Who is Responsible for this?
If you choose to bring a Great Dane into your home, you know from the outset that you are getting a large dog that is going to require a large volume of food, a large area to live in and larger doses of any medications. Therefore, it is obvious that keeping a large dog comes with some extra costs and these costs are obviously the responsibility of the animal’s owner.
If you opt, instead, to obtain a small and/or brachycephalic pet (shih tzu, pug, Boston terrier, Persian…) you need to be aware that such a decision also comes with some increased costs. Other papers at www.toothvet.ca (micro-dogs, more on brachycephalism, dental crowding, pericoronitis, and the first part of dental truths) mention various serious dental problems associate with various breeds and/or head shape/sizes.
This bulletin was inspired by a question that came up on www.VIN.com (where I am one of the consultants in the Dental folder). The question was, should the pet store that sold a Himalayan kitten be responsible for paying for the treatment of its malocclusion? The pet store policy was that they will pay for the treatment of a ‘congenital problem’. Would we hold the pet store responsible if they sold us a Great Dane and it grew to be large? Would we hold the pet store responsible if they sold us a poodle and then it required frequent hair cuts? Both of those issues (giantism and a coat of hair rather than fur) are mutations which have been deemed desirable and bred for selectively, just like brachycephalism.
The pet-owning public needs to be made aware that every single brachycephalic animal (large or small) has a significant craniofacial deformity that has a negative impact on their oral health. Part of the cost of owning such a pet is taking responsibility for helping to minimize/manage the impact that this deformity imposes on the animal.
As long as people continue to purchase pets with craniofacial deformities, breeders will continue to produce and sell them. So, who is responsible for the congenital malocclusion in a Himalayan kitten (malocclusion mandated by current breed standard)? Society is for deciding that a deformity that would not survive in the wild and that imposes significant liabilities on the animal is “cute” and therefore, desirable.
I have alluded to the dental/oral problems suffered by brachycephalic animals. They also very commonly have issues affecting many other body systems such as their spines, eyes, skin, respiratory system, digestive system… For more on this subject, have a read of “Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic (Flat-Faced) Companion Animals”.