One sick pup found during one of our undercover Petland investigations was a Pekingese, one of the types of brachycephalic breeds that are at risk from heat waves. The HSUS
The recent heat waves in the US and Canada have proven deadly to humans and animals. And just weeks before those deadly heat waves, the Westminster Dog Show named Wasabi, a Pekingese, the winner of its “Best in Show” award in its 145th annual competition in New York. While the 3-year-old dog’s unusual name and floor-length coat received widespread media attention, the fact that the Pekingese is a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed of dog was barely mentioned. These dog breeds, which also include bulldogs and pugs, are particularly intolerant of heat. They also suffer lifelong breathing problems and other health problems that can cause heartache and expensive veterinary bills to their families. It is unfortunate that Wasabi’s fame has not sparked a more serious discussion about how overbreeding endangers dogs.
What are Brachycephalic Breeds?
Brachycephalic dog breeds have shortened snouts and broad, short skulls. These dogs have been selectively bred over the generations to emphasize their flat facial features, as is the case with wasabi, which appears to have an almost completely flat muzzle.
Many consider these flat features adorable because of their baby-like appearance. However, the body structure of these dogs means they are exposed to numerous serious health problems, such as chronic skin and eye diseases, and most importantly, respiratory diseases. The latter problem – known as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome – affects quality of life, often requires expensive surgery, and can significantly shorten the lifespan of individual dogs. Breathing problems also mean that flat-faced dogs are more at risk than other types of dogs when traveling by air.
In addition to Pekingese, other brachycephalic breeds include the French Bulldog (the second most popular dog in the US), as well as English Bulldogs, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Mastiffs, and Pugs.
Consumer demand for these dogs and the unhealthy breed standards that now prevail directly add to the animal misery in American puppy factories, where puppies are hunted in desolate conditions by exhausted mother dogs, causing immense suffering. During our Petland research, we found breeds such as French and English bulldogs that were delivered to stores in oppressively hot weather and often suffered from respiratory problems. Those who survived were sold for thousands of dollars to unsuspecting families with no warning or discussion of their specific needs.
Advice from our experts
The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association has a “Cost of Cuteness” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of this type of dog breeding. This campaign encourages veterinarians and animal welfare groups to work with breeders and breed clubs to improve the health of these dogs and to repair the damage that has been done by breeding for exaggerated traits in recent generations.
Dr. Barry Kipperman, chairman of the board of directors of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, highlighted why a Pekingese to win the Westminster Dog Show is a step backwards: “Wasabi victory could lead to more popularity for this breed if we really focus on the need should address the selective breeding that has produced those flat faces and has seriously affected the health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs. ”The profit will also encourage puppy factories to produce the breed to meet public demand without the health or to take into account the individual needs of the dogs.
Understanding the risks of these types of breeds serves both dogs and the people who care for them: “Dog lovers need to be aware of these risks, including the potentially high medical bills and the heartache of seeing their companion suffer. When they acquire one of these breeds, “explained Kipperman,” we as veterinarians and animal rights activists must work collectively to address this growing, but relatively unknown, animal welfare problem. “
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How dog lovers and animal rights activists can help
Some ways dog lovers and animal rights activists can help include:
- Share information about brachycephaly with family, friends and other animal rights activists. Many people find the brachycephalic breeds appealing but are unaware of the health risks to the dogs and the emotional and financial problems potential adopters may face in purchasing one.
- If you already have a brachycephalic breed, speak to your veterinarian about the health risks and how to keep your dog as healthy as possible, including making sure your dog maintains a healthy weight, proactively addressing skin, eye, and other health issues and minimize exposure to hot and humid weather conditions.
- Avoid traveling with a flat-faced breed during the summer months, especially by air, and never buy a puppy online. every year, flat-faced dogs die in air transport, especially when puppy factories ship them in large numbers as cargo.
- Encourage breeders and breed clubs to help with this problem, including breeding dogs with longer snouts and breeding dogs with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome or other genetic health problems.
- If you want to get a brachycephalic breed, consider adopting from a breed rescue group or animal shelter. Some brachycephalic dogs end up in rescue operations or shelters because unsuspecting owners couldn’t afford the cost or commitment to caring for these dogs as they may already have had health problems. Be sure to ask about the animal’s medical history when walking this route. You can also use this Humane Society of the United States resource to find a responsible breeder for brachycephaly or any breed of dog.
How to protect pets from heat and moisture
Brachycephalic dogs are especially vulnerable to heat and moisture, but just like humans, all pets are at risk when temperatures rise. Given the extreme weather that has faced much of the United States in recent weeks, pet owners must take precautions to protect their companions. Check out these basic pet safety tips for the summer or anytime your community experiences rising temperatures.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.