldogs were originally bred as fighting dogs, but the banning of the sport meant they became show dogs in the Victorian era. It was during this time that breeding focused on giving Bulldogs bowed forelegs, a heavier build, and protruding underjaw.
As a direct result of breeding in these physical traits, English Bulldogs are at higher risk of getting skin, eye, breathing, and spinal problems like:
To allow future English Bulldogs to hear, see, breathe, and walk without distress or discomfort, the study calls for urgent breed management.
This means moving away from an extreme body shape to a more moderate form and features.
It’s a similar story when it comes to Pugs and our desire to create a ‘cute’, baby-like look through selective breeding.
The VetCompass study on Pugs in the UK reviewed the health-related welfare challenges for Pugs compared to mainstream breeds. The differences are now so extreme that, from a health perspective, Pugs can no longer be seen as typical dogs.
Pugs have an increased risk of suffering from problems like:
It can feel scary when you see the word ‘ban’ mentioned alongside your pet’s breed.
But vets and pet charities are not currently asking for a complete ban on English Bulldogs, Pugs, and other flat-faced breeds.
Instead, the aim of sharing these studies, petitions, and campaigns is to stop poor breeding practices. Examples of this include the Kennel Club’s breed health and conservation plans (BHCPs) and Blue Cross’ #endthetrend campaign (end advertising with flat-faced pets).
These organisations want to see healthier versions of flat-faced cats and dogs to give them a better quality of life.
Understanding what health problems your flat-faced pet may be dealing with is the first step to supporting their wellbeing.
If you’re not sure whether your pet has brachycephalic syndrome or how severe their symptoms are, think about speaking with your vet.
You can also check out this guide on what to know about brachycephalic pets for more info about the condition and ways to manage their symptoms.
Your flat-faced cat or dog will need extra love and care to help keep them as healthy as possible.
This also means making sure you have pet insurance with the right limits to suit your and your pet’s needs. As nobody wants to be lumped with large vet bills if the worst does happen.
Research and campaigning in the pet community show that change is needed to improve the welfare of flat-faced breeds. It’s a big challenge that needs involvement from many groups including the government, vets, breeders, and pet owners.
Ways you could join in the conversation include:
See if your brachycephalic pet’s pre-existing conditions could be covered with a pet insurance quote from Petsure.