This article originally appeared on VICE Australia
Australia has a problem with cute, tiny dogs. That is, we are buying too many. A study just released by researchers at the University of Sydney has found that registration of smushy puppers is on the up and up, and that's not good news. The thing about dogs with little bodies and big boof heads—and this is not the official term—is they're fucked.
Vets call these little dogs brachycephalic breeds, which basically means they have a short skull and smushed face. The most obvious examples are pugs and french bulldogs—though crossbreed dogs can suffer from smush too.
Professor Paul McGreevy, who helped put together the study, explained why these puppers never seem to breathe easy. "In dogs with short skulls, the teeth get crowded and the soft palate tends to become too loose and floppy," he told VICE. "The dog then struggles to acquire oxygen, and struggles to get rid of heat because it pants less efficiently."
The cute fold on their faces aren't great either. "As for skin problems," Paul said, "the folds of facial skin can develop eczema, and the eyelid may roll onto the cornea, causing a great deal of pain and sometimes blindness."
The study itself points out these dogs usually live for four full years less than normal breeds. Given the average dog get to its 12th birthday, that's a huge chunk of time—nearly a third of their could-be life.
It's one big, cute, sad, mess. And since these dogs keep getting more popular, the study concedes vets better get ready to treat more of the same health issues, as brachycephalic doggos clog up their surgeries.
Why are we buying dogs that literally can't breathe? It could be because we're lonely and lazy. Max Zuber, a vet from the University of Sydney, told the ABC he believes it's because we're living in smaller houses—so we need accordingly downsized dogs.
Paul is hesitant to make that connection. He thinks it's something simpler, and kind of dumber than that. "I think these dogs are very fashionable, they're very cute and they're very funny. But those aren't good reasons to deprive a dog of a good quality of life." Also, because of weird a misconception, "it's possible people perceive these dogs as needing less exercise." They're a popular choice for time-poor dog parents.
In short, the people responsible for the brachycephalic breed upswing could be busy city dwellers with tiny apartments who want the joy of a puppy but don't have the space or time for a normal dog. The same thing happened in New York, where the problem-riddled French Bulldog became the number one pup for city-dwellers.
This whole thing isn't great news for everyone who wanted a bobble-headed dog. It's also not too good for the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) because they're the group who set breeding standards for pedigree dogs—they decided that British Bulldogs should have "strikingly massive" heads and "extremely short" faces. Those are, essentially, the exact features the report advises against.
Right after the study was published, the Council jumped on Facebook to claim some of the researchers are out to "continue the relentless attack on purebred dogs." In the same post, they took the opportunity to reminded the Veterinary Faculty that their "grants to researchers at Sydney University have totalled $324,000" since 2000.
If the Uni keep up the research on brachycephalic dogs, the ANKC's breeding standards are going to look worse and worse. Wonder where they're going to put that money now.
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