Snoring pugs are not cute. This poor creature suffering from stenotic nares. The nares are the nasal cavity, and stenosis just means they are abnormally scrunched up.
The dog is actually having a very hard time oxygenating itself while it is in prone position.
The entire reason why this health condition exists is simple breeding for extreme brachycephaly.
I can’t imagine going through life without being able to oxygenate my body as fully as possible, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my breathing obstructed every time I went to sleep.
I have had a person very close to me with COPD that resulted from a lifetime of smoking. One of the reasons why I don’t smoke and never will is that I have no desire to be in that situation. I never want to have the discussion about my health ever to involve a discussion of oxygen tanks. I never fail to appreciate how important it is for me to be able to take in full breaths of air.
But it’s one thing for a person to develop breathing problems as the result of a lifetime of smoking.
It’s another to breed for it in a dog.
It’s even more of a problem for dogs because dogs dogs use their respiratory systems as their primary cooling systems. Dogs pass air over their moist mucus membranes when they paint. This causes evaporation, which leads to cooling. When dog has such a scrunched up muzzle, it cannot cool itself efficiently.
This is why pugs and other brachycephalic dogs drop like flies on hot summer days.
The biggest welfare problems that dogs face today in the West are not neglect, dog fighting, or puppy mills.
The biggest welfare problems they face are distortions in conformation that have very real consequences for their health.
The reason why this is such a big welfare problem is that it’s not seen as being objectively cruel like those other practices. Dogs win prizes because they have a particular conformation, even if it is very bad for them.
Jemima Harrison used a pug as a good example of what this sort of breeding has produced in Pedigree Dogs Exposed:
The sad thing is that people think this is normal.
Not only do the laypeople think this is cute, dog shows reward extreme muzzles.
Dog shows are respectable and esteemed institutions, and as a result, you don’t see as much of a public outcry against extreme brachycephalic breeding as you do with dog fighting and puppy mills.
And because of this discrepancy, the welfare issues that result from this sort of selective breeding are an even bigger problem than those disgusting ones.
If we can say no more to dog fighting and puppy mills, why can’t we say no more to dogs that can’t fully breathe or oxygenate themselves?
No one is saying end brachycephaly in dogs. After all, most dogs are brachycephalic when compared to wolves, and some breeds have always had shorter muzzles.
But we’ve gone too far.
We’ve pushed the organism’s anatomy too far, and we’ve got to stop and think about where this is heading.
There is a certain banality of evil that exists with pugs and other breeds like them. I don’t wish to use that Eichmann analogy too lightly, but it seems uncomfortably appropriate.
People accept that it’s wrong to fight dogs or breed them like broiler chickens, but they are entirely okay with dogs that spend their entire lives struggling for a breath. The axiom that leads to the cruelty is the breed standard, and virtually everyone who buys one of these dogs wants a little flat-face, no matter the consequences.
In fact, it is unlikely that most people who own these dogs ever seriously consider the cruelty by anatomical distortion when they decide to get one of these dogs. These are not callus people. They are dog lovers, who often spend lots of money on their charges.
But they have allowed the flat-face to blind them.
They cannot see how much of deficit these dogs actually face when it comes to breathing and cooling themselves, and the sad part is that the deficit is seen as cuteness or even a breed trait.
It is in this realm that we’re decided to we have allowed obvious discomfort to go unchallenged, and in this respect, we now have a problem that is going to be next to impossible to fix without outcrossing– which no one wants to do.
The pug is a victim of our own caprices and vanities. It never served any purpose in the West, except to be a nice pet. We allowed it to become an object that we could mold in any way we saw fit, and now we are suffering the consequences.
We’ve lost site of this animal as a biological entity. In the eyes of many, it has ceased to be a dog. It is an animate toy.
Its canine anatomical necessities have been put on the backburner in order to mold into the image we have created for it.
And until we recognize that pugs are indeed dogs, they are going to continue to suffer.
This is not the way we treat animals we love.
And if we truly do love them, it’s time to look at things from their perspective.
Have a bit of empathy.
Would you like it if you struggled to breathe every time you went to bed?
What if your sweat glands couldn’t cool you on a hot afternoon?
We need to think about these issues before we start nattering on about what’s cute or “excellent breed type.”
These are secondary considerations.
We make breeding decisions for dogs. We write out breed standards. The dogs have no say in it, but they do suffer when we don’t put their interests first.
We’ve clearly not put their interests first when we allowed pugs to turn out this way.
It’s time to change it.
For the love the dogs and simple human decency, we must change.
Update: This dog has already undergone an operation for stenotic nares. It turns out that the reason for her problems are that her entire upper respiratory system is stenotic!