The real cost of cute: Battersea’s French Bulldog intake soars

Fighting for breath, with sore ears, infected skin and frequent vomiting, Piccalilli underwent hours of painstaking veterinary treatment at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

Reading through her notes, you'd be forgiven for thinking she was abused or neglected, so extensive are her issues - but this sweet six-year-old is a purebred French Bulldog, the designer dog du jour. She pays an enormous price for her cuteness: her flat face and snub nose means she struggles to breathe and can barely walk a flight of stairs. To live a normal life, she required intricate surgery on her airways and ears, and will likely need lifelong treatment.

Piccalilli was brought in to Battersea at the end of March by her previous owner, who could no longer afford the rising veterinary bills and wanted to make sure she would be in safe hands. After weeks in Clinic kennels, she was fostered with a staff member to make sure she gets the care and attention she needs around the clock, and after enduring several different surgeries she finally found a permanent home in August.

Unfortunately, this is something the world-renowned animal charity is seeing more and more - designer flat-faced dogs taken on by owners who have no idea of the potential pitfalls of the breed and are unable to cope with the cost of treatment.

Battersea's Head Vet Shaun Opperman said: "French Bulldogs are a classic example of overbreeding – people see celebrities touting them and getting thousands of likes on social media, and want one for themselves. I understand their appeal: with their big eyes and ears, they look like Disney characters, but their appearance is a real burden to them, because in many cases it takes away their ability to act like a real dog. Many of them can’t run or play for long because they struggle to breathe, their skin folds are prone to infection and they are also susceptible to eye problems”

In 2017, the Home has already taken in 29 French Bulldogs. In 2014, it took in just eight across the whole year. Most of these dogs require weeks of intense veterinary treatment, with many, like Piccalilli, needing specialist surgery to widen their airways and shorten their soft palate to help them breathe. Other flat-faced, or what is known as brachycephalic, dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs often also require this surgery. While the average length of stay for all dogs at Battersea last year was 35 days, French Bulldogs stay on average for 59 – usually due to the weeks of medical treatment and recovery they require.

Shaun Opperman added: “In the first half of last year, we carried out just six of these surgeries – so far this year, we’ve already done 28. This operation is not without its risks and the recovery can be uncomfortable for the dog.

“Of course, in many cases, especially with younger dogs, it ends up really paying off – Battersea will always do all we can to help the animals in our care and it’s wonderful to see when they’re able to play and run without collapsing in a heap.

“However, you can’t help feeling that if owners knew the true cost to their health this breed pays, they’d be horrified. The soaring demand for these dogs encourages unscrupulous breeding, which means generation after generation of Frenchies and other designer dogs are being born with terrible medical problems. It’s one of the biggest welfare issues that Battersea is facing. We have long campaigned for better regulations around the breeding and sale of puppies – dogs like Piccalilli are counting on us.”

 

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For more information and images please contact 020 7627 9322 or email press@battersea.org.uk

 

Notes to editors 

 

  • Established in 1860, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home aims never to turn away a dog or cat in need of our help, caring for them until their owners or loving new homes can be found, no matter how long it takes. We are champions for, and supporters of, vulnerable dogs and cats, determined to create lasting changes for animals in our society. 
  • Since it was founded, Battersea has rescued, reunited and rehomed over 3.1 million dogs and cats.
  • In 2016 the Home cared for over 7,000 dogs and cats.
  • Battersea cares for an average of 270 dogs and 200 cats across its three centres at any one time.
  • There is no time limit on how long an animal can stay at the charity but the average stay for a dog is 35 days and 22 days for a cat.
  • For further information on Battersea Dogs & Cats Home please visit www.battersea.org.uk.
  • Follow Battersea on Twitter @BDCH or facebook.com/Battersea