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Brachycephaly, or a shortened facial structure, is the result of a genetic mutation in dogs that changes the way the bones in their skulls grow. Certain dogs that are bred that way have flat faces, short noses, and misshapen nostrils. This is linked to different health problems, including a range of respiratory problems.
Pugs are one of the well-known dog breeds that have this condition. And a recent study has warned that pugs can “no longer be considered a typical dog from a health perspective.”
According to the research published by the Royal Veterinary College, pugs have the highest risk of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, being almost 54 times more likely to have this condition. In the study, 4,308 pugs and 21,835 non-pugs were compared. Pugs in the United Kingdom are about twice as likely as other dogs to suffer from one or more diseases each year.
This comes as no surprise, according to Dr. Myfanwy Hill, a veterinary surgeon at the University of Cambridge. “The issue you’ve got is a dog with a smaller skull, but nothing else about the dog has gotten equivalently smaller.”
Dr. Hill says that the common images we see of pugs that we think are cute and joyful are not normal. Their tongues stick out because they can not breathe efficiently through their nose. They have excessive skin on their faces, which is prone to infections. And their tail is a result of a malformed vertebra, resulting in more slipped discs.
“This study clearly demonstrates how it is the extreme characteristics many owners find so appealing, such as squashed faces, big eyes and curly tails, which are seriously compromising pugs’ health and welfare and often result in a lifetime of suffering.” Justine Shotton, British Veterinary Association president, said.
Breeding clubs, veterinarians, and animal welfare organizations have been urged to cooperate in order to teach the public about potential pug health issues. According to the British Veterinary Association, people should avoid buying brachycephalic breeds.
Dr. Dan O’Neill, associate professor in companion animal epidemiology at the RVC and lead author of the paper, said, “Although hugely popular as pets, we now know that several severe health issues are linked to the extreme body shape of pugs that many humans find so cute. It is time now that we focus on the health of the dog rather than the whims of the owner when we are choosing what type of dog to own.”