Breeding healthy dogs: the effect of selective breeding on the health and welfare of dogs

The breeding of dogs with excessive traits and/ or genetic disorders and the impact on their health and welfare has increasingly come into the spotlight over recent years. There has been an explosion in the popularity of certain breeds with exaggerated traits, especially of those with extreme brachycephalic conformation. While often popular with the public, such a conformation can lead to severe health and welfare issues. Although many good breeders and breed clubs work closely together with veterinarians and other stakeholders to improve the current situation, unfortunately this increased demand has also lead to an escalation of numbers of dogs produced by unscrupulous breeders or puppy farms, with little concern about the health and welfare of the dogs.

Companion animal veterinarians are regularly faced with health and welfare problems in their patients that are breed related and have a strong genetic background. Selective breeding has become increasingly focused on the appearance and on the ‘popularity’ of certain breeds with little or no emphasis on performance, health or longevity. Veterinarians have a duty to speak out, help raise awareness and ensure breed-related health and welfare problems are not ‘normalised’ or accepted as being ‘typical for the breed’.

Two fields can be targeted to help improve the situation: the demand and supply.