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In Sickness and in Health

Updated: Jun 23, 2023


As research suggests shockingly shorter life spans for some flat-faced dogs

In the face of growing demand and widespread breeding of flat-faced dogs with extreme features, a group of dog welfare experts have developed an easy-to-use tool to help prospective owners understand how body-shape affects health in dogs, and how to choose a healthy type of four-legged friend that does not have an extreme body shape.

The Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) has launched its ‘innate health’ tool, which highlights a series of fundamental body functions that all dogs should be reasonably expected to show.

These functions include very basic needs of dogs such as:

  • The ability to blink fully

  • The ability to breathe easily

  • To exercise without difficulty

  • The ability to sleep without breathing difficulties

  • The ability to flex their backs and having a tail to wag

Sadly things which some dogs are unable to do due to their extreme features and body shapes. Assessing for these functions in their planned new purchase can help would-be owners to prioritise health when getting a dog.

The BWG, made up of vets, breeders, breed clubs, dog welfare charities, academics and Defra, is concerned that a growing number of owners in the UK are unduly influenced by social media and advertising that promote human desire for dogs with extreme features, such as squashed faces or excessive skin rolls.

As a consequence, many owners are manipulated into wanting dogs with extreme features or a body shape considered to be ‘fashionable’, even when these features are known to have serious negative impacts on the health of these dogs.

The BWG hopes that its new easy-to-use tool, available here, will help owners to make better decisions when it comes to getting a dog, in line with the BWG recommendation that good health, welfare and temperament should override all other considerations for dogs.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Chair of The Brachycephalic Working Group commented:

Dogs come in many shapes and sizes, so picking a healthy new four-legged family member can be a daunting challenge for many would-be owners, who may be unaware of the significant health problems affecting some dogs due to their extreme body shapes. As well as causing a lifetime of pain and suffering for the dog, getting the decision wrong can lead to serious heartbreak for the owner too. Would-be owners should focus on the life that the dog will live; the dog’s good health must be the number one priority. Growing evidence over recent decades has highlighted many welfare issues and high risk of serious diseases linked to extreme body shape. Hopefully this new innate health tool will assist would-be owners to find alternative and healthier types of dogs to bring joy to their lives.

This call for action to would-be owners coincides with new research* released by the Royal Veterinary College which reports how life expectancy varies widely between dogs with differing levels of extreme conformation. The results indicate that some flat-faced breeds, including popular French Bulldogs, Pugs and English Bulldogs, have shorter life spans than less extreme breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Jack Russell Terriers and Springer Spaniels.

This, alongside a wealth of previous research which indicates flat-faced dogs can suffer from several health issues linked to their extreme conformations, can help would-be owners to make responsible and informed decisions when it comes choosing a four-legged friend.

More information about the Brachycephalic Working Group and its appeal to the public to ‘stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’, and to place the needs of dog’s for good innate health above the whims of humans, can be found at

About the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG)

The BWG comprises leading UK dog welfare bodies, veterinary organisations, scientific & social researchers, government and breed clubs. The group aims to protect and improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs by working together to improve the conformation-related health of individual dogs as well as reducing the current trend towards rising demand for these dogs. These aims are being approached by a series of actions that target the brachycephalic welfare issue at several points. 

The BWG includes representatives of all major stakeholders in dog welfare in the UK. These include:

  • Academia – Royal Veterinary College, University of Cambridge

  • Breed clubs – Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug

  • Veterinary profession – British Veterinary Association (BVA), British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)

  • Dog breed registers - The Kennel Club


  • Animal charities – Dogs Trust, PDSA, RSPCA

  • Owners, breeders, veterinary surgeons'


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