The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Dutch Government's Ban on Breeding Flat-Faced Dogs

Pedigree dog critic and welfare advocate Jemima Harrison ( posted on May 30, 2020, that the Netherlands had banned the breeding of bulldogs and other short-faced breeds (and crossbreeds), prompting outrage from some dog-lovers -- and a standing ovation from others.

Faced with continuing high-profile media attention on the plight of brachycephalics, the Dutch government commissioned a report from the University of Utrecht entitled "Breeding Short-Muzzled Dogs" which was published in January 2019. It provided the basis for six new breeding criteria that Carola Schouten, minister for agriculture, introduced in March 2019. These cover eye conformation, nostril stenosis, abnormal breathing, excess skin folds and -- most controversially -- that all dogs bred in the Netherlands (crossbreeds as well as purebred) must have muzzles at least one-third the length of their head (and, in time, half the length of their head). The Dutch Kennel Club announced that it will no longer issue full pedigree certificates to specific "extreme" brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds -- unless the parents have passed an independent vet check confirming that at least one of them has a muzzle the required length.

Breeds of concern include the Affenpinscher, Boston terrier, bulldog, French bulldog, Griffon Belge, Griffon Bruxellois, Japanese Chin, King Charles spaniel, pekingese, Petit Brabancon, Pu and the Shih Tzu.

Other abnormalities in these and other breeds, such as tightly curled tails, abnormal limb structure and over-long backs, also need to be rectified by changing breed standards and breeding practices.

DEAR DR. FOX: Thank you for your column that ran in the June 25 Tulsa World regarding breathing problems in flat-faced dogs. Fortunately, our local paper does not run ads for "Munchkin cats." I remember being horrified when I saw one of these kittens in an online video. I don't run across them anymore, so either the media is aware, or people have quit breeding them, or both. Someone on Facebook recently posted a picture of his hairless cat. Her face was grotesque. Her name was "Dermis."

I understand that some people take these poor animals in as rescues. I am not talking about them. I am talking about people who deliberately breed animals selected for deformities, and the people who pay money specifically to own a deformed animal. Please keep up the good work. -- G.B., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR G.B.: Many people are waking up to some of the horrors caused by the selective breeding of dogs, cats, rabbits and some other domestic animals for novel, abnormal traits, often linked with multiple health and behavioral problems. I see this as a perversion of whatever love or affection people may have for such creations, on the one hand, and on the other, a selfish indulgence for ego-gratification and in some instances, making money.

These and other human activities that harm other creatures and the natural environment have become socially accepted cultural norms. Like a life unexamined is a life unlived, the same can be said about cultural values, which today must be examined for the common good and the good of the commons.


Dogs that weigh more than 110 pounds or that have flat faces are more prone to heat-related illness than other dogs, but any dog can develop heat stroke in hot, humid weather, particularly if they are overweight or elderly, according to a study in Scientific Reports. Chow chows, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Dogue de Bordeaux and greyhounds were found to be the least heat-tolerant breeds. Full Story: HealthDay News (6/18)

DEAR DR. FOX: We had a Maine coon cat who lived for 22 years and loved my wife but never bonded with me. I had to be careful around him because any time I sneezed, he would attack me, teeth and claws. Even if he was in another room and heard me, he would rush in and go after me. How do you interpret this reaction? -- R.N.H, Derby, Connecticut

DEAR R.N.H.: I am a very loud sneezer and cannot stop it when I know a sneeze is on the way, so you have my sympathy. Possibly the first time you sneezed this cat was startled and took it as a threat. From then on he was conditioned to respond aggressively to the challenge your sneeze represented to his psyche.

The human sneeze can vary greatly from person to person, with some intense sounds and occasional release of oral and nasal mucus possibly mimicking one cat yowling/growling and hissing/spitting with that hack-cough sound when challenging and readying to fight another cat.

I would like to hear from other readers who have such curious responses from their dogs and cats when they sneeze, cough or have the hiccups. I know of one dog who would always bark anytime his human companion coughed. My interpretation was that the dog probably thought the human was barking at something, so he gave vocal support. Another dog barked every time her caregiver sneezed, and that was often during the spring pollen season!

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