The British Veterinary Association is urging animal lovers to pick health over looks and avoid the internet-fuelled craze for designer pets with ‘cute’, unusual or extreme features, such as English Lop rabbits, Scottish Fold cats, bubble-eye goldfish and miniature horses.
The organisation said it is concerned that many pet owners may not be aware of health and welfare issues that animals bred with extreme features suffer from. These problems may not be immediately obvious, but often cause life-long misery for our pets – for instance, dogs that are unable to breathe normally, rabbits unable to eat, cats with severe arthritis, and fish that cannot see or swim properly.
Earlier this year, BVA launched the #BreedtoBreathe campaign to raise awareness about the issues associated with extreme breeding in brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dogs such as Pugs, French bulldogs and English bulldogs, whose shortened skull shape leads to trouble breathing normally, overheating, eye disease and inability to mate or give birth naturally.
In the survey, vets said they found only 10% of dog owners could recognise their brachycephalic dog’s breed-related health issues, while 75% were unaware these potential problems even existed before deciding on the breed.
BVA president Simon Doherty said: “We know that flat-faced dogs have exploded in popularity in the UK in recent years, fuelled by their being a must-have for many celebrities and on social media.
“While the UK population of some pets with extreme features is small at present, we are worried that the internet popularity of breeds like miniature horses, the English Lop rabbit, the very flat-faced Persian cats, or ornamental fish bred for bubble eyes or shortened bodies may prompt increased demand among consumers who are unaware of the potential serious health and welfare issues associated with such breeding.
“These hereditary problems are distressing for the animals and can be costly for the owners to treat. If you’re looking for a pet, our advice is to pick health over looks and choose a healthier breed instead.”