Breeders ‘failing to put health over beauty’, vets say

A panel of veterinary experts has called for “a championing of health over breeder-led perfect looks” after it accused Crufts breeders of “failing to put health over beauty”.

The Dog Breed Standards Panel was chaired by Lars B. Andersen, CEO of Arty Lobster and featured professionals such as TV vet and author Emma Goodman Milne, vet and pet commentator Pete Wedderburn, homeopathic vet Vince McNally, and veterinary professional Mark Hedberg.

Two breed profiles for a Pug and a German Shepherd were discussed, one profile of each dog dated back 100 years or more, while the other was of the modern day variety. The experts unanimously condemned today’s “unhealthy” dog breed types.

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Wedderburn, said when examining the images of the pugs: “This (older-type) animal will clearly suffer from fewer health issues, for instance better breathing, no skin folds that get infected, no corneal ulcers due to bulging eyes, and better dentition due to a less crowded mouth.”

Vince the Vet founder, McNally, added that the original Pug had a longer muzzle giving it “a much healthier upper respiratory tract” making breathing easier and the respiratory system “far less prone to infections” and the “signs and complications associated with Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome”.

Looking at the German Shepherd from around a century ago, Wedderburn said: “The posture is a far more natural position, with a straight back, vertical hind legs, and probably far healthier spine and hips.”

Goodman Milne, an animal welfare campaigner, said: “While it is clear that some breeders are striving for health over looks there are very many breed standards that simply do not conform to health because of either closed gene pools with high levels of inherited disease or, more recently, more and more extreme conformation. Breeding for looks by definition puts health in second or third place.”

Veterinary speaker, Hedberg added: “Current dog breeding standards still focus overwhelmingly on appearance, rather than health, and while it’s encouraging to see more requirements for health testing in at risk breeds, people still prioritize looks over long term health, and even quality of life. As long as health is second to looks, this problem will persist.

“The ‘modern’ pug has thick folds of skin that can get inflamed and infected when wet, and the nasal passages are so constricted it’s constantly fighting to breathe. The soft palate is squashed in the back of the throat as well, so many of the ‘modern’ dogs require surgery just to live a relatively quality life.”

Chair Andersen, concluded: “How can we stand by when some breeders are still putting perceived ‘good looks’ over health in their dogs? Whether it causes pain or leaves a dog literally struggling to breathe like a Pug or unable to give birth naturally like an English Bulldog, we all need to take a stand against irresponsible breeding practices. This can start at Crufts where the world looks on as the ‘ideal’ examples of dog breeds strut their stuff.”

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