Warning over ‘heartbreak’ of toy dog ownership

Warning over ‘heartbreak’ of toy dog ownership

People who take their inspiration from celebrities and social media influencers when it comes to buying “toy” dogs are setting themselves up for heartbreak, a leading vet has warned.
The warning comes in the wake of the first study of the life expectancy of different breeds, with researchers finding that jack russells and Yorkshire terriers live longest, but brachycephalic breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs die young — often after a lifetime of pain, severe breathing difficulties and costly vet bills.

Lady Gaga, whose French bulldogs were stolen at gunpoint last year, is just one of the celebrity owners who have boosted their popularity of  flat-nosed dogs and the number of F4rench bulldogs registered with the Kennel Club soared by 1,300%, from 2,711 in 2011 to 39,266 in 2020.

Dr Dan O’Neill, co-author of the research and an associate professor at the Royal Veterinary College, said Pugs and French bulldogs were being deliberately bred with large eyes and flat faces to make them look like babies but this often resulted in eye problems, breathing problems and skin problems, because of excess skin.

Other problems associated with the breeds include spine issues, difficulty giving birth and a propensity to heatstroke.

‘The novelty wears off’

Dr O’Neill added: “The whole social influencer thing is huge. People buying a dog do tend to get what they want rather than what they need. What they often want is this cute shape that ‘X’ celebrity has, when really what they need is a healthy pet that has a nice long life in robust health.

“These dogs’ temperament is beautiful but owners end up having all the heartbreak of dogs that are unwell and live short lives.”

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, analysed 30,563 dog deaths registered by UK vets between 2016 and 2020. The dogs were split into 18 breeds.

Jack Russell terriers had the highest life expectancy at birth (12.7 years), followed by Yorkshire Terriers (12.5 years), Border Collies (12.1 years), and Springer Spaniels (11.9 years).

English Bulldogs had a life expectancy of 7.4 years and Pugs 7.6 years.

Across all dog breeds, the average life expectancy for male dogs was 11.1 years, four months less than the estimate for female dogs.

Dogs that had been neutered had a higher life expectancy (12 years for females and 11.5 years for males) than those that were not neutered.