Whoever wants a deformed dog?

Last night, I watched Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On, having watched the first programme when it was originally aired in 2008. It went into graphic and disturbing detail about what happens to pedigree dogs who have been badly inbred over several generations, and a little while after the first programme went out, I went to an RSPCA conference and saw vet Mark Evans give a talk about the subject. It was worse than I’d thought, and in the talk, he also discussed pedigree cats, which have similar problems.

In this ‘revisited’ programme, the reporter Jemima Harrison went back to the subject, wanting to discover if much, if anything, had changed since her last programme. The sad truth is that not much has.

Many breeds of dogs, that are seen as ‘beautiful’ by the Kennel Club, suffer immeasurably because of the way they have been bred to look. Bulldogs and  pugs find it difficult to breathe because their faces are so unnaturally flat. The folds of skin on pugs’ noses are breeding grounds for bacteria, and it’s difficult to clean them because it’s so painful for them and they fidget. Cavalier King Charles spaniels are particularly prone to the awful condition syringomyelia, which basically means fluid on the spinal cord and brains which don’t have enough room to grow inside their skulls. It’s been found that 70% of these little dogs have the condition by the time they’re 6 years old. I’ll repeat that in words: seventy per cent! Dalmations have a condition that means many of them develop bladder stones – eventually, these stones grow so large that the dogs can no longer wee – so they’re in great pain until their bladders rupture, at which stage they’re almost certain to die a horrible death. A new gene has been introduced to this breed, but the Kennel Club are not happy about this. Ergo, the official body which supposedly regulates the breeding of pedigree dogs would rather they suffer and die than change the system.

More than one breeder in the programme said certain breeds should be allowed to die out. They simply should not be bred any more. The Cavalier, the bulldog, the pug… breeders have been so obsessed with looks that the dogs’ health seems not even to have been taken into account. Surely they would prefer healthy, happy dogs who have a chance of a decent life? If not, it beggars belief.

Some dogs have so much excess skin that it gets infected. Some have heavy eye skin and can’t see properly. Basset hounds have so much heavy skin that they’re almost tripping over it. Some dogs have tongues that are too big for their mouths. (I’ve had personal experience of this. My best friend and her man acquired a Pekingese whose tongue lolls because it’s too big for him. When they feed him by hand, they have to do it a certain way to make sure he can physically eat what they give him. At least the little man is in the best place, as they take great care of him and won’t breed from him. And my ex and I looked after the two family dogs, Cotons de Tuléar, and they also had problems, including delicate tummies and heart murmurs.)

It’s breeding that’s the problem. Stud dogs who have genetic diseases and conditions that they then pass on to their puppies. Show champions made to sire large numbers of litters pass on whatever condition they’re carrying to the pups, thereby spreading it further. The report found that many boxers across the country have juvenile kidney disease, and end up poisoned from the inside out and most of these were sired by a single stud dog.

Not all pedigree dogs suffer so badly, of course. But those with physical deformities cannot possibly live comfortable, carefree lives in the way owners would like to think they do.

So this blog entry is me doing my part to stamp out this horrific practice. The more people who know about it, the fewer dogs will suffer. The RSPCA has a campaign called Born To Suffer, which I’ve added my name to. Because they’re right: no dog is born to suffer.

We in the UK are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers. Now it’s time to prove it by stamping this out.

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