Breeding French bulldogs so that they breathe well—A long way to go

By E.-M. Ravn-Mølby, L. Sindahl, S. S. Nielsen, C. S. Bruun, P. Sandøe & M. Fredholm (2019) 
PLOS ONE. 
PLOS

Abstract

Brachycephalic syndrome (BS) is a pathophysiological disorder caused by excessive soft tissue within the upper airways of short-nosed dog breeds, causing obstruction of the nasal, pharyngeal and laryngeal lumen, resulting in severe respiratory distress. As the prevalence of BS appears to be high among some of the affected breeds, there is an urgent need for breeding efforts to improve the health status of those dogs. In the present study, we evaluated correlations between morphometric and other phenotypic characteristics and BS in a population of 69 French bulldogs from Denmark to identify parameters that could serve as a basis for breeding against BS. Furthermore, the genetic variation was monitored to determine whether it would be possible to breed based on these characteristics without simultaneously causing a critical reduction in genetic variation. Six phenotypic characteristics were correlated with the Brachycephalic Syndrome Functional (BSF) score. Among the morphometric risk factors, nostril stenosis (NS) and neck girth (NG) had the highest impact on the BSF score, accounting for 32% and 4% of the variation, respectively. The genetic variation in the population was comparable to other pure breeds, i.e. estimated and observed heterozygosity was 0.60 and the average inbreeding coefficient was 0.01. If only dogs with Grades 1 and 2 NS (no or only mild NS) were selected for breeding the mean BSF score would be reduced significantly. However, it would result in the exclusion of 81% of the population for breeding and this is not prudent. Excluding only dogs with severe stenosis (Grade 4) would exclude 50% of the population without any adverse impact on genetic variation within the population. Although exclusion of dogs with Grade 4 would result in an apparent reduction in the mean BSF score, this reduction is not significant. As NS accounts for 32% of the variation in BSF score, a possible long term strategy to reduce the prevalence of the BS in French bulldogs would seem to be a selection scheme that first excluded dogs with the most severe NS from breeding, gradually moving towards selecting dogs with lower NS grades. According to our findings there is no viable short term solution for reducing the prevalence of BS in the French bulldog population.

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Why do people buy dogs with potential welfare problems related to extreme conformation and inherited disease? A representative study of Danish owners of four small dog breeds

By P. Sandøe, S. V. Kondrup, P. C. Bennett, B. Forkman, I. Meyer, H. F. Proschowsky, J. A. Serpell, T. B. Lund (2017).
PLOS ONE. 
PLOS.

Abstract

A number of dog breeds suffer from welfare problems due to extreme phenotypes and high levels of inherited diseases but the popularity of such breeds is not declining. Using a survey of owners of two popular breeds with extreme physical features (French Bulldog and Chihuahua), one with a high load of inherited diseases not directly related to conformation (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), and one representing the same size range but without extreme conformation and with the same level of disease as the overall dog population (Cairn Terrier), we investigated this seeming paradox. We examined planning and motivational factors behind acquisition of the dogs, and whether levels of experienced health and behavior problems were associated with the quality of the owner-dog relationship and the intention to re-procure a dog of the same breed. Owners of each of the four breeds (750/breed) were randomly drawn from a nationwide Danish dog registry and invited to participate. Of these, 911 responded, giving a final sample of 846. There were clear differences between owners of the four breeds with respect to degree of planning prior to purchase, with owners of Chihuahuas exhibiting less. Motivations behind choice of dog were also different. Health and other breed attributes were more important to owners of Cairn Terriers, whereas the dog’s personality was reported to be more important for owners of French Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but less important for Chihuahua owners. Higher levels of health and behavior problems were positively associated with a closer owner-dog relationship for owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Chihuahuas but, for owners of French Bulldogs, high levels of problems were negatively associated with an intention to procure the same breed again. In light of these findings, it appears less paradoxical that people continue to buy dogs with welfare problems.

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Welfare in horse breeding

By M.L.H. Campbell & P. Sandøe (2015) 
Veterinary Record. BMJ Publishing Group.

Welfare problems related to the way horses are bred, whether by coitus or by the application of artificial reproduction techniques (ARTs), have been given no discrete consideration within the academic literature. This paper reviews the existing knowledge base about welfare issues in horse breeding and identifies areas in which data is lacking. We suggest that all methods of horse breeding are associated with potential welfare problems, but also that the judicious use of ARTs can sometimes help to address those problems. We discuss how negative welfare effects could be identified and limited and how positive welfare effects associated with breeding might be maximised. Further studies are needed to establish an evidence base about how stressful or painful various breeding procedures are for the animals involved, and what the lifetime welfare implications of ARTs are for future animal generations.

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