Over the past decade, the demand for pugs, including French bulldogs and bulldogs more generally, has increased nearly 40 times in the pet business, according to recent statistics. This trend is certainly linked to the humorous appearance and character of these dogs, which breeders try to emphasise, yet this often comes at a great cost for the dogs’ health. Among the most common issues are severe respiratory problems, impaired vision and gait defects. The brachycephaly, an excessive shortness of the snout that confers these breeds their characteristic look, is responsible for the former two widespread conditions, and the breathing difficulties often lead to secondary health concerns, such as insufficient thermoregulation and severe sleep deprivation.
Research conducted by the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science and their Library’s Digital Scholars Hub has led to the creation of a set of highly precise 3D printed models of the pugs’ skulls. They are used to study their evolution through the generations of forced selection, but also to increase awareness and sensitivity among students and the general public concerning this increasingly complex situation in veterinary practice. If the demand for such dogs continues to develop, painful and threatening conditions for them will also increase; more and more pugs and bulldogs will require serious surgery of the soft palate and inner nose in order to be able to breathe properly.
Students interested in applying for Veterinary Medicine can think about the clinical aspects involved in dealing with chronic and common conditions such as these and reflect on innovative medical methods which may be applicable to such situations, as well as consider how preventive campaigns to tackle such problems would need to be structured. Students particularly interested in evolution and planning to apply for Biology could also use such cases to deepen their understanding of genetic selection and its risks for the animal breeding business.