Choose hugs not Pugs this Valentine’s Day, vets urge card retailers and consumers

12 February 2018

Choose hugs not Pugs to show your love. #BreedtoBreathe

Pugs and other flat-faced dogs and cats are covering cards and gifts this Valentine's Day, but with their ‘cute' looks masking a multitude of health and welfare problems the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has written to the greeting card industry asking for their help to curb the worrying demand for flat-faced pets.

According to a survey of UK vets, the top three reasons people buy Pugs and other brachycephalic (meaning ‘short' ‘head') animals are because of their looks, popularity and high profile on merchandise and across the media. However, vets also said they believe that the majority of owners were unaware of the breeds' potential health and welfare problems before choosing their pet.

To help raise retailer and public awareness of flat-faced breeds' problems, the trade body for the greeting card industry has highlighted the issue with their members. The Chief Executive of the Greeting Card Association, Sharon Little, said:

“Greeting cards reflect lifestyle trends so, unsurprisingly, popular animals are featured on greeting cards, as well as many other products. We have written to our members to raise awareness of the campaign and have publicised it through the trade press. Card publishers and retailers have up to a year's lead times, but we're sharing this information now so that our members can make informed decisions about the products they stock and sell in the future.”

Over half of the brachycephalic dogs and a quarter of the brachycephalic cats that vets see need treatment for health issues related to how they look, revealed BVA's Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.

This is the second year BVA is encouraging romantics to give ‘hugs, not Pugs' to loved ones and has directly raised concerns with a number of card retailers, encouraging them to avoid using images of brachycephalic animals in a bid to prevent promoting these animals as the pet du jour. Organisations including Marks & Spencer, Costa Coffee and Heinz have already committed to considering the use of brachycephalic animals in their advertising and merchandise.

President of the British Veterinary Association, vet John Fishwick said:

“Pugs and many other flat-faced dogs have lovely temperaments, but the use of their images on cards and gifts is ‘normalising' these breeds' short noses and big eyes which can cause horrendous pain for the animal and prove costly for the owner to treat.

“We understand that stock for this year is already in the shops, but we're confident that now card retailers are aware of these problems they will want to do their bit to reduce the visibility and, hopefully, the popularity of these breeds.

“Valentine's Day is meant to be romantic, so giving a gift or card depicting an animal that can suffer breathing difficulties or skin problems as a result of its breeding is definitely a message to avoid. That's why we're saying choose hugs not Pugs to show your love.”

The vets' Valentine's Day message is part of BVA's #BreedtoBreathe campaign, which is calling on big brands to help combat the rise in popularity of these extreme features and stop promoting them in merchandising and advertising.