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Bulldog Rocco ‘needed major surgery simply to live a normal life’

21 Mar Bulldog Rocco ‘needed major surgery simply to live a normal life’

Rocco was plagued with health problems when he was taken in by the RSPCA.

The British bulldog Rocco came into the care of Danaher Animal Home, in Essex, in November 2021. He had lots of health problems and needed two major operations to help him.

Danaher’s animal welfare manager Sam Garvey said: “When Rocco arrived with us he was sadly suffering from a lot of discomfort due to his eyes and he had compromised upper airways that was seriously affecting his breathing.

“He had surgery to help remove some of the skin around his eyes to prevent rubbing on his cornea and he also had his nostrils widened and some of his soft palette removed to help with his breathing.

“He felt much better after the surgery and was, as a result, a happier, healthier dog which was wonderful to see. It didn’t take long after his operations for him to bag himself a new home and he’s now loving life with his family.”

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “It’s heartbreaking that Rocco was struggling to carry out simple everyday tasks without discomfort. His eyes were rubbed sore and he struggled to catch his breath.

“Thankfully he’s now had surgery to ease these problems but it’s wrong that he needed major surgery simply to live a normal life.

“For years we have deliberately been breeding dogs in our pursuit for extreme body shapes including shorter, flatter faces.We’ve created generations who struggle to breathe, struggle with heat regulation, are chronically tired and can’t exercise without collapsing, and have to sleep with their head propped up on a pillow or with a toy in their mouth, just to help them breathe.

“In dogs, particularly, this has become such a huge welfare concern that we are left with only one option; to urge people not to buy them at all. Unfortunately, it is too risky to buy these pets because it is practically impossible to find a healthy one. This is a growing animal crisis and urgent intervention is required.”

The RSPCA this week launched a new campaign, Save Our Breath, urging the public not to buy breeds who cannot live normal lives due to the irresponsible way they’ve been selectively bred.

The warning comes as the Crufts dog show kicks off in Birmingham, sparking concerns that the showing of breeds, such as the British bulldog, French bulldog, pug and Cavalier King Charles spaniel, will further popularise them.

The number of British bulldog puppies being registered with the Kennel Club increased 149%, between 2011 and 2020.

With the surge in demand for pets during lockdown there are fears that more brachycephalic dogs will have been bred by breeders resulting in even more sickly animals who require expensive veterinary treatment to help them carry out the simplest of everyday tasks such as walking and playing. And the RSPCA fears that more of these animals could be abandoned or relinquished to charity as their owners struggle to cope with costly veterinary bills as the cost of living soars.

The public has an important role to play in helping to improve the future health of these breeds. We need to stop seeing these pets as cute and recognise the serious health issues they face.

Our Save Our Breath campaign seeks to educate the public about the impact of this type of breeding on dog welfare. We’d like people to consider getting an alternative breed or consider a crossbreed that has a lower risk of problems.

For those wishing to get involved in the Save Our Breath, there will be two surveys available to members of the public. One survey will collect crucial information on brachycephalic animals in advertising, while the other will allow the public to share their own experiences with these animals. This vital research will help inform the RSPCA’s experts as it works to protect future generations of these animals.

Supporters can also sign up to the Give Animals a Voice campaign network for the latest information and access to campaign materials.