Health and welfare over looks

Description

Extreme conformation refers to breeding practices that result in exaggerated physical traits in animals, often at the expense of their health and welfare.
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Nearly 40% of veterinary professionals in the UK feel that exaggerated conformation in cats and dogs is the top welfare issue they would choose to resolve tomorrow if they could, according to the PDSA animal wellbeing report 2023. 
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Health issues such as breathing difficulties, joint problems, painful ear and dental conditions are common in animals bred for their looks and can lead to lifelong suffering, which can often go unnoticed by people because they seem “normal” for the animal. Additionally, these animals may face challenges in performing basic natural behaviours due to their body shape or structure, leading to compromised welfare. However, some breeds with extreme features, such as brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs and Scottish Fold cats have grown in popularity in recent years, reinforced by their use in advertising or on social media.
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Addressing the issue of extreme conformation requires a collaborative effort between owners, breeders, academics, vets and vet nurses to raise awareness, support research, and ensure the health and welfare of animals are prioritised over aesthetics.
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You can read BVA’s position on extreme conformation and find information and resources to help you raise awareness on the issue here.
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AWF has also been actively involved in supporting research on extreme conformation, under our three-year theme “Breeding for better welfare”, contributing to the body of knowledge on the issue and informing responsible breeding practice.
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AWF-funded research on the issue 👇
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Investigation of whether lop-eared conformations predispose rabbits to ear and dental disease: a pedigree population study 

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A solution right under our nose? Exploring health implications and public demand for brachycephalic ‘designer’ outcrosses
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