Vets urged to end ‘snobbery’ to tackle brachycephalic breeds problem

Vets urged to end ‘snobbery’ to tackle brachycephalic breeds problem

Vets have been urged to step off their “soapbox” when it comes to talking about brachycephalic breeds to stop the huge rise in canine fertility clinics across the UK.

That’s the view of former BVA president Daniella Dos Santos, who told BVA Live a degree of “snobbery” had forced many breeders to turn their backs on veterinary practices.

Speaking as part of the ‘Canine culture wars: who’s to blame for the rise in canine fertility clinics?’ debate. Dr Dos Santos said: “I feel that as a profession we all need to take some responsibility for this, and we need to change our approach and the way we express ourselves when it comes to brachycephalic breeds.

“Over the years the profession has generated a wealth of evidence that there are health issues with these breeds and that they do suffer.

“For us, as an evidence-based profession, this is what we wanted to see; something that we could go out there with and point to the owners and breeders, and say ‘this is the problem and this is how we can show you there is an issue’.

Since 2020 the number of fertility clinics has increased ten-fold as the demand for breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs has soared, despite overwhelming evidence about the many health problems associated with the breeds.

Dr Dos Santos, above added: “There has been policy after policy; warning after warning – everyone knows these brachycephalic dogs have the potential to suffer, and yet this keeps happening; the numbers just keep going up.

“So, what are we missing when we are standing on our education soapbox, shouting about how bad these dogs are?

“The problem is we are ignoring other bits of evidence because this is not an animal problem – this is absolutely a people problem.”

“The fertility clinics have opened to fill the gap in the market that we do not serve; that we fail to engage with. Our approach has clearly not worked – the demand for these dogs will remain high for the foreseeable future, however much we shout about it.

“In my opinion, there has also been a degree of breeder snobbery in the profession – many of us just see breeders as wanting to make a quick buck, and of course people are going to make money from breeding. But why don’t we have the same thoughts about breeders of spaniels or Labradors as we do about brachycephalic breeders?

“Generalising as a profession has meant that we have failed to adequately engage in small animal fertility work; we actively advise the neutering of dogs and this is the right decision for many, many dogs. But as a routine, conversations with new dog owners often follow the same pattern of ‘When are you going to neuter your dog?’, and not whether or not they intend to breed.

“We need to re-evaluate our collective and individual messaging around brachycephalics. We need to acknowledge why people love these dogs and use that as a hook as to why they should choose good breeders who avoid extremes of conformation. We need to stop our automatic judgement of these people – both owners and breeders.”