A study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science shows that the number of brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs being taken in by UK rescue and rehoming centres has doubled between 2015 and 2018 – and is expected to keep rising.
Experts in dog welfare at Nottingham Trent University have been investigating how breed, age and sex of dogs in centres has been changing over time. Their findings show that while brachycephalic breeds accounted for about five percent of all dogs in rescue and rehoming centres, the numbers “are expected to rise further” as the popularity brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs and French bulldogs, continues to rise.
“We have found that breeds in rescue centres appears, to some degree, to be reflecting the changing trends of breed popularity in the UK,” said Dr Anne Carter, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science at Nottingham Trent University.
She added, “The increasing numbers and rising popularity of brachycephalic breeds is already influencing the demographic spread in rescue centres. This pattern that is likely to continue, particularly as these dogs reach 3–4 years old, which we have found is the most common age for dogs being relinquished.
“Differing breeds require highly contrasting intensities of care, housing, and particularly veterinary care. Owners may often choose brachycephalic dogs with limited consideration for their potential health conditions. These dogs then enter rescue centres, placing additional strain on resources due to cost of treatment and additional length of stay for recovery.”
Mixed breed dogs are still the most common in rescue centres (15 per cent), followed by Staffordshire bull terriers (10 per cent), lurchers (8 per cent) and Jack Russell terriers (3 per cent).
However, flat-faced dogs are more likely than most to have health issues, which can put a strain on rescues’ resources. In 2019, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home reported they were performing record numbers of sugeries on flat-faced dogs with Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, said, “This research confirms that we have seen a marked increase in the volume of brachycephalic breeds coming into our rehoming centres. Breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs have grown in popularity in recent years, but worryingly this hasn’t been coupled with an equivalent increased awareness of the health issues these breeds may experience.
“Breathing issues are not uncommon, sometimes requiring surgery, and many will have other associated issues such as skin and eye problems. Often it is when these issues come to light that the financial costs become too much and owners are forced to turn to rehoming charities, such as ourselves.”
She added, “The high demand of these breeds also means that deceitful sellers are illegally smuggling them into the UK where they have often been bred in horrendous conditions with no regard for their health or welfare, before being sold onto the unsuspecting public.
“We’d urge anyone thinking of buying a brachycephalic breed to look beyond their appearance and consider whether they are emotionally and financially prepared to take on a dog that has a higher risk of health problems. If you feel that a brachycephalic is right for you, do your research and use our Buyer Advice to buy responsibly.”