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Great expectations, inconvenient truths, and the paradoxes of the dog-owner relationship for owners of brachycephalic dogs

Ann Milligan

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Packer RMA, O’Neill DG, Fletcher F, Farnworth MJ (2019) Great expectations, inconvenient truths, and the paradoxes of the dog-owner relationship for owners of brachycephalic dogs. PLoS ONE 14(7): e0219918. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0219918 

 

Abstract

Popularity of brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog breeds is increasing internationally despite well-documented intrinsic health and welfare problems associated with their conformation. Given this apparent paradox, greater understanding of the expectations and reality for brachycephalic dog owners and factors driving the dog-owner bond are needed. This study reports a large-scale online survey with valid responses from 2168 owners of brachycephalic dogs (Pugs: n = 789, median age of dogs 2.5 years; French Bulldog: n = 741, median age 2.0 years; Bulldogs: n = 638, median age 2.5 years). The most common owner-reported disorders in their dogs were allergies, corneal ulcers, skin fold infections and Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). One-fifth (19.9%) of owners reported that their dog had undergone at least one conformation-related surgery, 36.5% of dogs were reported with a problem with heat regulation, and 17.9% with problems breathing. Despite awareness of their dog’s health issues, 70.9% owners considered their dog to be in very good health or the best health possible. Paradoxically, just 6.8% of owners considered their dog to be less healthy than average for their breed. Dog owner-relationships were extremely strong across all three breeds. Emotional closeness to their dog was highest for owners of Pugs, female owners, and owners with no children in the household. Ownership of brachycephalic dog breeds is a complex phenomenon, characterised by extremely strong dog-owner relationships and unrealistic perceptions of good health set against high levels of disease in relatively young dogs. Perceptual errors in owner beliefs appear to exist between brachycephalic owner perspectives of their own dog’s health versus the health of the rest of their breed, which may be fuelled by cognitive dissonance processes. These novel data improve our understanding of the cognitive processes and relationships that facilitate the rising popularity of breeds that paradoxically are affected by high levels of conformation-related morbidity.

Comment: Breeder View

This study may be of interest to clubs or breeders who are responsible for educating buyers regarding health concerns present in Pugs, Bulldogs and French Bulldogs. Value exists in educating potential owners of these breeds as to health concerns that may impact owner experiences with their dogs over a given dog's lifetime. The reality is, the dog's ages represented in this survey may have had a some influence on owner assessments of costs of veterinary care and of owner perceptions of time and resources dedicated to caring for their dog - costs and perceptions that may change as their dog ages.  It was not entirely clear to me the source of dogs whose owners participated in this survey - in other words from whom were the dogs purchased - show breeders (health tested/conformation evaluated dogs) or other sources. The references listed in this research provide perspective.  DogWellNet has collected a number of resources that address the Brachycephalic Issue. The IPFD's Dog Health Workshops have included plenary talks from the Extremes of Conformation theme in which stakeholder concerns over management of health and welfare in brachycephalic breeds and actions to improve matters are addressed.

 

 

 

Related article: JAVMA:

Owners of brachycephalic dogs are a complicated lot

Posted Oct. 9, 2019

This article is an easy read and summarizes the study.



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