Freak dog breeds attacked by vets

Swedish dog breeders are breeding unhealthy animals just for their fashionable looks, the country's veterinary association has said.

Freak dog breeds include Boston terriers and French bulldogs, of which 40 percent are born through caesarian, as their heads are too large to be born naturally.

The Swedish Veterinary Association (SVA) has gone on the attack against the Swedish Kennel Club, saying that its guidelines for pedigrees are resulting in animals that suffer poor health and discomfort.

“The guidelines result in an increase in certain kinds of injuries and disease in certain breeds,” said Johan Beck-Friis, spokesman for the SVA and himself a vet.

He said that the over-breeding “certainly” reduces some dogs’ lifespan.

“The English bulldog, for example, has a very narrow trachea. In a dog show earlier this year in Stockholm, a dog died because it couldn’t breathe,” Beck-Friis told The Local.

Vets say they are seeing an increasing number of unhealthy dogs with extreme appearances. The issue is the subject of a documentary to be screened on TV3 on Thursday evening.

Other breeds that are falling victim include German shepherds, the legs of which are getting more and more sloped. Cocker spaniels have also become victims of trends, being bred with heavy ears that stick tightly to the head, which makes them susceptible to infection.

“I think that some people are interested in having dogs that are as special as possible – but they’re not thinking about the dog’s function,” says Beck-Friis.

Vets stress that they are not making a stand against pedigree dogs in general, just against extreme breeding.

“It’s possible to have a cocker spaniel that’s healthier than many of those we see today. There are plenty of good breeds of pedigree dog, but there are others that are not healthy,” he said. He added that the SVA had written to the Swedish Kennel Club to try to establish cooperation on the issue.

In a statement on Thursday, the Swedish Kennel Club said it was “very self-critical” over the fact that it hadn’t been more successful in combating the health problems associated with pedigree breeding.

The club also said that its rules for dog shows forbid prizes going to dogs that are aggressive or have anatomical defects that affect dogs’ health and wellbeing. But, the club said, breeding was a slow process, and problems couldn’t be fixed overnight. It said that it would welcome a deeper partnership with Sweden’s vets to address the problem.

Beck-Friis said on Thursday afternoon that he had not received a direct response from the kennel club. But, he said, he would be willing to be part of a “cooperation to change the direction of breeding in this country.”