Inherent dangers of breeding dogs

Other countries restrict the breeding of 'Frankendogs.' The US should follow suit



April 12, 2024 - 2:56 PM

Most, if not all, “purebred” dogs are predisposed to a number of medical issues. (Vitaliy Nazarenko/Dreamstime/TNS)

Lawmakers around the world are proposing legislation that would spare dogs “torture breeding” — reckless practices that intentionally produce deformities such as dangerously flattened faces or abnormally elongated spines. Germany began cracking down on torture breeding back in 1986, and a new bill would strengthen the country’s existing regulations. Austria, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland have enacted similar laws — for good reason.

Dachshunds, whom Germany’s most recent proposal aims to help, have been selectively bred to have “skeletal anomalies.” Their lengthened spines and stubby legs often cause herniated discs and other painful back and joint problems that may require surgery and can even be fatal. These dogs may endure chronic pain their whole lives for nothing more than human whims about how they should look. And because dogs are stoic and often hide signs of pain or discomfort, their guardians may not even be aware of their suffering.

But dachshunds are far from alone. Bred for appearance without concern for their health, most, if not all, “purebred” dogs are predisposed to a number of medical issues. German shepherds and golden retrievers are prone to epilepsy and hip and elbow dysplasia. Studies have estimated that more than 90% of Cavalier King Charles spaniels have syringomyelia, an agonizingly painful condition in which their skulls are too small for their brains, forcing brain tissue to protrude through the base of the skull. French bulldogs, English bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, boxers and other flat-faced breeds are afflicted with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, meaning that these dogs struggle just to breathe.

Breeding dogs for the nearly snoutless faces that some buyers consider desirable leaves them with crumpled, constricted airways and a multitude of health issues. Breathing-impaired breeds (BIB) are plagued with sleep apnea, gagging, vomiting, fainting, dental issues, eye problems caused by misshapen skulls and laryngeal collapse caused by chronic stress on the cartilage and strain on the heart from fighting for air — and that’s only a partial list.

It can be challenging or even life-threatening for BIB dogs to run, play with other dogs at the park or enjoy a game of fetch. Even going for a walk can be difficult — and in the summertime, it can be deadly. Because dogs release body heat primarily through panting, BIB dogs — who can’t breathe as efficiently as dogs with normal airways — are at least twice as likely to be stricken with heatstroke.

The inability to exercise predisposes BIBs to obesity. And according to a recent study at the University of California-Los Angeles, their facial deformities may even hamper these dogs’ ability to smell — a vital sense that dogs rely on to navigate the world as much as humans rely on eyesight.

That’s why last month, a lawmaker in New Hampshire proposed a bill that would have prohibited breeding dogs for malformed, flattened faces. It garnered wide support from veterinarians, animal advocacy groups and guardians of BIB dogs. The measure is temporarily tabled for additional research, but the outlook is promising.

All countries should enact laws right now to protect dogs from vanity and greed-driven breeding practices that deprive them of their basic right to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. And with more than 70 million homeless dogs and cats in the U.S. at any given time, an end to all breeding would truly be a victory for the underdogs.