Breeding for Looks, not Health.
As the American Kennel Club makes dog standards more specific, it is obvious it is being abused and taken advantage of by certain breeders. The ‘perfect’ dog their breeding may have the features people want, but the diseases and illnesses not so much. The American Kennel club sets standards that each breed should have to qualify for the dogs to be determined ‘studs’ (qualified male dog for breeding) and bitches (qualified female dog for breeding) ready for breeding, as well with the dog’s family tree. ‘Puppy face’ is a common term coined for the puppy-like features breeders breed for, what buyers want, and the standards the American Kennel Club set. These features include big bulging eyes, smushed faces, and larger than average heads. As a side effect these dogs will suffer from oddly shaped ears, wide yet flat skulls, wrinkles over the nose, excess wrinkles on the face, which ultimately results in the dogs inability to exercise, withstand heat, stress, and the dogs ability to breathe in general to decrease. The most common breeds that suffer from this norm are English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, and the Boston Terrier.
Breeders commonly use deliberate inbreeding, the mating of directly related family members, such as a father and his daughter, mother and son, and even brothers and sisters to allow the exact traits they keep breeding for to always occur. Despite the success rates of the traits, it comes with many side effects for the dog, which will always impact the owner. For example, the English Bulldog is commonly inbred, and as a result has to undergo artificial insemination due to the stance, squat, short legs, and hips they are bred for, which cannot support the weight of another dog. Yes, artificial insemination may open many doors for breeding like being able to use samples from dogs all over the world, and helps the spread of STD’s, but could also lead to the English Bulldog’s breed demise since they aren’t able to breed naturally on their own in most cases. In an article written by the Smithsonian magazine, they believe that English Bulldogs are dangerously unhealthy, and there may not be enough genetic diversity within the gene pool to save them. Niels Pederson, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California at the Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says “They’ve lost so much genetic diversity over the past decades.”.
Another example of this can be found in the Pug, where the purposely want those big adorable gumball eyes, but unfortunately this dog will have a higher chance of sustaining an eye injury, as well as have to use artificial insemination for reasons like the bulldog. Another example we can look at happens to be with the Boston Terrier breed. Due to the puppy-like big head Bostons are found to have, mothers cannot give birth naturally and will have to have C-sections since puppies cannot fit through the mothers birth canal. The Boston, or aka the American Gentleman, is sadly bred for a defromed structure with small hips and pelvis. A study conducted found that out of 675 Boston litters, 86% were found to be delivered by C-section, sadly, 9% of puppies will die at birth, and 14% of puppies will be born with defects. A different survey found that out of 108 Boston pups, only 9 will die from old age. These are horrible statistics for such a popular breed.
Another troubled breed is the French Bulldog. Despite the popularity of this newer breed, breeders have surely taken advantage of this breed. Not only are they found to have the lowest life expectancy since their median years is 1.3 years old, compared to most dogs where their average median is 4.5 years, but this breed has the majority of the records at veterinarians. Out of 300 vet clinics, 2228 Frenchies were found with records, and 72% of this breed had disorders. These disorders can be some common ones like diarrhea and ear infections, but others like wrinkle infections, corneal ulcers, and upper respiratory disorders that can be costly for the owners, stressful for the dogs, and are solely due to the improper breeding. Corneal ulcers can be from a scratch from a stick or getting bumped by another dog since their eyes are exophthalmic, meaning their eyes bulge anteriorly out of the orbit. Upper respiratory disorders can be from the shortened snout, and many face wrinkles that can result in trouble breathing. Wrinkle infections can be due to things like yeast and dirt forming between rolls causing the skin to be irritated and have bad reactions. Lindsay Hamilton said “An explosion in demand for the popular breeds has left the dogs with deformities and health problems”. Hamilton also urges to avoid buying breeds like the Frenchie and Pugs because they will suffer from very serious life long issues, due to the inability to pant, exercise, eat, or even sleep properly without snoring. Frenchies are actually banned from flying in cargo in most airlines, due to their inability to breathe normally. The Frenchie is a brachycephalic breed, meaning they are human chosen to have large heads with flat faces and narrow nostrils which makes them prone to many diseases.
