The cost of cute

Is the growing trend of cute, flat-faced dogs bad for their health – and their owner’s hip-pocket?

For many dog-lovers, the bug-eyes and flat faces of pugs, bulldogs and boxers are irresistible, but there’s a sinister side to their adorable snorts, grunts and snores.

Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs have been purposefully bred to exaggerate the traits we find so endearing, to the point of deformity.

Australian Veterinary Association President Dr Paula Parker the traits bred to win prizes in a dog show can translate to a very poor quality of life for the family pet.

“Some of our most popular breeds, including French bulldogs, pugs and British bulldogs are suffering serious health issues because they’ve been bred to look a certain way,” she said.

“Because they don’t have normal muzzles, they can’t easily cool themselves in warm weather and the soft tissues in their throats can swell and block the passage of air.

“They may faint, collapse or overheat, sometimes fatally, when exercising or excited.

“These dogs often need major surgery to improve their quality of life.”

Dr Parker said owners often underestimated the high vet bills associated with flat-faced dogs.

“Working in an emergency practice, it’s not uncommon for me to see an ICU full of brachycephalic dogs that need urgent medical attention because they can’t breathe,” she said.

“People who are considering buying a flat-faced dog should consider the potential longer-term healthcare costs and be prepared to take any necessary action advised by their veterinarian in the future that will improve the dog’s health and welfare.”

What to consider before buying a flat-faced dog

  • Ensure the breeder is registered and ask whether they breed away from physical exaggerations to prevent health problems.
  • Visit the breeding facility to meet the breeder, puppy and its parents check that the parent dogs have less exaggerated features and are not exhibiting respiratory distress at rest.
  • Ask for the health history of the parent dogs.
  • Have the dog checked over by a vet as soon as possible.

Consider purchasing pet insurance to ensure your dog is covered in an emergency situation.

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