Wednesday 22 June 2016

Eukanuba... what were you *thinking*??

As some of you will know, I have recently set up CRUFFA - the Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat-Faced Animals (in advertising and the media).  Cruffa's aim is to persuade companies/organisations to not use brachycephalics as a selling tool for their products/services/events - and where only a brachy will do to encourage the use of dogs/cats with more moderate features. 

Cruffa is not much more than a Facebook page at the moment and in truth I have had little time to do much, but there's been a fantastic response, with pledges of support (and/or a commitment to not use stock photographs of brachycephalics where a more normal dog/cat would do) already in from:

Dogs Today Magazine

Registrations of the extreme brachycephalics are at an all-time high (one in seven dogs registered with the Kennel Club is now a Pug, French Bulldog of a Bulldog - compared to one in 50 ten years ago). 

These three breeds in particular are being used to flog everything from car insurance to mobile phone networks, contributing to their demand and the 'normalisation' of features that are anything but normal - flat faces, over-large eyes, pinched nostrils, obesity. Particularly worrying is the amount of ads/editorial use in the mainstream and online media which feature brachy dogs "smiling" but whose drawn-back + up lips betray that they are hot and/or are struggling to breathe.

But I digress.

I was really shocked to see the GSD above on this Eukanuba dog-food.  And they've also used the same dog, flipped, in this branding. Note the caption on the dog's hips...what irony.

GSDs do not come under Cruffa's remit but I thought it would be good to use the same tools Cruffa is using (personal communication and social media pressure) to encourage Eukanuba to commit to changing the image of this dog to one that is not struggling to stand or cow-hocked.

You can tweet them @eukanuba.

Here is their Facebook page:

As you'll see on the pack, Eukanuba also carries a Kennel Club logo boasting that they are "partners in nutrition", so lobbying the KC via its Facebook page or Twitter - @KCLovesDogs - should also be effective.

I have already posted/tweeted to the above, and the more voices/comments received, the more likely it is that they will commit to changing the image.

With a bit of luck to one that looks like this.

Or this.


Delighted to report that I've received this from Eukanuba this evening (22/6/16). Thank you to everyone who commented on the links above to help secure this commitment - and well done to Eukanuba for the quick response.

Hi Jemima  
At Eukanuba, we are pet owners first and foremost and care deeply about the animals we serve. 
To offer some insight and background to the current image of the German Shepherd Dog; Spectrum Brands only acquired the Eukanuba brand in Europe on 1 January 2015 from its previous owner Procter & Gamble. The current German Shepherd Dog image was chosen by Procter & Gamble in the United States back in 2013 and was then also applied to the European packaging. At that time no-one from Spectrum Brands was obviously involved in the brand or choice of images that would be shown on the packaging.  
Moving forward, we are reviewing all assets that we acquired from Procter & Gamble including the packaging of our German Shepherd Breed Specific formula. We have recognised that the image is not a fair representation of the ideal conformation of the German Shepherd Dog. Therefore we will look to change this image to be in line with the ideal representation of the breed as part of our future asset review. 
The Eukanuba Team

Monday 13 June 2016

Fraser Hale rocks

I laughed out loud today at a post by veterinary dentist Fraser Hale on Facebook which features the above pic. But it carries an important and serious message.

Fraser is a campaigner regarding brachycephalic mouths/teeth, pointing out that dogs with squished muzzles are suffering much more than we realise from the consequences of shoving the normal number of teeth into a mouth where they can't fit - i.e. misaligned teeth banging against gums and a way-above normal rate of periodontal disease

Here's his post:

We are prone to anthropomorphising (attaching human emotions/behaviours to non-human beings/objects). For instance, the geode pictured (above) looks super-happy. It is not happy. It is a rock. But it sure looks happy and it makes us smile to see it and we think "how cute, I want a happy rock like that in my life because I like to be around happy stuff". But it is a rock. It is neither happy, nor sad. It is a rock.

We do the same thing with animals whose anatomy makes it look (to us) as if they are smiling. Have you ever seen a dolphin that looks grumpy? Of course not, because their fixed craniofacial anatomy makes it look like they are smiling. 

Have you ever seen a happy bald eagle? Of course not, because their fixed craniofacial anatomy makes it look like they have a permanent scowl. So we assume all dolphins are happy and all bald eagles are noble and serious. That is anthropomorphism.
So what about the Boston terrier or French Bulldog, or other short-face breeds who have such distorted craniofacial anatomy that they often gasp for every breath they take? Their struggle to get enough oxygen causes them to breathe with an open mouth, lips pulled way back and this makes it look like they are super-happy, with a big, gape-mouthed smile. They are not super-happy. 

The very briefest of trawls will find a host of images of brachycephalics with the same drawn-back-and-up lips. It really does look like a smile so it's hardly surprising people think it is.  Of course sometimes it really is just a relaxed and happy dog - this, for instance, is my Irish Water Spaniel x, Curly.

