August 4, 2022

Cost of a trendy pup; the flat-faced issue explained

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Humanity has been playing god and creating new breeds for a long time now, and the moment to take responsibility has arrived

People often turn to trends when buying the newest and fanciest. And while a piece of clothing will not suffer, because of this tendency, a living animal will. The aim should be to get a pup that suits the owner, not just to get a celebrity-owned breed.

The influence social media has on a person’s decision to get a dog is huge, but a soon-to-be owner should think about the financial and emotional side of caring for a breed that would suffer from health-related issues their whole life.

Doug the Pug is known as a celebrity pet and global internet sensation, who even starred in an Oscar-nominated movie. With more than three million followers on each social media platform, this dog is considered the most popular Pug in the world. Attending movie premieres, winning People’s Choice Awards for Favourite Animal Star, and meeting celebrities is all a normal part of Doug’s life.

Even recently hashtags such as #puglife have been filling social media, with big-name celebrities including Lady Gaga, David Beckham, and Kelly Brook helping the promotion of brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, French Bulldogs, Shih-Tzus, and more.

Brachycephalic breeds are flat-faced, short-faced dogs. Breed-related issues are frequent for these dogs, the most notable of them being Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Fitzpatrick Referrals, a veterinary hospital, defines BOAS as ‘a group of conditions resulting from the body conformation of dogs with short noses’.

Breeds with flat faces usually have a bunch of different malformations, due to a shorter skull and/or skeleton. They have shorter noses, spines, and tails, but normal amounts of skin which can cause folds to form. Similarly, folds inside the body can also form – obstructing the airways.

Their noses are shorter which means the nostrils are more compressed together, contributing to breathing problems. BOAS can often be characterised by sleep apnoea – a shortness of breath, overheating, and regurgitation.

When looking at media’s obsession with such breeds, rarely will dog influencers mention the health issues that accompany them throughout their life. The issue of BOAS is overlooked and not talked about enough.

In a paper for the Canadian Veterinary Journal, Koharik Arman writes how ‘Many owners have no concept of the potential health obstacles that their newly purchased purebred dog may have to face, and they may have made very different decisions in their pet search had they anticipated the financial and emotional grief that could ensue’.

Often ruling out weird sounds that the puppy makes as ‘cuteness’, owners leave their dogs' health problems unsolved.

In 2017, the British Veterinary Association (BVA), reported how the Voice of Veterinary Profession survey revealed 56 percent of the brachycephalic dogs vets see needed treatment directly due to breed-related issues. Alarmingly, BVA found ‘only around 10 percent of affected dog owners recognise the snoring, snorting, and quirky coping behaviours as abnormal, so BOAS often goes untreated’.

A heartfelt message by one of the vets at Bilton Veterinary Center in Rugby popped up on Facebook in 2017, who was tired of seeing an incredible amount of cases related to poor breeding practices. The post read, “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE STOP AND THINK before you buy. Come and talk to US about the breeds that you are interested in – and we shall give you the whole picture”.

Blanket banning and smuggling

The French Bulldog ‘has seen an astronomical 2964 per cent increase in the last ten years and is likely to be 2018’s top dog – a title held by the Labrador for almost three decades’ reports The Kennel Club (KC) in an article about the welfare impact of bad breeding practices ‘cashing in on the latest trend’.

Being placed on the board of favourites by advertisers and celebrities alike, KC also reports how puppy smuggling has been increasing in popularity. Unregistered and undocumented French bulldogs, many of which being brought into the country illegally, only increase health concerns further.

While countries like Norway and the Netherlands have been banning breeding of brachycephalic animals, many voiced their concerns about bans themselves, and how they can only increase poor breeding practices.

Bill Lambert, a KC welfare and breeder services executive, wrote to VIN news explaining its stance; “We are concerned about this blanket breeding ban in Norway and don’t believe it is a solution to prevent poor breeding practices or any of the complex health issues some Bulldogs and Cavalier Kings Charles spaniels can face”.

Instead he offers a solution, writing “a more effective approach is to continue to work collaboratively with breeders, vets, scientists and welfare organisations to research, understand and take a scientific approach with evidence-based actions”.

Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) in an article by World News Today, also voices its concern about the new regulations. It identified how there is a significant difference between a breeding ban and a breed ban. A breed ban can exclude certain breeds from certain territories, whereas a breeding ban just opens up an opportunity for irresponsible breeders to join the game.

In practice, a breeding ban will not stop the growing numbers of these dogs. Unfortunately, this will only increase the number of health issues, because both the legal health requirements and the health status information of animals being bred, will simply disappear.

Written by

Sofia Radysh


Born in 2005, Sofia lived in Kyiv, but now, because of the war, is a refugee in London.

Humanity has been playing god and creating new breeds for a long time now, and the moment to take responsibility has arrived.

While the opinions of experts vary on what exact measures should be taken regarding the flat-faced issue, it is agreed that something should be done.

We cannot place aesthetics and cuteness above the health and welfare of these breeds.

Written by:


Sofia Radysh

Science Section Editor

Animal welfare correspondent

Kyiv, Ukraine | London, United Kingdom

Born in 2005, Sofia lived in Kyiv, but now, because of the war, is a refugee in London. She is interested in animal welfare and how current events and social media impact the lives of our four-legged friends, and writes about this in Harbingers’ Magazine.

In 2022, she took over from Isaac Kadas as the second editor-in-chief of Harbingers’ Magazine.

In her free time, she does dog training and film-making. She likes getting out of her comfort zone and trying new things out.

Sofia speaks Ukrainian, English, Russian and a bit of German.


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