A new study has found that the popularity of flat-faced breeds, such as Pugs, Bulldogs and French Bulldogs is largely based on their small size and baby-like faces, but it is coming at the expense of their health with owners less likely to see either parent or ask for health records.

The news comes as the French Bulldog is set to become the Kennel Club’s most registered dog in the UK toppling the Labrador Retriever from the top spot, which it has sat at for 27 years.

The study conducted by  Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in collaboration with Plymouth University,  set out to find out what influences owners to purchase a flat-faced breed, and once this decision has been made, how they go about acquiring a puppy.

The findings revealed that appearance is the number one reason owners purchase flat-faced breeds, attracted by their large, round, wide-set eyes, and flat rounded faces, yet the perceived health of the breed was of less concern in owners who purchased a brachycephalic dog such as the Pug or French Bulldog, compared to owners of longer faced breeds, such as the Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels.

Why is this a bad thing for the breed’s future health?

The characteristics which appeal to the breed’s would be owners are linked with a variety of inherited diseases.

Flat-faced dogs often suffer from lifelong respiratory, eye and skin problems, and a reduced lifespan compared with longer faced breeds.

Dr Rowena Packer, lead author of the study and Research Fellow at RVC, said “With their small size and baby-like features, some people cannot resist the looks of a brachycephalic dog. With growing evidence that these breeds are faced with a range of chronic and severe health conditions directly linked with their appearance, it is of huge concern that many people drawn to these breeds prioritise a dog’s looks over their long-term health and wellbeing.

“Potential puppy buyers attracted to the appearance of these breeds should seriously consider whether they are emotionally and financially prepared to take on a breed with high risks of health complications, and consider whether alternative, lower-risk breeds would better fit their lifestyle.”

Speaking about the findings, co-author of the study and Associate Professor of Animal Welfare at Plymouth University, Dr Mark Farnworth, said, “Owners must be aware that as puppy-buyers, they are consumers, and their choices affect not only the health of the puppy they purchase, but also the health of the breed more widely.

If owners do not follow recommended processes when purchasing a puppy, for example those set out in BVA AWF & RSPCA ‘Puppy Contract’, unscrupulous breeders will be kept in business, and continue to profit from the breeding and sale of unhealthy dogs. Without consumer awareness, breed health improvements are not possible and the overall health of these breeds will likely decline.”

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