A litter of hairless French bulldogs has been branded a worrying example of “extreme breeding” by the British Veterinary Association, which has voiced concerns that some owners are prioritising novelty over the health of their pet.
The dogs are believed to have been bred in Scotland and to be the result of crosses between French bulldogs, Pugs and Chinese crested dogs. They are thought to be the first litter of hairless French bulldogs in the UK.
But the national body for veterinary surgeons in the UK has warned that while the puppies might be healthy, they could end up with myriad problems, including a susceptibility to sunburn and heat stress as well as breathing difficulties.
“Just because people like things to look a certain way it shouldn’t justify people being able to do things to these dogs that we know is going to cause potential harm and suffering and welfare issues,” said Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association.
“I’m just really disappointed when I see things like this and I wish that we can get potential owners to understand how much some of this extreme breeding really does affect the day to day welfare of these dogs,” she added.
It is not the first time hairless French bulldogs have been produced – one such dog made headlines when it entered the US after apparently being bought from China. At the time of the report vets described the animal as a “monster” and raised concerns that it could be at increased risk of painful acne, dermatitis and skin cancer.
Shotton said the latest litter is just one example of extreme breeding, adding the novelty factor, “cuteness”, or chance to notch up likes on social media may be among the motivations for breeding and buying unusual crosses.
“We feel like a lot of these types of dogs that are being marketed as very rare or particularly unique, are just being bred as a sort of popularity thing to get people potentially attracted to these dogs, because they’re almost a status symbol, rather than thinking about the welfare of the dogs themselves,” she said.
Shotton added that while crossbreeds have sometimes been thought to be healthier than pedigree dogs, that is not necessarily the case, noting that crossing breeds that have particular health issues can mean the offspring get the worst of both worlds.
“Unfortunately, in some of the crosses, [vets are] seeing a multiplication of problems,” she said.
Hairless dogs can find it difficult to keep warm and are at increased risk of sunburn, and other skin problems, while flat-faced, or brachycephalic, dogs are known to be at increased risk of breathing difficulties, as well as being prone to heatstroke, eye ulcers, spinal problems and skin disorders.
A new study published in the journal Plos One by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College, found that flat-faced dogs have almost seven times the odds of prolapsed nictitating membrane gland – or “cherry eye” – compared with dogs that have a head of medium proportions, with high levels of this disorder also seen in “designer” crosses such as Puggles.
If not dealt with, the authors warn the condition can lead to chronic problems including inflammation or infection which may cause discomfort or pain.
Dr Dan O’Neill, co-author of the study, said the development of new flat-faced breeds with even more extreme characteristics – as would be the case with hairless French bulldogs – goes against the position of the UK Brachycephalic working group who have described such breeding as “unacceptable”.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) said crosses of certain dogs were worrying, adding the organisation has a confidential helpline for anyone with concerns about low-welfare breeding.
“The Scottish SPCA is extremely concerned about the increase in unscrupulous breeders breeding dogs with exaggerated characteristics and attempting specialist medical procedures without training. We are spearheading a taskforce to look in to these issues specifically,” they said.