Q: My daughter brought a French bulldog puppy home, and her medical problems are so expensive I’m having trouble paying for my children’s dental bills this month. I read an article you wrote on the Internet about how these dogs are “diseased by design.” How is it even legal to breed dogs that are so sick that most can’t even breathe, walk or reproduce without surgery?
A: The short answer: Because people like your daughter think they’re so cute they’re willing to risk the possibility of problems they don’t believe their puppy will ever have.
To be fair, it’s also because you were willing to bring a French bulldog into your household without doing some homework. At the very least, this involves learning that you should always purchase a health insurance policy if you can’t afford to take care of a pet’s healthcare expenses out of pocket.
But don’t worry. I won’t judge you too harshly. After all, you’re currently mastering firsthand what I wish no one would ever have to learn: that the most adorable breeds of dogs are often the least desirable, health-wise. (I should know; I’ve even adopted four Frenchies of my own, each one after owners responsibly elected to surrender them to someone more able to manage their medical conditions.)
Like many suburban veterinarians in the U.S., I’ve had a front-row seat to the surge in popularity of this and other snub-nosed breeds. French bulldogs were 2015’s third most popular breed in the US.
Unfortunately, their dramatic uptick in popularity has fueled a largely unregulated industry that breeds and peddles them with little interest in their long-term health. These are the commercial puppy millers, the uneducated backyard breeders, the unseen Internet sellers, the opportunistic International marketeers, and the puppy stores that serve as indiscriminate middlemen to them all.
But it’s not just the commercial crowd. The “responsible” breeders who take pride in ensuring their pups are happy and healthy are deserving of criticism, too.
Why so? Because breeding for the snub-nosed and short-limbed conformation that makes dogs like these so adorable means selecting for extreme traits derived from congenital deformities, traits that lead to progressive, life-threatening respiratory ailments along with painfully debilitating neurologic and orthopedic diseases –– not to mention skin conditions …
So how is it even legal? Because our culture has collectively agreed that it’s illegal to hurt pets by injuring them but it’s A-OK to breed painful deformity into them.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.