With their big eyes, snub noses and compact size it’s no wonder that flat-faced breeds, such as French Bulldogs and Pugs, are a favourite with celebrities and public alike – but their Disneyesque looks come at a breathtaking price.

Their flat faces mean these dogs have been bred to have short, obstructed airways and they often need major, or even life-saving surgery just to be able to breathe. New statistics released today show that in 2018, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home performed this operation – known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) surgery – more than ever before in their 159-year history.

In 2015, Battersea performed just seven BOAS surgeries. Three years later, in 2018, the world-famous shelter had to operate a staggering 62 times.

Flat-faced dogs have become increasingly popular and the most popular of all brachycephalic dog breeds is the French Bulldog which, according to the Kennel Club, has become the UK’s most popular dog breed. In 2018, Battersea took in 40 French Bulldogs, a huge leap from the eight that came through their gates in 2014.

Battersea also took in more Pugs than ever before, with 47 coming to the rescue centre in 2018, compared to 38 the previous year and 36 in 2014. 

Flat-faced breeds often struggle to breathe in a normal way, which has a huge impact on their lives – making it difficult for them to do simple things such as running or playing.

To be able to breathe properly, many of these dogs will require complex BOAS surgery to open up their airways. However, this surgery is sadly no miracle cure, and – even after the procedure – many of these dogs will only be able to have limited exercise.

Battersea’s Head Vet, Shaun Opperman said:

“While breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs are undoubtedly cute, they’re also a classic example of irresponsible, selective breeding. Over the years, breeders have chosen the flattest-faced dogs in the litter to breed, and this has created traits that are dangerous and damaging to the dog’s health.”

“Many French Bulldogs and Pugs now have airways that are so narrow, it would be the equivalent of us breathing through a drinking straw. The corrective surgery massively improves their quality of life, but it’s a risky, invasive operation and recovery can be very complicated.”

Shaun Opperman continues:

“The dogs Battersea takes in really holds a mirror up to society and reflects what breeds are the most popular at that moment. Sadly, that mirror also shows the ugly side of dog ownership, and- for these dogs- looks literally can kill. The rising number of Brachycephalic dogs is one of the biggest welfare issues that Battersea is facing right now, which is heart-breaking to see.”