Man’s best friend is getting smaller

April 6th, 2016

The days of owning a large dog seem to be over for Australians.

University of Sydney research shows Australian pedigree dog lovers are choosing pugs and bulldogs over Labradors and German Shepherds.

Published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology in April 2016, Australian fans of purebred dogs now favour small, brachycephalic breeds – with shorter and wider heads. These breeds are are more susceptible to respiratory problems, skin and eye conditions, and digestive disorders. The new research suggests that veterinarians may need to prepare to treat more dogs with these conditions in the near future.

The study investigated changes in the Australian National Kennel Council (AKNC)’s registration statistics between 1986 and 2013, examining trends in demand for Australian purebred dogs of various height, size and head shape. The preference for smaller dogs correlates with a trend in more high density living, says one of the lead researchers Professor Paul McGreevy from the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

“Changes in the types of dwellings Australians are buying may indicate the space available for dogs has shrunk. Moreover, the purpose of dog ownership has continued to shift from the early days of domestication, away from duties such as hunting and guarding properties, for which dogs are more likely to be larger, to pure companionship, which can be fulfilled by a dog of any size.”

Professor McGreevy says the reason behind the increase in ownership of dogs with short, wide faces could reflect trends in fashion.

“Other studies also indicate the infantile facial features commonly seen in brachycephalic dogs with their round faces, chubby cheeks, big eyes and small nose and mouth, stimulate feelings of affection in humans.”

Unfortunately, life expectancy among these popular breeds is an estimated four years lower than non-brachycephalic breeds. Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) is particularly prevalent, often resulting in mild to life-threatening respiratory problems.

“A study in the UK shows half of owners of breeds susceptible to these health issues seem unaware of BAOS in their dogs,” says Professor McGreevy. “This implies owners did not make a fully informed decision when purchasing their brachycephalic dog, and that they may be unaware of treatment options when BAOS emerges, and that affected dogs may breed and pass the predisposition to BAOS onto future generations.”

It’s always important to research dog breeds and their common health implications before committing to a dog.

Make sure your furry friend is always looked after at our DOGSLife Directory

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