There’s no end in sight when it comes to trendy pet breeds, breeds that often have constricted respiratory tracts, eyes and brains. And yet hardly anyone gave a second thought to their suffering.
Many people love dog breeds with deformed heads. It’s also easy to misinterpret the symptoms of suffering. The tongue hangs out photogenically, and the eyes, shining with exertion, look pretty.
How and whether your pet might show their suffering depends on each individual animal. “Breathlessness, wheezing or snoring, without the animal exerting itself, are definite indications that the airways are not free,” says Lea Schmitz of the German Animal Welfare Federation.
All short-nosed dogs, such as Pekinese, pugs or bulldogs, suffer from these symptoms to varying degrees, according to veterinarians. These dogs are bred with a flat face that corresponds to a beauty ideal.
They can’t breathe easily and are quickly exhausted. Their teeth are crooked. Their eyes water all the time. They have neurological deficits because of their narrow brains.
There are similar problems with purebred cats. “These include breeds like Persians, British Shorthairs or Scottish Folds”, says German vet Petra Sindern. For example, the cute-looking buckled ears of the Scottish Fold are an expression of a genetic defect, which for many animals leads to very painful bone and cartilage degenerations in the legs and joints.
Sindern says it will be a long and hard road to slow the popularity, especially since breeds such as the pug and the French bulldog are still very popular in advertising.
“When the dog cocks its doll-like head and jumps a bit, the owner is happy and ignores the terrible snorkelling noises,” Sindern says. “But that’s only until the first life-threatening circulatory collapse.”
In Sindern’s experience, even those dog owners who once experienced the suffering and death of a pet with such issues often buy the same breed again. That’s usually because these animals are so sweet. “But other dogs are, too,” says Sindern.
It’s not only the dogs with the too-short faces that suffer due to their selective breeding.
“In the case of German Shepherds, the back was bred to be so low that the dogs inevitably suffer from hip joint dysplasia,” says Astrid Behr of the Federal Association of Practising Veterinarians in Frankfurt.
In this case, however, breeding associations have responded, so that the problem is slowly becoming less severe, according to experts. But such rebreeding takes a long time. “With purebred breeds, another breed cannot simply be crossed in,” Behr explains.
Animal rights activists advise not to buy any animals from these breeds. “As long as such animals are in demand, they will be bred,” says Behr. If you don’t want to give up on your favourite breed, you should at least look for one in an animal shelter. According to Schmitz, these four-legged friends are sometimes left in a home because their owners can no longer afford the veterinary costs. – dpa/Sabine Maurer