In an article written by the Boston Globe, they deem the breeding of English Bulldogs to be inhumane. They say that since this breed is prone to many birth defects, some include a flat chest, skeletal disorders that can result in hip dysplasia, how wrinkly their faces are which can result in acne and eye problems, along with their underbite with lots of drooling that can often mean lots of dental trouble, and chance of choking on objects. Along with the Boston, it is very rare for these enormous head puppies to be birthed naturally, so 90% of English Bulldog moms will undergo a C-section which can cause lots of stress on the animal, along with the ‘bitch’ to not be wanted for breeding anymore due to her body condition and the recovery she will undergo. The Smithsonian Magazine found that introducing new genes from outside of the English Bulldogs purebred genepool, would help the animals health and genetic diversity, but is shunned by breeders since this dog will no longer be ‘purebred’ and no longer pedigreed, having the full list of ancestors of proof of being purebred, which is used by the American Kennel Club. This type of breeding is called outbreeding, but like I said, breeders tend to reject introducing different genes, since they fear their breed will then “be contaminated”, and the breed would lose its character, be introduced to new diseases, and change in temperament.
A lot of people will use the market of products in dogs for an excuse why this breeding is okay. Online and in stores like Chewy, Petsmart, Petco, and even Amazon, you can find various products. Some products like doggy goggles , aka “doggles”, to protect the eyes, creams, wipes, and soaps targeted to stop wrinkles and skin infections, and all other types of remedies. Some conditions they will claim to be due to owners negligence by not doing enough research on the breed prior to adoption. I agree that research should be done for things the breeds they are prone or predisposed to, but breeders in general should also be looking for this as well. It is unacceptable that breeders are so negligent of these conditions and should be stopped before they even start, which happens to be choosing which bitch and stud to mate based on their traits and conditions.
People also claim that these breeds are perfect for first time dog owners, full time workers, and people who live in city areas due to the fact these dogs don’t require lots of exercise and are typically low maintenance. I find this claim to be quite false because it is true to a certain extent, but it is not considered how expensive these breeds are to purchase in the first place, and when these pups experience problems, how costly these vet visits are due to surgeries and medicines can be. Out of a list of 20 most expensive breeds by wealthygorilla.com, the french bulldog is listed to be the 12th most expensive dog averaging around $6000, and the Bulldog to be ranked 15th averaging around $4300. Cuteness.com also made a list of dog breeds that experience the most expensive veterinary bills, that says the Frenchie is the 9th most expensive, and owners on average can pay $1087 per year. According to thestreet.com, they say the most expensive breed to own is the Bulldog, totaling $9,562 over the span of 4 years of vet bills. According to American Kennel Club’s website, the French Bulldog is ranked the 4th most popular dog in 2019, the English Bulldog number 5th, Boston Terrier is the 21st, and the Pug 31st out of 193 recorded purebred breeds. From the information I’ve provided, you can assume these dogs are some of the most popular, yet some of the most expensive to adopt, and maintain.
The American Kennel Club and the british counterpart, The Kennel Club, have already been previously exposed for their controversial breeding in 2008. A BBC documentary, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” surfaced and demonstrated how poorly the purebreds health and welfare was, leaving both Kennel Clubs no choice but to change the standards for certain breeds, the English Bulldog being one of them. According to the Washington Post, Pedersen noticed there were two very different sides when it comes to breeding. Animal rights activists and veterinarians who believe that English Bulldogs are so inbred and bred to meet these poor standards, will undoubtedly doom unless outbreeding was practiced. On the other hand, breeders denied any problem, and said if they’re was problems, it could be fixed by selective breeding. I find this to be counterintuitive, since selective breeding is choosing parents with certain characteristics to breed and produce offspring with the desired traits. It makes you wonder, if they think that can fix it, then how were they breeding before, and why has this already not been implemented? It’s sad to think the people who take pride in producing these breeds are so careless and totally disregard these animals’ health and wellbeing.
