Canary in the Coal Mine?

January 21, 2008 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

In a recent article from the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Munro wrote that brachycephalic dog breeds like pugs, boxers and Pekinese may be in danger of extinction because of the effects of global warming.

In Munro’s article Mark Davis, the director of Melbourne University’s veterinary teaching hospital was quoted as saying “It will be more sensible to not have those breeds as a pet because as it gets hotter they are going to struggle more,” he said.  “What we want are healthy dogs, but if you chose one of those breeds you will have to see the vet more often.”

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Because their coats prevent them from cooling themselves by sweating, dogs dissipate excess body heat by panting.  Obesity and old age reduce the ability of all dogs to tolerate extremes of heat and cold.  The shortened muzzles of brachycephalic breed dogs makes it difficult for them to cool themselves efficiently by panting. 

I adore pugs.  I think that French Bulldogs, Neapolitan Mastiffs and English Bulldogs are adorable.  The problem is not that these breeds exist but that our human tendency to focus too much on extremes has, in some cases, resulted in changes in dog breeds that can severely affect their heath. The same thing that makes us lust for designer clothes and Humvees drives us to want something different and unique in our dogs. So we find ourselves in a situation where dogs with uncommon coloring or extremes of type become highly valued.  The largest, smallest, oddest and most unique – are also the most sought after. 

And this isn’t unique to brachycephalic breeds.  White Dobermansblue pitbullsteacup Yorkies, excessively wrinkled Shar Pei and other oddities in the dog world continue to increase in popularity even though the qualities that make them unique also often cause these animals to suffer needlessly.   

Dogs deserve to be valued as something more than living fashion accessories. I’m not making light of global warming, but if the publicity it commands can also bring attention to needless health problems caused by thoughtlessly breeding dogs as decorator accents, some good may come of it. 

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Entry filed under: bull breeds, dog, dogs, health, pet, pets. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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