Orchard Vet's Blog

Don't buy 'flat-faced' dogs!


The British Veterinary Association are discouraging dog buyers from buying breeds with fashionably 'flat-faced' features because of concerns over their health and welfare.

Brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, King Charles Spaniels and shih-tzus continue to rise in popularity in the UK. The Kennel Club has seen a 4,000% increase in the numbers of French Bulldogs and a five-fold increase in registrations of Pugs since 2005. The appeal is attributable to the cuteness of their 'squashed' appearance: flat faces and wrinkled noses. This shape is not natural but has developed as a result of years of selective breeding.

However, these very features cause wide-ranging health problems. The narrow nostrils and elongated soft palette in these short-muzzled breeds means they regularly develop brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome and even laryngeal paralysis, preventing the animal from breathing properly. The reduced eye cavity can also cause an abnormal protrusion of the eye (a condition known as exophthalmos) and corneal ulcers, while the skin folds leave the dog prone to yeast and other infections.

BVA President Sean Wensley has warned that the growing popularity of these dogs as pets has led to 'increased animal suffering' and he has asked potential owners to choose crossbreeds or even alternative, healthier breeds instead. His warning has been echoed by the PDSA, the Royal Veterinary College, the RSPCA and the Kennel Club.

Meanwhile six dog-rescue companies including Battersea Dogs Home and Bluecross Animal Rescue have told the BBC that brachycephalic breeds were being abandoned in increasing numbers. The two charities reported receiving 314 'flat-faced' dogs in 2015, compared to 226 in 2014 - an increase of 39%. Moreover, both said they were increasingly having to operate on the dogs brought in to clear airways of obstructive pieces of tissue or to widen nostrils.

The Royal Veterinary College opened a specialist clinic at the Queen Mother Hospital in Hertfordshire in the summer of 2014 to address problems in flat-faced dogs. Nevertheless thousands of vets and vet nurses have signed an online petition calling for a multi-stakeholder working party to address the increasing health problems caused by brachycephaly, not only in dogs but cats. §