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Animal Welfare dogs

French Bulldog is Perfect Example of Problems Facing ‘Designer Dogs’

Poor Dobby was imported from Lithuania, sold on Gumtree, and ended up in RSPCA care needing major corrective surgery to help with breathing problems common in the breed.

Just like his Harry Potter namesake, little Dobby hasn’t had an easy life…

The 19-month-old French bulldog was imported from Lithuania as part of the lucrative but unscrupulous puppy trade, before being advertised online when his owners could no longer keep him.

He was bought by a concerned member of the public worried about what would happen to him and brought to the RSPCA. Dobby is now being cared for at RSPCA Mount Noddy Animal Centre, in Chichester.

Animal centre manager Susan Botherway said: “Dobby was bought off Gumtree by a member of public who was worried he would end up in the wrong hands.

“He couldn’t keep him so brought him to us at the end of August. His passport shows he was born in Lithuania.”

RSPCA staff suspect that the little French bulldog was bred in eastern Europe destined for the lucrative puppy trade in the UK where fashionable, designer breeds such as Pugs and Frenchies can sell for hundreds or thousands of pounds.

Unfortunately for the young dog, when his owners could no longer keep him they took to the online classified sites to try to find him a new home. But the lucky little dog is now receiving all the TLC he needs with staff and volunteers at the centre, run by the Sussex, Chichester & District Branch.

As with many puppies imported from abroad and sold on here – particularly those brachycephalic or ‘flat-faced’ breeds such as French bulldogs – Dobby is plagued with health problems.

Susan added: “When he arrived he was really struggling to breathe. He was rushed to the vets where he was given medication to ease his laboured breathing.

“He was also treated for ‘cherry eye’ (a painful condition affecting the membrane or ‘third eyelid’ in a dog’s eye) and ear infections. He was also very underweight, lethargic and particularly weak. He wasn’t able to walk far and didn’t want to eat anything.”

Dedicated staff had to roll his food into small balls and hand feed him every two hours to build up his strength.

Dobby has since had costly surgery to help tackle his breathing and eating problems, caused by brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (or BOAS).

BOAS is a complex respiratory disease related to the flat face and skull shape of brachycephalic dogs. Dogs with BOAS can suffer from breathing problems and can have trouble coping with heat and exercise.

Susan added: “The operation was to open his nostrils and trim his soft palate, creating more space for the air to flow and make it easier for him to breathe.

“It’s cost us around £3,000 in vet fees so far and means, in the future, he won’t be insurable for any of these health issues.

“It just goes to show the price of poor breeding – not only for the dog but also for the owner who is left to foot these extremely high bills.”

Dobby is currently in foster care with a staff member while he recovers from his surgery.

The RSPCA’s veterinary clinics are also seeing more dogs who require similar surgery due to BOAS. Earlier this month, the charity’s Southall Clinic in London carried out the same operation on French bulldog Mickey.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said: “Sadly we’re seeing more and more dogs in veterinary clinics and surgeries across the country needing surgery to try to correct health problems which have been caused due to the way they’ve been selectively bred for exaggerated features.

“Dobby and Mickey are perfect examples of how the selective breeding of dogs has, over the years, created dogs who can now no longer function as happy, healthy dogs.

“Brachycephalic breeds like French bulldogs, pugs and Pekingese very often struggle to walk and run due to their difficulty in breathing because they’ve been bred to have such short noses and flat faces that they’ve often been left with very restricted nostrils and airways.

“Unfortunately, we’re also seeing the effects of the surge in popularity in certain ‘designer’ breeds like Frenchies. This has created the perfect opportunity for unscrupulous breeders and dealers to produce puppies on an intensive scale or to import from abroad – putting profits ahead of the health and welfare of the dogs – before selling them on to unsuspecting members of the public who later often face serious health and behavioural problems in their dogs.”

The RSPCA is part of the UK Brachycephalic Working Group – a coalition of animal welfare and veterinary organisations, researchers and breeder representatives working to improve the health and welfare of flat-faced dogs.

The charity is also urging members of the public to consider rescuing a dog instead of buying a puppy. If buying, the public should use the Puppy Contract to help them buy a happy, healthy dog.

For more information about rehoming Dobby please call 07395 792891 or email info@rspcamountnoddy.org.uk.

To help the RSPCA continue its vital work please donate by visiting www.rspca.org.uk/give. To help the Sussex, Chichester & District Branch please donate by visiting www.rspca.org.uk/local/sussex-chichester-and-district-branch/help.