Think of health before fashion

Edna during her operation


AN animal charity is urging pet owners to think about the problems their furry friends could endure if they have flat faces.

South Yorkshire-based Rain Rescue wants to raise awareness amongst the public about the problems flat faced pets like Pugs, French Bulldogs and Persian cats are dealing with due to poor breeding.

The rescue charity, which is located in Rotherham, takes in over 400 dogs and cats every year and is seeing a rise in the number of flat faced types of animals entering its care.

Now, the charity wants the public to be aware of what it means to own one of these breeds after it rescued Edna, a one-year-old French Bulldog who required major surgery when it was found she had narrowed airways and a dropped palate.

This meant that poor Edna struggled to breathe properly.

The British Veterinary Association has said that last year 93 per cent of companion vets treated flat faced dogs for breathing problems, demonstrating the extent of the problem within the UK.

They recently launched their #BreedtoBreathe campaign to get the message out to dog owners to think about choosing a healthier breed or crossbreed instead of prioritising appearance over welfare.

Recently, Holland’s Pug Club banned the breeding of pugs with a nose less than a third of the length of the skull to try and improve the health of the breed.

Rain Rescue wants to encourage anyone thinking of buying one of these breeds to really do their research, and know what a healthy pet looks like.

The charity also wants breeders and breeder clubs to change what they look for as desirable.

Deputy charity manager Lauren Sanderson said: “In the last 12 months we’ve taken in three French Bulldogs and a Persian cat who all had what is known as brachycephalic breed related health issues – from poor breathing, eye disease, dental problems and skin infections.

“It may not sound a lot but in Rain’s 17 year history it had only cared for one French Bulldog before this. Edna is also the second dog we’ve had to treat with surgery for poor breeding; the other was a Pug.

“Frenchies and Pugs are more popular than ever but sadly the public and those buying puppies do not realise the consequences.

“It’s often considered normal for these breeds to snore and snort but it isn’t. This is the effect of breeders choosing looks over health.

“In extreme cases this can mean they need corrective surgery like Edna did. Not only is this a huge thing for the animal to go through it can be very expensive, sometimes costing thousands of pounds.

“Thankfully Edna has now got the treatment she needed, has been adopted and is doing much better, but sadly her breed-related issues are not completely over. She still suffers from ear infections, another common issue in these types of dog.”

The British Veterinary Association has recently commended model and 2016 Love Island runner-up Olivia Bowen Buckland for her social media posts urging prospective dog owners to do their research before getting a puppy, after her French bulldog Reggie had to undergo surgery to help him breathe more easily.

In social media posts liked or shared by almost 65,000 people, Mrs Bowen Buckland wrote: “I’m so shocked at how many bulldog/pug owners don’t know anything about the breed they own or in particular BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome). It actually baffles me. We knew this day may come Reggie & we knew what it may cost. Brachycephalic breeds are not easy. Educate.”

She also suggested that budding owners do their research in advance, adding: “I get so upset seeing the amount of difficult breeds being given up when a little bit of research could of (sic) raised alarm bells.”

British Veterinary Association junior vice president Daniella Dos Santos welcomed the words of the Love Island star.

BVA junior vice chairman Daniella Dos Santos

She said: “Celebrity influence has played a huge role in explosion in popularity of flat-faced dogs, so it is welcome to see a reality TV star with millions of social media followers start a conversation around the serious health issues many of these breeds suffer from.

“BOAS is a distressing condition for those dogs living with it. As vets, we often hear from owners that their flat-faced dog is healthy, but they don’t realise that loud breathing or snorting isn’t normal. In reality, dogs with short muzzles can struggle to breathe. That is why we ask all prospective dog owners to pick health over looks.

“Responsible pet ownership begins even before getting a pet, which is why it is commendable that Mrs Bowen Buckland has asked her fans to always do their research first.

“Anyone looking for a dog should talk to a local vet, as they are well-placed to give advice on the health and welfare problems associated with certain breeds and to suggest a pet that is suitable for your lifestyle and financial considerations.

“One way to make sure you are getting a healthy, happy puppy from a responsible breeder, who has carried out all relevant health tests, is to insist that they use the free, downloadable Puppy Contract.

“We hope that Mrs Bowen Buckland’s example will inspire more celebrity owners of pets with breed-related health and welfare issues to speak out.”

The British Veterinary Association’s #BreedtoBreathe campaign was launched last January.

Statistics from organisation’s Summer 2017 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey showed that almost half of vets believed their clients who chose brachycephalic dogs were swayed by social media (49 per cent) or their celebrity idols (43 per cent) when buying their pets.

The study found that more than half (56 per cent) of the brachycephalic dogs that vets saw in practice needed treatment for health issues related to how they look, such as breathing difficulties, skin problems, eye ulcers or dental problems.

But vets reported that only 10 per cent of dog owners could recognise their brachycephalic dog’s breed-related health issues, while 75 per cent were unaware these potential problems even existed before deciding on the breed.

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City Park. Picture courtesy of Visit Bradford

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