The difference lies in the overall tension in the face - and very often a dog that is too hot and/or in respiratory distress will have half-closed, glazed eyes.

Another common sign is pinned-back, immobile ears.


Saturday 4 June 2016

"However perfect and beautiful the dogs might be on the outside, on the inside they are broken"

The video above is of a Dobermann called Bella. Be warned - the end of it shows her dying in the middle of a retrieve  "Bella..?" calls her owner as he sees his dog collapse and starts to run towards her. "Bella...!"

It is not a one-off. Many other beautiful Dobermanns die in exactly the same heart-breaking way because of a disease that now affects around 60% of the breed: DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy).

Dobes suffer from various forms of the disease and other heart issues too.  According to the available statistics, the average age of death for this breed is now between seven and eight years old.

Yesterday, Carol Beuchat from the Institute of Canine Biology came across the video of Bella dying and was so moved she stopped what she was doing to write this impassioned piece calling for breeders to re-focus on the root cause of the problem, not the consequence.

She writes:
Our dogs are dying of inbreeding. Decades of inbreeding in a quest for the ever more perfect dog has resulted in the loss of genes that are essential to life. However perfect and beautiful the dogs might be on the outside, on the inside they are broken.
What are we doing about this? We seem to be doing a lot. There are research studies, DNA tests, health seminars, disorder-specific Facebook groups, and so on.

But our dogs are dying of inbreeding. None of the things we are doing will cure inbreeding. Scientists can't cure inbreeding. Inbreeding must be cured by breeders.

In 2002, Dr Reinhard Haberztti wrote: “The Dobermann was created from mixtures of various breeds and half-breeds at the end of the 19th century. This genetic variety was a great health advantage. Up to approximately 1950, there were practically no hereditary health problems, worldwide.

Yes, you read that right.

Less than 70 years ago, there were almost no known hereditary health problems in Dobermanns. 

Now the breed faces extinction. 

Carol references work done by Professor Sonia Garcia to conclude that without a change in breeding practices every Dobermann will have DCM by 2039. Every Dobermann.

I have a particular interest in this breed because my boy Jake is a Dobe x GSD mix (with Dobe making up the most of his ancestry). He is 14 now and, without fail, any vet that examines him raises their eyebrows when they listen to his heart.

Because it's that strong; that steady, with none of the telltale arrhythmias that kill so many Dobermanns. Just luck, almost certainly, but outcrossing is probably the only way out now for this breed.

There are now a handful of Dobermann breeders talking about an outcross but, sadly, such a venture is very unlikely, currently, to be endorsed by the majority of breeders who have been indoctrinated into thinking that such a move would sully the purity of their breed.

Here's what Carol thinks:

Unless there is some unanticipated scientific breakthrough, the future of the Doberman is grim. Dogs will continue to be snatched from life by sudden heart failure, and owners will continue to come home from work to find their dog dead on the floor. The Doberman DCM Facebook group will continue to grow. The Rainbow Bridge will widen to accommodate the souls of the dogs that are dying too young.... 
DNA testing does not make somebody a "responsible" breeder. Caring for the heritage of your breed does not make you a "preservation" breeder. Pride and love and dedication are all terrific, but they will not prevent the heartbreak that awaits thousands of Doberman owners in the future. Breeders need to DO something about this. Breeders need to step up to the plate and acknowledge that continuing to breed dogs that are likely to die of a genetic disorder is irresponsible, unethical and inhumane. That is certainly how the average, everyday dog lover feels. This is also how I feel. 
The Doberman was not created in its present form by a dog-loving God. It is a "blender" breed, created by a man who mixed a bit of this and a bit of that until he had the dogs he wanted. The breed was "recognised", the studbook closed, and the gene pool has been getting smaller ever since. Can the breed be saved by a cross-breeding program Who knows, but certainly it is worth a try and there is little too lose. But time is running out.

Read the whole of this incredibly powerful piece by Carol here - and if you don't know her work, please take the opportunity to explore the ICB website and what it offers to everyone interested in breeding healthier dogs.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Pugs: some too scared to sleep at night

"There are tons of videos of dogs awaking with a start in the middle of the night, and owners laughing about it. Stupidly enough, people get a good giggle from these videos, because they think it’s 'cute' when their pug jolts out of their sleep and looks around confusedly. What they don’t know is that their dog nearly just died from suffocation. With the soft palate blocking the entrance of the trachea, the dogs stop breathing. Their oxygen levels drop and at some point the brain will send warning signals in order for the dog to wake up, hence the panicked and confused startle. For some dogs this even gets so bad, that they refuse to sleep at night, because they’re simply scared. Yeah, it’s that horrible. 
"In case your brachycephalic dog snores: that’s the soft palate hanging down into the airway and vibrating during expiration. No, it’s not cute. It’s a fucking airway obstruction!"

Read the rest here - written by Nadia Ayu who is studying to be a vet at the University of Leipzig in Germany.