Pugs make me sad.
Whenever I see a Pug (or Boston Terrier, or French Bulldog or English Bulldog, Persian,…), I am filled with sadness tinged with anger and a side-order of disappointment.
In many instances, I also feel sad for the owners. Often, the first-time brachycephalic owner chooses their breed without being aware of all of the physical and physiological problems from which their pet will suffer. Some naïve owners find that they simply cannot cope with the effort and expense of managing the litany of issues and have to elect humane euthanasia or surrender their pet to a rescue. Some loose their pet to unmanageable problem despite sparing no effort or expense. In either case, the owners suffer along with their pet. And so, I am sad for owners who may have fallen prey to social media feeds of celebrities with brachycephalic dogs or whimsical videos of Bulldogs riding skateboards.
Then there is the anger. I am angry with the breeders and kennel clubs who have created and promoted these dysfunctional animals and who continue to deny there are any problems or who point the finger at “back-yard” breeders, claiming that animals produced by “responsible breeders” are just fine. To me, the term “responsible brachycephalic breeder” is an oxymoron. If you are purposely propagating animals that are deformed/dysfunctional by design, you are acting irresponsibly. If you are producing animals that require veterinary intervention to get puppies into or out of their uterus, you are acting irresponsibly. If you are producing animals at high risk of needing surgery just to be able to breathe, you are acting irresponsibly. I could go on and on.
And disappointment, so much disappointment. I am disappointed in my profession that has, on the whole, turned a blind eye to the very real animal-welfare issues around brachycephalism. Veterinarians are sworn to use our knowledge to prevent animal suffering. While an animal that has not yet been conceived does not suffer by remaining unconceived, brachycephalic animals are destined to suffer the moment sperm meets egg. To prevent this suffering veterinarians should be actively trying to reduce demand for brachycephalic animals and campaigning for measure to prevent their conception.
In reality, the veterinary community enables brachycephalism in many ways, including not disqualifying them from every dog show on earth as being “unfit”. We aid in their reproduction with artificial insemination and serial C-sections, and by being largely silent on the issue (if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem). Many veterinarians even promote brachycephalic breeds through the use of images of brachycephalic dogs and cats on the websites and social media feeds. Many veterinarians choose to own brachycephalic pets themselves, giving them a veterinary endorsement. It really bothers me when a veterinarian, someone who has a professional responsibility to be aware of the negative impacts of brachycephalism and who should be a tireless advocate for animal welfare, chooses to own a brachycephalic pet themselves. I have real trouble understanding that disconnect.
And I am disappointed in owners who, having had one brachycephalic animal and having been exposed to their issues, up close and personal, opt to get more brachycephalic pets. I do understand breed-loyalty, but I struggle to understand how one can be loyal to a breed that is so fraught with problems.
But all is not doom and gloom. There are efforts being made and there has been progress, at least in some parts of the world. And that is what this page is going to be about. I will populate it with resources intended to inform people (veterinarians, breeders, judges, pet owners…) about the negative impacts of brachycephalism as well as bulletins regarding campaigns and their progress. If you have news or a story that you think might fit well on this page, please feel free to let me know through my Contact page.
For a pdf version of this post – https://vetdentedu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Pugs_make_me_sad.pdf