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What makes dog breeds with genetic diseases desirable?


Flat-faced dogs such as the French and English bulldogs are very popular, although they suffer from severe congenital diseases. Credit: Zsofia Bognar/ELTE

Flat-faced dogs such as the French and English bulldogs are very popular even though they suffer from severe congenital diseases. Hungarian researchers have tried to uncover the explanation for this discrepancy. In the end, they concluded that even though flat-faced dog lovers are aware of health issues and strive to provide the best for their dogs, they are likely to normalize health problems.

French and English bulldogs are among the most popular breeds in both the United States and Europe, but pugs and Boston Terriers also have a large fan base. This is surprising, given the many innate health problems these breeds face. At least half of them have breathing difficulties, often eye problems, and more than 80% of them require a caesarean section during childbirth. Due to their health issues, flat-faced dogs typically live three to four years fewer than would be expected based on their body size. The French Bulldog has an average life expectancy of only about four and a half years.

If these breeds have so many problems, what could be causing their popularity?

“Previously, we’ve noticed that flat-faced breeds are more inclined to form eye contact with humans. We hypothesized that this trait is attractive to owners. We also examined the possibility that lovers of these dogs may not be aware of inborn health issues,” said Zofia Bognar, Ph.D. student in the department. Behavioral Sciences at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), and lead author of the study published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior.

Why are dog breeds with fungal diseases popular?

Flat-faced dogs such as the French and English bulldogs are very popular, although they suffer from severe congenital diseases. Credit: Zsofia Bognar/ELTE

In an online survey, researchers presented 25 pairs of photos of dogs looking at a camera and looking away. Furthermore, they assessed the respondents’ personality traits, whether they liked flat-faced dogs, and whether they were aware of their health problems. A total of 1,156 respondents participated in the survey. Some of the results contradicted the researchers’ expectations. It turned out that those who had a positive attitude towards flat-faced breeds were randomly selected from among the photographs. This result indicates that despite the tendency of these dogs to form eye contact, it likely does not play a role in their popularity. On the other hand, those who preferred pictures of dogs looking into the camera were those who were social, made friends easily, and were able to put themselves in the position and perspective of others.

Interestingly, respondents who liked flat-faced dogs were more aware of health issues. Overall, 99% of respondents associated flat-faced breeds with difficulty breathing, 90% with dystocia, 61% with corneal ulcers, and only a few associated them with fewer than four health problems. So, the health issues associated with a flat face are very much in the public consciousness.

In addition, it was also revealed that compared to a group that was neutral towards or disliked flat-faced breeds, flat-faced dog lovers tended to be younger, have lower education levels, and typically had no professional experience with dogs. Compared to the neutral group, enthusiasts are more likely to be women and have children. Compared to those who dislike flat-faced breeds, extroverts have higher emotional empathy, which means they are more likely to feel the suffering of another living being.

“We expected that one of the main attractions of flat-faced dogs would be their large eyes and that their owners would be happy when the dogs looked at them,” said Eniko Kubinyi, Head of MTA-ELTE Companion Animal Research. group in ELTE.

However, we have not found this to be true, at least not from the pictures. Nor is it true that fans of flat-faced breeds are unaware of dogs’ health problems or insensitive to their feelings. On the one hand, they have been revealed to be relatively inexperienced dog owners. Thus, they are likely unaware of canine communication cues, may not necessarily recognize signs of pain, and are likely to regard health issues as normal breed characteristics. For example, a grunting and snoring bulldog seems pleasant to them, not sick and struggling to breathe.”

Why are dog breeds with fungal diseases popular?

Credit: Zsofia Bognar/ELTE

According to the results, although flat-faced dog lovers are aware of the innate health problems of these breeds, it does not discourage them from continuing to love these dogs.

“In many countries, there are awareness campaigns about health issues for flat-faced breeds. However, the growing popularity of flat-faced dogs suggests that these campaigns are not very effective. The mere listing of health problems obviously does not deter people who buy these dogs.” “Instead, the focus should be on highlighting that health issues should not be considered normal or acceptable characteristics because they often cause pain and suffering in dogs. Dog owners should be aware that their choices play a significant role in shaping the health of their dog breeds,” Zofia said. Bognar.

more information:
Zsófia Bognár et al, The brachial paradox: relationship between attitudes, demographics, personality, health awareness, and eye contact between human and dogs, Applied Animal Behavior (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2023.105948

Provided by Eötvös Loránd University

the quote: What is the reason for the spread of dog breeds infected with fungal diseases? (2023, June 6) Retrieved June 6, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-06-dog-innate-diseases-popular.html

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