Please visit “Breeding Brachycephalic Dogs and Cats, Part 1”to read the first portion of this article.
Controversy has surrounded the popularity of brachycephalic breeds for some time and raises the question of whether or not society should condone, or require a change in, breed choices and practices. Clearly an ethical issue arises here when people’s fancies for these dog and cat breed types causes them harmful pain and suffering, never mind the additional cost of their health care [5, 7-11, 13-27].
Approaches to Address the Problem
Avoid promoting brachycephalic dogs in print and media
As a society, we should avoid featuring brachycephalic dog and cat breeds in social media, advertising, marketing, magazines and other lay publications. A quick survey of three well-established veterinary trade magazines and two veterinary association journals from the last quarter of 2021 and January 2022 had 39 dog and three cat photos or images of brachycephalic dogs and cats, primarily of French Bulldogs and Pugs. These included pictures of veterinarians and veterinary technicians wearing surgical scrubs and stethoscopes together with these breeds. What message are we conveying here? It amounts to a shameful display of indifference to the pain and suffering that a significant proportion of these pets endure. The money derived from their care and treatment should never be perceived as a raison d‘etre for our complacency. Further, a veterinary magazine advertisement by those appropriately opposed to elective declawing of cats had a large photograph of a white brachycephalic cat. What were they thinking?
Role of veterinary and animal humane associations worldwide
According to the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, preventing BAS involves: “providing pre-purchase/pre-adoption consultations; advising against breeding any dog suffering from symptoms of BAS; learning about exercise tolerance tests; raising awareness among clients of the role of obesity; educating clients that respiratory sounds such as snorting and snoring are not normal; collaborating with breed clubs; reporting conformation-altering surgeries and C-sections; developing a practice strategy to clearly and consistently disclose the health problems, and working to counter the dramatic increase in demand for brachycephalic breeds.”[5, 16, 17] To the last point, concerns about inherited diseases in pedigreed dogs also are being addressed overseas. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA). issued a joint statement in July 2021 that urges the revision of breed standards and focuses on brachycephalic dogs, in particular [11, 23].
A petition by United Kingdom veterinarians calls for further action: “Despite the evident appeal of short-nosed pets to many of our clients, it is our duty as vets to not just treat these animals but also to lobby for reform in the way they are bred — in particular the ‘extreme’ brachycephalics such as Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and flat-faced Persian cats.” They warned against buying flat-faced dogs in 2016, and in July 2021 declared a legally non-binding moratorium against breeding them because of the numerous medical conditions that affect their welfare and longevity [5, 6, 13, 17]. Veterinary professionals everywhere must become more involved in addressing this societal dilemma and should take a strong stance reflecting not only their ethical responsibility for their patients but also in educating their clients. Like the BVA and BSAVA, in January 2017 and again in January 2021, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) firmed up their “Policy on Inherited Disorders in Responsible Breeding ofCompanion Animals” and stated that “more research and education is needed to minimize genetic disorders in companion animals, and to help veterinarians encourage responsible breeding programs and advocate against careless practices.”  The intent was to address welfare issues tied to breeding for deformities — characteristics that often are prized by enthusiasts but can lead to negative health consequences — and start a national conversation .
Approved unanimously by the AVMA House of Delegates on January 14, 2021, the policy emerged from a resolution drafted by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee (AWC). To reiterate, it stated that animals should not be bred for characteristics that can threaten their health and listed examples such as brachycephalic syndrome, a pathological condition affecting short-nosed dogs and cats that can cause respiratory problems .
Likewise, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) provides a strong in-depth policy that holds that animals with extreme conformational deviations, such as some brachycephalic animals, are at risk of long-term health issues which may require significant medical care . As such, they are advocating for a call to action: asking advertisers to stop using these animals for marketing purposes; urging all breeders of brachycephalic dogs to select only the healthiest animals as breeding stock, including those with longer muzzles, with the goal of reaching a muzzle length of half the head length over time . Prospective owners are called upon to educate themselves on the potential health risks, to speak to their veterinarians for advice, and to source pets from local breeders who are committed to breed health. Dog brokers are urged to select puppies from reputable local sources that have a clear plan to breed responsibly; and airlines are implored to ban transport of all brachycephalic breeds for commercial purposes .
Earlier this year, after consultation with animal experts including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the New Zealand Veterinary Association, a pet trade broker announced it will no longer be allowing three brachycephalic breeds (Pugs, French Bulldogs, and British Bulldogs) to be sold through its website .
But, despite these worthy efforts, what have US veterinarians actually done to implement these policies? Silence is unacceptable when it comes to our veterinary oath to protect animals from harm.
This overview has examined the numerous health problems that burden these brachycephalic breeds, and encourages veterinary professionals and animal lovers together to continue to stand up worldwide and call for change.
While companion animal pets are still legally classified as property in most countries, their caregivers consider them to be family members . Why then is society accepting that our so-called ‘dominion’ over animals allows us to selectively create, breed, and potentially exploit them in order to have what we consider to be an attractive and charismatic pet? This passive acceptance by much of society must change [5, 8-10, 12-17]. But the popularity of these flat-faced breeds began centuries ago and has continued despite the many health and longevity issues outlined above that make them more dependent upon humans for their care, wellbeing, and survival than the non-brachycephalic breeds [4-9]. We have promoted controlled breeding practices to modify domestic pets to suit our desires for both genetic and conformational purity [4-9]. For the last century, inbreeding and linebreeding from this prized ancestry has just perpetuated and promoted less genetic diversity and more heritable traits and disorders [4-10, 14-16]. Regardless, we need to shift our goal as animal health professionals and responsible breeders from describing these breeds as desirable, albeit very costly, media-promoted popular pets to emphasizing that breeding more of them is basically fostering animal suffering and their eventual anti-survival and demise [4-6, 8, 10, 14-16].
The debate on how to fix the problems has ranged from introducing another breed into the blood lines of affected breeds to alleviate these conditions to the ultimate choice of declining to breed those dogs with severe problems. The British Veterinary Association has asked pet parents not to purchase brachycephalic breeds, specifically because of their health concerns and related increase in animal suffering [11, 13, 17, 23]. Thus, pet caregivers should carefully research their options and purchase only from responsible breeders and families or adopt from a rescue organization.
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