Twice as many flat-faced dogs were abandoned and sent to live at rescue shelters in 2018 than in 2014, a study has found.
Brachycephalic breeds have a snout that has been purposely shortened via intense selective breeding and it has given rise to a host of health issues.
They are regularly plagued with breathing issues, skin problems and eye conditions due to complications arising as a result of their shortened nose.
Experts believe that when these manifest in doggy middle-age, between three and four years old, owners struggle to cope with the demands and cost of treatment, forcing them to send their pets to rehoming centres.
Research from Nottingham Trent University shows the number of flat-faced dogs at 16 Dogs Trust and RSPCA centres doubled in from 24 in 2014 to 48 in 2018.
Research from Nottingham Trent University shows the number of flat-faced dogs at 16 Dogs Trust and RSPCA centres doubled in from 24 in 2014 to 48 in 2018 (stock)
Brachycephalic breeds, including the pug (stock), have a snout that has been purposely shortened via intense selective breeding and it has given rise to a host of health issues
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, looked at trends in dog abandonment over time.
One of the findings was that the number of dogs condemned to a life in a rescue shelter roughly follows the trends for certain breeds.
It also found dogs are more likely to be kicked out of their homes as they reach the age of three or four years old. More than a third (34 per cent) of all dogs fit into this age group.
Data from the study reveals brachycephalic breeds account for about five per cent of all dogs in rescue and rehoming centres.
Mixed breed dogs are the most common type of dogs in UK rescue and rehoming centres, accounting for 15 per cent of all residents.
Staffordshire bull terriers (ten per cent), lurchers (eight per cent) and Jack Russell terriers (three per cent) were the next most common breeds, they found.
While dogs are often abandoned as they enter their middle age at age three, the study found old pooches (over eight years old) are the least likely to be handed over to a rehoming centre, making up just 15 per cent of all dogs.
The fad for owning a lap-sized dog with a flat face like the pug, Frenchie and bulldog began several years ago, with puppies adopted at the start of the trend now older and potentially struggling with health problems.
‘We have found that breeds in rescue centres appears, to some degree, to be reflecting the changing trends of breed popularity in the UK,’ said Dr Anne Carter from Nottingham Trent University, co-author of the study.
‘The increasing numbers and rising popularity of brachycephalic breeds is already influencing the demographic spread in rescue centres.
‘This pattern that is likely to continue, particularly as these dogs reach 3–4 years old, which we have found is the most common age for dogs being relinquished.’
Dr Carter also warns that the chronic health issues that plague these breeds means oftentimes treatment can be expensive, draining the limited resources of charities.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: ‘Unfortunately, flat-faced breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs can have chronic health problems, such as poor breathing, caused by the way they’ve been bred to have exaggerated features.
‘This can cause serious problems and require expensive corrective surgery, sometimes leading to dogs being abandoned or signed over into a charity’s care.
‘The RSPCA urges people to stop and think if they want to buy a flat-faced dog and to consider an alternative breed or crossbreed with a lower risk of health problems.’
Data from the study reveals brachycephalic breeds account for about five per cent of all dogs in rescue and rehoming centres. Mixed breed dogs are the most common type of dogs in UK rescue and rehoming centres, accounting for 15 per cent of all residents
Previous research has also found fla-faxed dogs are twice as likely to suffer from heat stroke compared to other breeds. For the bulldog, this figure is 14 times as likely
Many dogs with shortened noses are affected by a condition called Bracycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, or BOAS.
Previous research has also found they are twice as likely to suffer from heat stroke compared to other breeds.
However, some breeds are at even more significant risk.
The English bulldog, for example, is 14 times more likely to get heat stroke than a Labrador, which was found to be at no greater risk than cross-breeds and used as the experiment’s control.
Other flat-faced dogs at increased risk include the French bulldog (6x), Dogue de Bordeaux (5x) and the pug (3x).
Scientists found extreme selective breeding for flat faces has made it almost impossible for them to cool down.
Dogs do not sweat like humans and therefore rely heavily on panting to lower their body temperature, but brachycephalism makes this process far less effective.
Just 20 minutes in a car can see them develop heat stroke, and it can be fatal to dogs. One in seven canines diagnosed with the condition dies as a direct result.
Scientist have identified the gene which is responsible for the squashed face and hope this can help alleviate the suffering of future generations of these breeds.
The faulty gene, called ADAMTS3, is linked with fluid retention and causes the lining of the airways to swell, causing wheezing.