People considering buying a dog have been urged to steer clear of ‘flat-faced’ breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs.
Experts have warned that buying the increasingly popular dogs - known as brachycephalic or short-muzzled dogs - is simply “increasing animal suffering”.
“Vets are seeing concerning trends in dog health and welfare because of the rise in ownership of brachycephalic breeds,” Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, told The Huffington Post UK.
“Prospective dog owners need to consider that these dogs can suffer a range of health issues throughout their lives from eye ulcers to painful spine abnormalities and severe breathing difficulties that can result in otherwise preventable surgery.”
He encouraged people to think about choosing healthier breeds or crossbreeds instead and asked breeders to “responsibly re-home puppies that are not bought for whatever reason”.
“The health and welfare of the animals is paramount, both for individual dogs and for the breed generally, and when characteristics of a particular breed can potentially cause lifelong suffering we need to start at the beginning and address supply and demand.”
According to the RSPCA, extreme features like short, flat faces can lead to severe breathing difficulties, heatstroke and fainting among dogs.
Some dog’s nostrils are so narrow they need surgery just so they can breathe properly.
Investigating the “fashionable” short-muzzled breeds, the BBC discovered that more and more dog owners are abandoning their ailing pooches.
They reported that Battersea Dogs Home and Bluecross Animal Rescue received 314 “flat-faced” dogs in 2015, compared to 226 in 2014 - an increase of 39%.
The charities said they paid to send many of the dogs for surgery to clear their airways.
The Royal Veterinary College said many owners of short-muzzled dogs are not aware of the underlying health problems they face, with some even believing that “airway noise” is normal in dogs.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Richards told The Huffington Post UK: “Many dogs have been bred to emphasise certain physical features, some of which have become so extreme that they can cause pain and suffering, make dogs prone to particular disorders, or even prevent them from behaving normally and from enjoying the activities we know dogs love.
“For example, dogs who have been bred to have short, flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally-developed windpipes. They can suffer severe breathing problems and many have difficulty enjoying a walk or playing.”
The Kennel Club, a charity focusing on the wellbeing of dogs, has urged people not to buy into the popularity of these breeds and to focus on their welfare instead.
They launched a ‘Breed Health and Conservation Plans’ project to protect and maintain dog health over future generations.
Lisa Richards from the RSPCA added: “It’s positive to see the Kennel Club acknowledging that many dogs of these breeds aren’t able to lead happy, healthy lives as family pets because of the way they’ve been bred to look.
“Now they need to take the urgent action required to help ensure that all dogs are able to enjoy the activities that we know they love. This includes committing to a review of the breed standards.”