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Australia is a nation of dog lovers, but some of our most popular breeds – including French Bulldogs, Pugs, British Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Shar Peis – are suffering serious health issues because they’ve been bred to look a certain way.

That’s the worrying message from the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the RSPCA, who are running a joint campaign called Love Is Blind to raise awareness of the animal welfare problems for these dogs with exaggerated features.

It’s a timely message as many people consider adopting a new pet over the Christmas/New Year holiday period; while rising summer temperatures can also worsen the risks for existing owners of these breeds.

Campaign spokesperson, Dr Rachele Lowe, says she sees a lot of dogs in her practice that require ongoing treatment, and in many cases surgery, to correct problems caused by exaggerated features.

“Some of the features that we’re particularly concerned about include the very short muzzle that we see in dogs like Pugs and French and British Bulldogs. This can lead to severe breathing problems, chronic sleep deprivation, heat stress and heat stroke.

“Another feature that compromises the health and welfare of a dog are the excessive skin folds, which are common in dogs like Pugs and Shar Peis. Ongoing medical treatment and even surgical intervention in some cases is required to manage chronic skin infections caused by the excess skin.

“And then there’s the stunted growth and short stature of Dachshunds, Corgis and Bassets. They frequently suffer from serious spinal and neurological problems causing severe pain and difficulty walking. These spinal problems often lead to paralysis, which usually means major surgery, which is very costly to an owner,” Dr Lowe said.

RSPCA Australia’s Jane Speechley said that the aim of the campaign is to encourage the community to work together to address these welfare concerns in affected breeds.

“These breeds have adorable personalities, but we’d urge anyone who is thinking of adopting one of these dogs to carefully consider the risks and find out more before they make a decision that could end up being very expensive and heart-breaking.

“We want dog breeders to avoid breeding for exaggerated features and for prospective buyers to help by choosing a puppy or dog that has been bred with healthier features for a healthier future,

“We also want current owners to be aware that these dogs need extra love, attention and veterinary intervention to ensure the risks and any health issues they’re facing are properly managed,

“Finally, and until these issues are resolved, we’re asking the media, advertising and entertainment industry to stop promoting these affected breeds, which can further encourage their popularity,” said Ms Speechley.

Dog lovers and owners who would like more information, or are keen to help create a healthier future for these breeds, are encouraged to sign the pledge at loveisblind.org.au.

The RSPCA is Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation and one of Australia’s most trusted charities. The RSPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.

The Australian Veterinary Association is the professional organisation that represents veterinarians across Australia. Its vision is to be the health and welfare leader in Australia’s animal industries.

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