Trio of Frenchies suffer chronic ear infections

Three French bulldogs have been undergoing extensive treatment for chronic ear problems – caused due to the way they’ve been bred for extreme features that make them ‘cuter’ to buyers.

Winnie (pictured above) has severe ear problems and is being treated with steroid medication and specialist ear cleaner. She came into the RSPCA’s care when her owners could no longer afford her veterinary bills. Sadly, this is something the animal welfare charity is seeing more and more for brachycephalic – or flat-faced dogs – like French bulldogs, British bulldogs and pugs.

The charity has launched a new campaign Save Our Breath urging the public not to buy breeds who cannot live normal lives due to the irresponsible way they’ve been selectively bred. It comes as the number of British bulldog puppies being registered with the Kennel Club increased 149%, between 2011 and 2020, while the number of French bulldogs registered soared by 1,317%.

This is also reflected in the number of Frenchies who are coming into RSPCA care having been abandoned or signed over, usually due to the cost of their veterinary needs. While Staffies still account for the largest proportion of dogs coming into the RSPCA, their numbers are steadily declining, while the number of Frenchies increased by 1,567% from three in 2015 to 50 in 2020.

Sadly, Winnie isn’t the only French bulldog in the care of RSPCA Little Valley Animal Shelter, in Devon, with health problems linked to the way she’s been bred.

Nova (pictured below) and Lady (bottom image), both Frenchies who were rescued by RSPCA inspectors and police along with a number of other dogs from a multi-animal household, also have chronic ear problems.

Lady had total ear canal ablation (TECA) surgery in one ear to remove the damaged part of the ear canal and is having treatment for the other ear, while Nova is also on a course of treatment for ear infections.

Fay Gale, Little Valley’s vet, said: “Five French bulldogs were recently taken in by the shelter. All of these dogs had a degree of airway obstruction but, fortunately, none were requiring surgery at this point. However, three out of five had long-standing ear problems.

“Skin and ear problems in the breed are often associated with allergic skin disease. This can often be managed but requires life-long treatment and can be expensive. If ear problems are long-standing or recurrent, resistant infections can develop and chronic changes lead to narrowing of the ear canal. In severe cases salvage surgery may be needed. This involves resection of the ear canal rendering the dog deaf in this ear.

“One of the dogs we rescued also had severe skin fold dermatitis on the face as a result of the deep skin folds on the muzzle.”

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “For years we have deliberately been breeding dogs in our pursuit for extreme body shapes including shorter, flatter faces. We’ve created generations of dogs with chronic health problems that impact their everyday quality of life.

“This has become such a huge welfare concern that we are left with only one option; to urge people not to buy them at all. Unfortunately, it is too risky to buy these pets because it is practically impossible to find a healthy one. This is a growing animal crisis and urgent intervention is required.”

With the surge in demand for pets during lockdown there are fears that more brachycephalic dogs – and other pets – will have been bred by breeders resulting in even more sickly animals who require expensive veterinary treatment to help them carry out the simplest of everyday tasks such as walking and playing.

And the RSPCA fears that more of these animals could be abandoned or relinquished to charity as their owners struggle to cope with costly veterinary bills as the cost of living soars.

The public has an important role to play in helping to improve the future health of these breeds. We need to stop seeing these pets as cute and recognise the serious health issues they face.

The Save Our Breath campaign seeks to educate the public about the impact of this type of breeding on dog welfare. The RSPCA would like people to consider getting an alternative breed or consider a crossbreed that has a lower risk of problems.

Dr Gaines added: “The future of these beloved breeds is in jeopardy and we need your help to save them. We need to do something about it, now.”

For those wishing to get involved in the Save Our Breath, there will be two surveys available to members of the public. One survey will collect crucial information on brachycephalic animals in advertising, while the other will allow the public to share their own experiences with these animals. This vital research will help inform the RSPCA’s experts as it works to protect future generations of these animals.

Find out more about the dogs at RSPCA Little Valley who are looking for homes, including Lady, online. Nova and Winnie have been rehomed already. And to donate to Little Valley visit their PayPal page.