To further on the documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed”, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, and Sir Patrick Bateson concluded their studies to find that the current breeding practices are quiet detrimental to the welfare of the pedigree dogs, and said they have made many recommendations that should be implemented by the Kennel Club’s breeders to improve the pedigree dogs health. A report by the Companion Animal Welfare Council called for many major changes as well, saying that “inbreeding needs to be controlled”, and “animals with genetic defects should be barred from breed shows.” Many people have rejected these claims, especially breeders, that these are purely based on emotions rather than science. In 2004, Jeff Sampson, the Kennel Club’s geneticist, said “Unfortunately, the restrictive breeding patterns that have been developed as part and parcel of the purebred dog scene have not been without collateral damage to all breeds…” and “increasingly, inherited diseases are imposing a serious disease burden on many, if not all, breeds of dogs.”. Despite that said, he still believes the vast majority of dogs registered will live long, happy, and healthy lives. This documentary also proved that out of 10,000 Pugs in the UK, they are so inbred that their genepool is only equivalent to 50 dogs, which was found from a study conducted at the Imperial College in London. It was also found that only two breeds, the Irish Setter, and the Irish Red and White Setter, have compulsory health tests, out of more than two hundred breeds that are registered. On 38 Degrees, a website designed for people to sign petitions, there is one regarding the compulsory DNA health screening of breeding dogs. This petition states that the change of ‘advisable’ to ‘mandatory’, and the refusal of the registration of puppies, unless the parents have passed all the available DNA screening tests. Currently, this petition has 395 signatures, out of the 400 needed.
On the website, Pedigree Dogs exposed, you can find another study that was conducted about English Bulldogs, where they found out of 24 healthy young English Bulldogs, the study from Finland concluded the prevalence of orthopaedic diseases, mainly hip dysplasia, are so common in the breed that unfortunately “no healthy individuals exist”. Out of the 24 dogs studied, only one had no signs of moderate or severe hip dysplasia, ¾ had at least one malformed vertebrae, ⅓ had luxating patellas, a condition where the patella or kneecap dislocates or moves out of normal location, and almost half had elbow dysplasia. Lead author, Anu Lappalainen said “One of the most worrying points of our study actually was that the owners of the dogs we studied, did not feel that their dogs were sick or poorly, which is alarming”.
As you can see, the pure greed and disregard breeders have about their litters is very evident. The ignorance and negligence of not only the breeders, but even the Kennel Club and the American Kennel club shows the lack of empathy they possess. They know and take advantage of the puppy-face they know we love, without considering the damage they are doing. Regardless of the science that has been proven with clinical trials, improper breeding tactics still happen. I don’t want to assume that both the Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club’s effort was all for show, but if they were serious, things would have changed by now. The practice of inbreeding animals is completely inhumane and will eventually eliminate the dogs gene pool, leading them into extinction. Gene testing should be implemented before mating, which would also eliminate the ‘backyard breeding’. Both Kennel Club’s should be enforcing these rules and not allowing dogs with dangerous genes to reproduce and further these genes, or even participate in their competition shows. When the Kennel Club’s allows ignorant breeders to do as they please, they are quite literally approving of these improper breeding practices without any repercussions.
To conclude the Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, Pug, and the French Bulldog along with any other breeds experience this very detrimental breeding. It is unfair for dogs to go under the stress of their illnesses, and same with their owners. The breeds I listed are some of the most expensive breeds, yet with some of the most expensive vet bills. For the price you pay for an adorable companion, the owner nor dog should have to face the consequences of ignorant breeding. Not only are these dogs prone to illnesses and diseases, but also have some of the shortest dog life expectancies. Hopefully, before adopting people will do research on their breed, and breeders and inquire if the parents suffer from genetic disorders. If the Kennel Club’s continue on this path instead of stopping these practices at the source, they can cause these breeds to unfortunately become extinct due to the diminishing gene pools from inbreeding. I understand how things like this can happen, since people see a cute smushed face puppy and instantly fall in love. To stop these dogs suffering, the Kennel Club’s must change their standards for breeds, eliminate inbreeding, mandate gene testing prior to mating, allow breeders to outbreed, and punish the breeders who break these rules. It is inhumane to allow these dogs to suffer for the greed of making money, without any consideration of their future and health.
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