Sunday 18 February 2018

‘It isn't fair to buy dogs that can’t breathe properly’- Irish vets issue warning on pugs

Many pugs suffer from severe breathing difficulties
Many pugs suffer from severe breathing difficulties
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

Irish vets are urging pet owners to resist purchasing flat-faced dogs including pugs and bulldogs as many are forced to live with “unfair” and often severe breathing issues.

Speaking on behalf of the Veterinary Ireland, Dr Alan Rossiter said that a huge majority of pugs present with breathing problems which impact their quality of life and require sometimes serious surgery. The pug’s flat-faced appearance is actually a deformity that has developed into standard because of the way humans have been breeding pugs throughout the past century.

“The majority of pugs I would see in my practice would need to be assessed for surgery to correct their airways and there is rarely a pug that’s assessed that doesn’t need the procedure. The surgery involves trimming away part of the nostrils and the palate at the back of the throat which allows them to breathe,” said Dr Rossiter.

“Most people don’t know the health implications that pugs generally suffer from. People think panting and snuffling is normal for these dogs but that is not the case at all. It is a sign that they’re having difficulties," he said.

"Pugs are such lovely little dogs and it’s not fair that they are being bred in such a way that they are born with huge issues when it comes to breathing,” he said.

Bray-based veterinarian Dr Pete Wedderburn says that while many pet owners are unaware of the health implications faced by pugs and other flat faced breeds, it is unfair purchase one knowing the difficulties they face.

“If you took your hand and covered a dog’s face preventing it from breathing, that would be wrong, but continuing to breed animals who have such huge respiratory difficulties is somehow okay,” he said.

“One of my patients, a pug called Peanut, had such a huge difficulty breathing that he used to pass out anytime he became excited or exerted himself. Peanut had to have a tracheotomy which allows him to bypass his nose and throat which is serious surgery.

Bulldogs can also suffer from the health implications
Bulldogs can also suffer from the health implications

“Letting people know about the issues these dogs have is important. If owners knew they would have to spend between €1,000 and €3000 on corrective surgery, they mightn’t opt to buy that breed,” he said.

Dr Rossiter revealed that the only way forward is for Ireland’s Kennel Club to alter the “breed standard” of the pug, changing the characteristics of the breed to include a longer face and nose. This would mean that many pugs would not be born with the breathing difficulties that the majority are born with at present.

Changing the standard would encourage breeders to only breed with pugs who have longer noses and do not have difficulties, in turn creating more of the same.

“At Veterinary Ireland our policy goal would be for all pugs born in Ireland to be able to breathe normally without the need for corrective surgery. The ISPCA and Dog’s Trust are on board with this so it’s just about a policy change within the Kennel Club and a matter of making a decision. They’re such lovely little dogs and great for families, but something needs to change,” he said.

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