That's the title of a hard-hitting article in the Canadian Veterinary Journal by veterinary dentist Dr Fraser Hale in which he says that breeding brachycephalic dogs is unethical.
Critics of Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekes, Boston Terriers and other short-faced breeds often focus on the dogs' inability to breathe - but as Dr Hale spells out, in pursuit of "cute" we have created dogs with hideously deformed mouths that often condemn the dogs to a lifetime of pain.
|A typical pug mouth|
"... the maxilla is too short compared to the mandibles. The upper incisors are in traumatic contact with the floor of the mouth and lower canine teeth. The maxillary premolars are so crowded that there may be no gingiva between and little or no bone support and the teeth may be rotated 90° or more.
"Some teeth may be under-erupted due to crowding and impaction against adjacent or opposing teeth. The result is that the animal effectively bites itself every time it closes its mouth and there is an extreme predisposition to early onset and rapid progression of periodontal disease.
"The traumatic contact between the maxillary incisors and the mandibular structures will often lead to traumatic pulpitis and pulp necrosis in the maxillary incisors. There is also often severe bunching-up of the palatal rugae with entrapment of hair, food, and bacteria leading to chronic, painful palatitis hidden from view at the bottom of the deep, closed folds.
"Some of the dental/oral liabilities associated with brachycephalism can be mitigated by proactive surgery (selective extraction), but many animals do not get to benefit from these procedures and so live with chronic dental pain and infection."Dr Fraser points out how illogical it is that veterinarians have campaigned for and, in many cases, achieved bans for cosmetic procedures such as ear-cropping, tail-docking and removal of dew claws which cause only temporary pain and yet have remained silent on this issue. He concludes:
I believe that as protectors of animal welfare, veterinarians should start a public awareness campaign to inform people of the serious, life-long negative impacts of brachycephalism. I believe we must stop referring to these conditions as “normal for the breed” and refer to them as “grossly abnormal in accordance with breed standards” because there is nothing remotely normal or desirable from the animal’s perspective. I believe we must stop using photographs of these deformed but comical breeds in advertising and promotional materials as this just increases public demand because they are “so cute.”
"I am sure these words are going to stimulate some lively, possibly acrimonious response. I am effectively saying that it is unethical to purposely reproduce animals that are specifically designed to have serious structural deformities. The extension of this thinking would be to ban a great number of breeds. Oh, the backlash! My word! But when one looks at it strictly from the animal’s perspective, there is no valid, logical justification for brachycephalism. Its only positive is that many people find brachycephalic breeds esthetically pleasing (cute) and that is not a valid excuse for wilful perpetuation of these mutations."
Read the whole article here:
Dr Hale, 54, runs a small-animal dental and oral practice in Guelph, Ontario (www.toothvet.ca). I emailed him some questions:
• was there a specific incident that prompted you to write the article?
This is something that has been bothering me for some years, and I always half joked that after I retire, when I do not care what people think of me (because it would not hurt my business), I would launch this campaign. I do not plan to retire for another 5-6 years at the earliest but I just could not keep silent any longer. The tipping point came when the newsletter of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association bore this cover.
On the one hand the cover talked about preventative care and on the other featured a montage of photos of a bulldog pup. The irony was too much to bear. So I wrote the editor a letter [which then formed the basis for the CVJ article]
• what response have you had to the article?
I have had no response and seen no replies to the piece in the CVJ. The Focus letter did spark some replies, most in support and a few taking a defensive stance. The Focus printed one positive and one negative letter. The negative letter was so full of logical holes that I did not bother responding to it. I have also mentioned this issue at a number of conferences and on an internet discussion board and I get lots of positive and supportive feedback from veterinarians. Aside from the one letter in the Focus, I cannot think of a single incident in which a veterinarian has given me any negative feedback so those that disagree with me are just keeping quiet about it.
• what do you think prevents veterinarians from speaking out more often?
Veterinarians are in a tough spot here. Imagine a new client shows up with their brand new pug puppy for first examination and vaccines. They have never had a dog before, have no idea what they have gotten themselves into and are just so happy and proud of their new bundle of joy. The veterinarian wants to keep this new client rather than scaring them away, so they are going to avoid all the negative and scary talk about all the problems that their pup is going to have with its mouth, its breathing, its eyes because it is a hideously deformed genetic mutation. So, they oh and ah over the cute little puppy and give it hugs and treats and send the owners home none-the-wiser about all the problems that are just around the corner. It is a bit of a conflict of interest. I am guilty of this too. I am concerned that if I get the reputation of being a brachy-hater, all of those clients with brachycephalics will go elsewhere and I lose 50% of my business. But if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem and I am getting tired of treating so much pathology that could be prevented simply by not creating deformed dogs and cats.
• do you share your frustration with the owners of the brachycephalic breeds you treat?
I try as diplomatically as I can to let them know that the reason their pet has so much pathology in the mouth is because of a serious craniofacial deformity. I have to judge each clients ability/willingness to hear this message and tailor my approach to that assessment. Some have said “If I had only known, I would never have gotten this breed”. I just wish people would research a breed thoroughly before they get their pet.
• which breeds are your main brachy clients?
There could easily be a geographic bias with this, some breeds being more popular in one area than another, but I see all sorts. Pugs, Boston terriers, French Bulldogs, shih tzus, boxers, lhasa apsos and all sorts of mixed breeds. Then as well as brachycephalic dogs, highly miniaturized ones also have terrible mouths, so add Yorkies, toy and teacup poodles, Chihuahuas, Maltese, Havanese, Bichons… and any crosses of these breeds. And that is just a partial list. Of course, the small brachycephalics are the worst of the bunch. Oh yes, add CKCSs to the list.