A young bulldog is facing lengthy specialist treatment and possible surgery to improve his quality of life due to ‘excessive wrinkles’ caused by extreme breeding.
Sixteen-month-old British bulldog Rubble was taken in by the RSPCA Cumbria West branch in February when his owner could no longer take care of him.
Ally Chester, from the branch, said: “When Rubble came into us he was suffering with his skin, possible allergies and due to being overweight. We’ve been told on multiple occasions by several vets that, sadly, Rubble is a very bad example of his breed. He has too many wrinkles and skin rolls that have caused nasty skin infections.”
Rubble needs medicated baths three times a week and takes antibiotics for his skin condition. His excessive skin rolls have also caused bilateral entropion – a condition in which the eyelid rolls inward and rubs the eye – for which he requires daily eye drops and lubricant. He’ll need surgery to correct his eyes and prevent further pain from the condition.
Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert, said: “Sadly, entropion and skin conditions are just two problems that we can see all too often in brachycephalic breeds – also known as flat-faced breeds – who have been bred to have extreme features in order to make them more appealing to buyers.
“But this has, in turn, led to generations of dogs who struggle to breathe, in constant pain and discomfort due to poor skin and painful eye problems, and many with severe allergies.”
Rubble also suffers from allergies and tests have revealed that he is allergic to grass pollen, causing his eyes to redden and swell up. Staff hope that the entropion surgery and possible excessive skin removal around his face may relieve some of the discomfort when his allergies flare up.
Ally added: “When Rubble sleeps on his tummy, the wrinkles around his muzzle almost completely cover his nose. We’re waiting for formal diagnosis but he struggles to sleep and his breathing is terrible; he gets really tired, pants excessively, his nostrils are tiny and he overheats quickly. He’s a wreck. It’s so sad to see.
“Our vet believes he may need surgery for brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, a group of conditions that affect his breathing and quality of life. He’s currently losing weight so once he’s at a healthier weight we’ll look into possible surgery for his airways and a potential facelift to remove the excess skin.”
Rubble is now looking for a new home with owners who understand his health problems and can commit to any future surgery or management he may need to help him have a good quality of life. Ideally, he’s looking for a home without other pets but he could live with another dog and with older children.
Ally added: “Any potential adopters will need to commit to potentially managing his allergies and skin problems for the rest of his life. Taking on any dog is a huge responsibility but brachycephalic dogs can be a serious financial commitment due to the veterinary costs they can incur.”
This treatment can be expensive and often isn’t covered by insurers. The RSPCA 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%.
With the surge in demand for pets during lockdown there are fears that more brachycephalic dogs, cats and rabbits 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.
RSPCA chief vet Caroline Allen said: “Our desire for cuteness and the selection for shorter, flatter faces – known as brachycephaly – has resulted in dogs who struggle to breathe.
“Their excessive soft tissue causes obstruction in their airways and their abnormally narrowed nostrils and windpipes leave them gasping for air. Struggling to breathe, or even sleep is very distressing and affected dogs are struggling with this every day, with serious impacts on their welfare. They also face eye problems, skin concerns due to excessive wrinkles, and painful back conditions due to corkscrew tails.
“We understand why there is so much love out there for these breeds. But it’s wrong that we’re knowingly breeding for features which compromise their basic health and welfare.”
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.