French Bulldogs are currently experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity.
Like Pugs and Bulldogs, French Bulldogs have a condition known as brachycephaly, which means ‘short head’.
In February 2015 I wrote an article entitled Britain Says Yes To Brachycephaly. The Kennel Club had recently released its dog registrations statistics for 2014, and it was with sadness, that many who care about dog welfare viewed some of the changes that had taken place.
I reported that despite increasing concerns about the health conditions suffered by brachycephalic dogs, their popularity was continuing to rise.
And as a result, more puppies were being born each year, that suffer from brachycephaly. This year (2016) I went back to see how things had changed.
Why are dog experts concerned about flat faced dogs?
Brachycephalic dogs are dogs with flattened faces. Dogs without muzzles cannot cool or oxygenate themselves effectively and are prone to heat stroke, severe respiratory problems, dental problems, and eye disorders.
Brachycephaly is a disability. Many brachycephalic puppies have a range of other health issues to cope with too.
Many veterinarians and dog health campaigners have tried to highlight the health issues in breeding dogs without sufficient muzzle length, and the public were seemingly becoming gradually more aware of these problems.
So it was with great sadness and some surprise that we viewed this year’s release of the 2015 registration statistics.
The figures show that not only have these important health campaigns failed to slow the growth in enthusiasm for purchasing brachycephalic puppies, those numbers are actually still rising.
The increase in brachycephaly
In 2013 there were 20,830 brachycephalic puppies among the top ten most popular breeds. 2014 saw this number rise to 24,873. And in 2015 it rose even more steeply to 31,654 puppies.
Brachycephalic puppies accounted for 18% of puppies registered in the top ten most popular breeds in 2013. This rose to 21% in 2014 and to 26% in 2015.
A quarter of our favourite dogs are born disabled
This means that a quarter of all the most popular dogs born in the UK are now profoundly brachycephalic.
This growth was predominantly fuelled by a significant increase in the popularity of French Bulldogs.
Their registrations rose by 38% in 2014 – that’s an increase of around 3,000 puppies.
And by an astonishing 51% in 2015.
Pug and Bulldog numbers increased too, by 9% and 17% respectively.
The growth in French Bulldog puppy births, however, has been nothing short of astounding.
In the last six years it has gone from around two thousand puppies a year to nearly fifteen thousand puppies.
And the French Bulldog is now the third most popular dog in the UK.
Why so sad?
Why does this make us sad? Well, we are sad because here at The Happy Puppy Site we like to see puppies being bred from dogs in optimal health. Not just the best health for that breed, but the best health for dogs in general.
Breeding from healthy parents is an important part of ensuring happy healthy puppies.
To see so many registrations of healthy abled bodied puppies being replaced by registrations of dogs with severe structural problems, is a source of dismay to many who care about dogs.
Brachycephalic dogs have so many health issues built in to their conformation, that it is not possible for them to be as fit and healthy as a dog with a normal body structure.
Sadly, these three breeds also have other problems in addition to brachycephaly, you can read about them by clicking on the links below.
Raising awareness of brachycephaly
We don’t believe many people would purchase a severely brachycephalic puppy if they were aware of what lay in store for them.
The continuing growth in popularity of these dogs is an indication that the issues they suffer from is still not being sufficiently well publicised.
People are still being sold on the cute, human-like features of flat-faced dogs, without being aware of the serious disadvantages to a dog of having no muzzle.
Low energy means low oxygen
To many people there is an appeal in owning a ‘low energy’ dog, I often hear people describing their pug or bulldog as ‘lazy’. Sadly, this is simply not the case.
And again, most people would not purchase these puppies if they realised that the lack of energy is caused by a lack of oxygen. Not by a lack of enthusiasm.
Please spread the word.
We’re confident that once people are more aware of the unhappiness and suffering that brachycephaly can cause, Britain will begin to say NO to the purchasing of brachycephalic puppies. And return to purchasing able bodied puppies again.
We hope you will help us to spread the word.
You can find out much more about brachycephaly and the problems it causes in these articles.
- Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
- Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome
- Brachycephalic puppies: A pedigree dog health issue
Let’s have a look at how the positions have changed for the other dogs in the top ten
Who is in the top ten now?
There was no change at all in the UK’s top two most popular breeds. The gundog group still dominates the top two positions with the Labrador seemingly unassailable at no. 1 with over 32,000 puppies registered and with Cocker Spaniels confidently in place at no. 2.
I noted last year Springers at no. 3 could be in trouble if the rise in our love affair with brachycephaly continues as Pugs and French Bulldogs both notched up over 9,000 puppy registrations. And this has indeed happened with Springers now pushed down to 4th place and French Bulldogs soaring in to 3rd place with over 14,000 registrations.
Bulldog numbers increased significantly and they leapt from the no. 9 slot to no. 7.
There are no new entries into the top ten this year.
What can be done about brachycephaly?
It seems that there is no stopping the rise of brachycephaly, but dogs need us to campaign for the breeding of able bodied puppies.
It would be great if the Kennel Club would make a stand on this issue, but that is not going to happen anytime soon. So it really is down to us. We mustn’t give up on dogs.
I firmly believe that a French Bulldog, or any other breed, is a dog first and a French Bulldog second.
The needs of the dog to be able bodied and healthy must come first, before the individual aspirations of the breed clubs for a dog with a particular appearance or shape.
You can help by letting people know what brachycephaly does to dogs that are affected. You can help to raise awareness of these problems by writing about them and talking about them.
You can also join Jemima Harrison’s CRUFFA campaign on Facebook. And don’t forget to leave your comments below.