Your data on MRCVSonline
The nature of the services provided by Vision Media means that we might obtain certain information about you.
Please read our Data Protection and Privacy Policy for details.

In addition, (with your consent) some parts of our website may store a 'cookie' in your browser for the purposes of
functionality or performance monitoring.
Click here to manage your settings.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
Send Cancel

Can brachycephalic dogs be healthy?
The panel agreed on the importance of reducing the demand for pugs, French bulldogs and bulldogs.
Panel of vets debate the future of these breeds

Tackling the use of brachycephalic dogs in advertising and working with breeders and owners will be key to improving their welfare, a panel of vets agreed at BSAVA Congress yesterday (6 April).

But can these breeds ever be truly healthy? This question divided the panel, which comprised a diverse range of voices - from TV vet Emma Milne, who recently launched the campaign Vets Against Brachycephalism; to Nick Blayney, chair of the Kennel Club's Dog Health Group.

Jane Ludlow of the University of Cambridge, said there are healthy examples of these breeds; those that can self-whelp and have grade zero BOAS scores. However, there are lots of problems "that we should not ignore". There are also highly brachycephalic breeds such as the griffon bruxellois that we know little about from a disease perspective compared to the 'high profile' breeds.

Comparing photos of wild canids and brachycephalic dogs, Emma Milne said it is "indefensible" that humans have selectively bred in these extreme traits. She stated that she does not believe these breeds can be healthy and called for an end to human "obsession" with appearance over health.

"I'm tired of hearing that there are some that can breathe, some that are grade zero," she added. "They should all be grade zero. Why have we become so habituated that we accept this is 'normal for the breed'?…

"We almost certainly can make healthier brachycephalics, but they are still brachycephalics."

Ludlow, however, urged vets to be cautious in the way they speak to owners and breeders about this issue.

"I think we need to be a little bit wary of alienating these clients," she explained. "We don't want to be in a position where these dogs don't come into the practice because they see vets as the enemy."

Similarly, Nick Blayney argued: "Latent hostility does not drive persuasion, it drives people away".

Defending the Kennel Club, he said it has "very little authority, except in its own show rings", and only three per cent of puppies are from Assured Breeders, while 28 per cent of puppies are registered with the club. However, he said the club does recognise its responsibility to promote healthy dogs.

While many vets have raised concerns about the wording of some of the breed standards, Mr Blayney said problems usually arise due to "misinterpretation" of the standards and irresponsible breeders.

Milne, however, said she would "take him to task on this", citing the pug breed standard, which states that they should never be lean or leggy. She showed a photo of a Crufts contestant that appeared to be morbidly obese, pointing out that the dog would have won competitions in order to make it as far as Crufts.

What the panel did agree upon, was the importance of reducing the demand for pugs, French bulldogs and bulldogs, through tackling their use in advertising and celebrity endorsements. Working with owners and breeders to raise awareness and recognition of the health issues suffered by these breeds, is also key.

And ultimately, panellists said the vet's primary responsibility is to treat the animal in front of them, whether they are brachycephalic or not. Consultations do, however, provide an opportunity to educate clients.

Figures quoted throughout the day showed the number of French bulldog puppies registered with the Kennel Club soared to around 31,000 last year. This enormous figure represents only registered dogs. By the time these puppies reach the age of around three, it is likely that vets around the country will see a 'tidal wave' of dogs coming into clinics.

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

VMG president joins House of Lords

News Story 1
 Miles Russell, president of the Veterinary Management Group (VMG), has been elected to the House of Lords as a crossbench hereditary peer.

He will join Lord Trees as a representative of the veterinary sector in the second chamber of the UK parliament.

Lord Russell said: "Those of us working in the animal health and veterinary sectors are only too aware of the importance of the work we do and the challenges we face.

"I will use my platform in the House of Lords to increase understanding of our sectors and to promote positive change." 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Duchess of York stars in charity calendar

The National Foundation for Retired Service Animals (NFRSA) has released its charity calendar for 2024, featuring Sarah, Duchess of York and a selection of the retired service animals the charity supports.

The 12 images were taken by animal photographer Gerry Slade and include retired police dogs and horses, a former border force detector dog, and a retired fire investigation and urban search and rescue dog.

Sarah, Duchess of York, who is a patron of the charity, appears alongside retired police dog Jessie in the photograph for December.

So far this year, the charity has given more than 40,000 in grants to help former service animals with their veterinary care. After retirement, they receive no financial support from the Government and obtaining affordable insurance can be difficult.