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Town and country pets

It’s nearly 10 year ago that the documentary Pedigree dogs exposed caused wide spread outrage in the media and among dog lovers. The documentary focused on the obsession in purebred dog breeders to produce exaggerated physical traits in show breeds, leading to severe physical disorders in certain breeds.

I personally never made it past the first few minutes of watching the King Charles Spaniel with syringomyelia.  Syringomyelia develops when a fluid-filled sac forms on the spinal cord. This is usually due to a malformation of the bones of the skull and the brain. The condition is inherited and occurs mainly in small dogs due to their smaller sized skull and overall conformation.

Watching the plight of this poor soul and the many other dogs on the show was heart breaking and left no doubt in many people’s minds that the breeding of some pure-bred dogs needed a serious overhaul and external regulation to prevent breeders from producing dogs that are doomed to lead a short life of misery in which they are plagued by numerous physical disorders and illnesses.

So it was very sad to hear that at the beginning of April the show breeders yet again were under media scrutiny. This time the focus was on breeders of short nosed dogs such as pugs, English and French Bulldogs.

Recent research has shown that Australian dog owners increasingly prefer small, short nosed and wide bodied dogs over larger dogs. Many dog owners are unaware of the physical issues that these breeds may suffer from such as difficulties in breathing, overheating, eye conditions, skin disorders and premature death.

Buying one of these dogs may be a costly venture indeed, not just for the purchasing costs of the puppy but also later on in the dog’s life, due to the vast array of health issues that come with these breeds.

Eye and skin problems for example are common in these dogs. The wrinkles, which we deem so cute, are actually excessive amounts of skin on their face. These may make them prone to eczema and other skin ailments.

However the most worrying fact is that these dogs will lead a life marred by severe breathing difficulties. According to Professor McGreevy from the University of Sydney, short nosed dogs are dying, on average, four years earlier than dogs of the same size with normal-shaped skulls.

Short nosed dogs have the same amount of tissues in their head as a normal dog. However due to the smaller, shortened facial structure they have less room for the tissue. Apart from teeth crowding, they also have the soft palette hanging down, which gives them the snuffling, snorting sounds so common in these breeds.

It is a well known fact that dogs cannot sweat like humans or horses via their skin. Dogs regulate their body’s temperature by panting, their nasal passages and via their pads, which if you think about it, are comparatively small areas to a dog’s overall body size. Thus, the constant risk of overheating in the hotter months even in normal nosed dogs. In short nosed dogs the nasal area is reduced substantially, plus the obstruction from the surplus tissues, and it becomes clear why breathing and heat regulation are so very difficult for these dog breeds.

Finally, an additional cost that few dog owners factor in is the emotional and psychological costs on them. It is very draining and traumatising having to deal with a beloved dog’s ongoing health issues and with the prospect that the dog may only live for a relatively short time.

For free phone advice on dog breeds please contact:
Heike Hahner,  Dog Training & Pet Psychology Consultant,
phone: 02/ 4842 7143 (b)
email: hhahner@bigpond.com

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