But ownership of flat-faced dog breeds has still increased in recent years

76% of people in Wales believe breeding dogs with genetic health problems – such as French bulldogs and pugs – is unacceptable.

The polling* highlights the level of public concern about the welfare of flat-faced dog breeds, with the RSPCA fearing these animals are too often Born To Suffer.

Despite these concerns, however, many of these breeds have become popular in recent years – with many unsuspecting owners unaware of the devastating health issues faced by these dogs.

As part of the charity’s Born To Suffercampaign – launched as Crufts concluded over the weekend and with dog breeds in the spotlight – the animal welfare charity hopes new heartbreaking images showing the reality of health issues a flat-faced brachycephalic dog faces will make people think twice about buying one.

The campaign urges people to sign a pledge against supporting extreme breeding – and to instead prioritise the health and welfare of dogs and pups.

It comes as recent research shows French bulldogs are among the most popular breeds for buyers1.

But often, owners may not realise that these dogs struggle to breathe because of the structure of their faces – which can lead to them suffering and expensive vet bills for owners.

Esme Wheeler, dog expert at the RSPCA, said: “We love all dogs at the RSPCA, but we can’t hide behind the fact that flat-faced breeds suffer because of how they look. To put it bluntly, they are imprisoned in a body which is painful, inhibiting and prevents the dog from being a dog.

“The three breeds with the greatest health and welfare issues – pugs, English bulldogs and French bulldogs – have become increasingly ‘normalised’ and celebrated across advertising and promotion and social media.

“If you Google ‘cute dogs’, it is these breeds which often come up first. They are ubiquitous in advertising and social media and this relentless exposure has fuelled demand but it has also normalised what can be described as totally abnormal – but behind the ‘cuteness’ there is a whole lot of suffering.

“We hope that our new Born to Suffer campaign will make people think twice before buying one. It’s important people know when they see ‘cute’ photos of a pug on Instagram, the reality behind the photo is very different.

“These breeds have been selectively bred for exaggerated features over the years and, sadly, the outcome is dogs cannot function like normal, happy, healthy animals.

The most known health issue for a flat-faced breed is brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) – a lifelong, progressive obstructive airway disease caused by the excess of soft tissues that essentially have nowhere to go since the skeleton has been reduced.

Esme added: “BOAS can have a huge impact on a dog’s life and I find it one of the most saddening aspects, given that dogs are olfactory animals so their primary sense is their smell and scent. This filters down into every part of how they experience the world.

“Putting this animal in a body in which half its nose has been reduced is so incredibly sad.”

Research shows that, heartbreakingly, brachycephalic breeds have a significantly shorter lifespan than other breeds, with research showing that French bulldogs will have a much shorter life expectancy than other breeds with an estimated 4.5 years.

The RSPCA’s campaign, Born To Suffer, encourages people to join the battle against brachys by pledging online to say no to designer breeding, and yes to health and wellbeing.