Top vets urge dog lovers to stop buying pugs and bulldogs

Pugs and bulldogs are incredibly trendy, but experts have massive animal welfare concerns about these genetically manipulated breeds. 

'No nose, no thermoregulation, no health, no welfare.'

Photo by terriermandotcom.blogspot.com
  • Pugs, Frenchies, boxers, shih-tzus and other flat-faced dog breeds have been trending for at least the last decade.
  • Higher visibility (usually in a celebrity's handbag), an increase in city living (smaller dogs for smaller homes), and possibly even the fine acting of Frank the Pug in 1997's Men in Black may be the cause.
  • These small, specialty pure breeds are seen as the pinnacle of cuteness – they have friendly personalities, endearing odd looks, and are perfect for Stranger Things video montages.

Genetic defects as fashion

So what's their cutest feature? Is it their squashy little faces? Their grunting pants (like tiny little obese people!)? Their double-curled tails?

That coiled tail is possibly less endearing when you know it's a purpose-bred genetic defect, which in its most serious forms leads to paralysis. And their squished noses? That's been selectively bred to become ever shorter and smaller, making it difficult for the dogs to breathe and eat, causing trickle down effects like cardiovascular stress, eye prolapses, overheating (dogs don't sweat, so they need to pant to expel heat through evaporation), weight gain because of that sedentary overheated lifestyle, dental crowding, soft-palate collapse, and skin-fold dermatitis. More of an "anatomical disaster" than the patron saint of cuteness.

Despite performing corrective surgeries and designing pain treatment plans for these dogs, veterinarians don't often speak up about the unethical nature of buying and creating demand for genetically impaired dogs for one simple reason – it's bad for business. "If I stood up and told the truth about these breeds," says an anonymous vet to The Guardian, "I would immediately alienate [their owners] and they would up sticks and move to the neighboring practice where the vet was not as outspoken. Vets in general practice simply cannot afford to be honest and to speak out."

Why veterinarians are skeptical of pugs

These paintings of William Hogarth with his pug, Trump (1745) and Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna with her pug (1759), give an idea of what pugs looked like then, compared to now – notice the straight tail?

The British Veterinary Association (BVA), which represents vets across the UK, is in a better position to do so. It has made several statements this year on the breeding and buying practices of brachycephalic dogs, expressing the trend as a concern in dog health and welfare. "The surge in popularity of these dogs has increased animal suffering and resulted in unwell pets for owners, so we strongly encourage people to think about choosing a healthier breed or crossbreed instead." Sean Wensley, president of the BVA, says to The Guardian.

Mixed-breed dogs are said to be much healthier than pure bred dogs, a claim that is refuted by dog breeders, but a study from 2013 inserts some much-needed data into an argument that is skewed by passion and profit. Using medical records from more than 27,000 dogs and comparing the incidence of 24 genetic disorders in mixed vs. purebred dogs, the researchers found that 10 of those genetic disorders had a significantly higher incidence in purebred dogs, and just 1 of those disorders was greater in mixed-breeds. For the remaining disorders the incidence was fairly even in both groups.

Funny looks. Not so hilarious problems. 

Why has this certain set of physical traits become so popular in dogs? And for that matter, in cats. While dogs are America's #1 pet, cats are arguably more famous in the digital world. Two of the most viral cat celebrities are Lil Bub (who has nearly 3 million Facebook fans and her own Vice documentary), and Grumpy Cat aka Tardar Sauce (who has nearly 9 million Facebook fans, a cat celebrity manager, her own book deal, a plush toy line, and is sponsored by Friskies).

Why are Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat so cute and famous? Because they are… how do we put this? They're genetic duds. Lil Bub was the runt of her litter and has a tongue that always hangs out of her mouth because of her abnormally short lower jaw and toothlessness. She also has serious osteoporosis and is medicated for it. Grumpy Cat has feline dwarfism, and an underbite, which causes her famous frown.

Left: Grumpy Cat (photo by Gage Skidmore). Right: Lil Bub.

If you look at Bored Panda's list of the 20 most famous internet cats, many of them have disabilities or genetic mutations such as vision impairment (Honey Bee), no nasal bridge (Monty the Cat), a cleft palate (Lazarus the Vampire Cat), and heterochromia (Fukumaru). There is a big difference, however, in loving an animal with a genetic mutation and intentionally creating genetic mutations, or buoying an industry that does.

In domestic pets, there is an increasing fetishizing of the weird. Ugly is cute, and deformed is unique. This is the new Victorian freak show, and we love them so. From one perspective, it's an amazingly progressive attitude shift – imagine if humans acknowledged, and even revered, diversity in people in the same way. But we're more inclined to avoid eye-contact with people with disabilities or scars or marks than engage with them.

The inconsistency when it comes to our attitudes towards humans and non-human animals is huge. Philosopher Dale Jamieson has more on that particular kind of cognitive dissonance here:

What Are the Best Arguments in Favor of Animal Rights?

The philosopher poses fundamental questions about human and animal rights.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

The history of using the Insurrection Act against Americans

Numerous U.S. Presidents invoked the Insurrection Act to to quell race and labor riots.

The army during riots in Washington, DC, after the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., April 1968.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • U.S. Presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act on numerous occasions.
  • The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
  • The Act has been used mainly to restore order following race and labor riots.
Keep reading Show less

Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

Scroll down to load more…