The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) strongly recommends that animals which show extremes of conformation that negatively affect their health and welfare should not be used for breeding.

The BSAVA strongly recommends that breeders avoid the mating of closely related dogs. It recommends that no bitch should be intentionally mated to a dog when the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) of the resulting puppies would exceed the breed average or 12.5% if no breed average exists as measured from a minimum five generation pedigree.

The BSAVA recommends that in order to reduce the incidence of inherited diseases with an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance, breeders should use genetic tests when available and not breed from carriers.

The BSAVA recommends that in order to reduce the incidence of inherited diseases with a polygenic or multifactorial mode of inheritance, breeders should participate in recognized health schemes and only breed from those animals which are clear or better that the breed average as appropriate. Where health schemes do not exist, breeders should preferentially breed from individuals that show less extreme morphologies (bearing in mind other considerations including temperament and behaviour).

Whilst the BSAVA recognises that the physical health and welfare of an animal is important overall, it recommends that consideration is also given to the temperament and socialisation of animals being bred and the parents of those offspring.

The BSAVA supports the idea of expanding gene pools of certain breeds where this is necessary to avoid welfare problems, and limiting the number of progeny from any individual sire taking care not to introduce new diseases or conditions.

The BSAVA recommends that those thinking about buying a puppy consider carefully the potential problems of different breeds (and crossbreeds). These, along with the interpretation and summary of any pre-purchase test results obtained from a breeder, should be discussed with a veterinary surgeon before purchase.

The BSAVA supports veterinary surgeons taking a responsible approach to encouraging good breeding practices by working with clients or recognised organisations.

The BSAVA supports the work of the Government to legislate and provide guidance that seeks to improve breeding practices of dogs and cats. It also supports other initiatives which seek to improve health and welfare of companion animals by similar means.

The BSAVA supports the recommendation that where possible animals should be permanently identified by means of a microchip before leaving the breeder to enable full traceability to the origin of a puppy and breeder.

The BSAVA supports epidemiological and genetic research into the prevalence and molecular mechanisms of inherited diseases in dogs and cats. Currently there is limited evidence available and continued research is needed to further inform this subject.

Background information

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) acknowledges that whilst the selective breeding of companion animals has the potential to bring benefits, it has also resulted in a number of health and welfare issues related to inherited diseases and exaggerated characteristics. This in particular may be apparent where an animal may have been bred purely for aesthetics or financial gain. While there may be problems in any species that is bred selectively, there appears to be a particular problem in dogs and to a degree, cats and rabbits because of the selection pressures that have been applied to species. Inherited diseases and exaggerated characteristics not only cause health and welfare issues for the animal concerned, but also create a financial burden and emotional distress for the owner.

Although inherited disease and exaggerated characteristics can occur in any dog, cat or rabbit, there can be specific issues related to pedigree, purebred and ‘designer’ cross-breed dogs, which are often selected for breeding on the basis of aesthetic considerations (e.g. conformation, coat colour or gait) as opposed to consideration being given to health. This may introduce inherited disease and exaggerated characteristics which are detrimental to health and wellbeing of the animal, either as a direct result of selection for particular characteristics or where the inherited condition is linked to a trait which is being selected. Within this group it should be noted that show dogs may have a disproportionate influence on the gene pool, both directly in that they may produce a large number of progeny, and indirectly in influencing the public’s perception of the breed.

The BSAVA supports limiting the unnecessary use of animals exhibiting exaggerated characteristics in advertising materials wherever possible so as to minimize influencing the public and in particular, potential new owners, as to any perceived desirability of these breeds.

The introduction of legislation to address irresponsible breeding is supported by BSAVA. The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and related Guidance outlines the responsibility of breeders not to breed from any dog if it can reasonably expected on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health and welfare of its offspring.

Veterinary surgeons can have a role to play in supporting responsible breeding. Where approached for advice by prospective breeders they can provide advice to encourage good breeding practices. Where they carry out corrective surgery to address conformational issues in a dog or where caesareans are performed on a Kennel Club registered animal, they can report these to the Kennel Club whilst adhering to the RCVS Code of Conduct on client confidentiality.

Further information

Kennel Club

Cambridge University

Universities Federation of Animal Welfare (UFAW)

Independent Advisory Council (IAC) on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding

World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)

Federation of Vets in Europe/European Federation of Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FVE/FECAVA)

Dog Breed Health

Dog Breeding Reform Group (DBRG)

Independent inquiry into dog breeding – The Bateson Report

BVA Canine Health Schemes

The Puppy Contract

A tool to encourage the responsible breeding and buying of puppies

International Cat Care – Inherited diseases in cats

RCVS Code of Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons

BSAVA Scientific Position Statement: Pet Identification

Relevant Research

O’Neill, DG., O’Sullivan, AM., Manson, EA., Church, DB., Boag, AK., McGreevy, PD., Brodbelt, DC. (2017) Canine dystocia in 50 UK first-opinion emergency-care veterinary practices: prevalence and risk factors Veterinary Record 181, 88

O’Neill DG, Jackson C, Guy JH, Church DB, McGreevy PD, Thomson PC, Brodbelt DC: Epidemiological associations between brachycephaly and upper respiratory tract disorders in dogs attending veterinary practices in England. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology 2015, 2(1):10. 15

Packer RMA, Hendricks A, Tivers MS, Burn CC (2015) Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0137496. Available at:

Malik R, Allan GS, Howlett CR, et al. Osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish Fold cats. Aust Vet J 1999; 77: 85 – 92. 12

Mandibular prognathism in the rabbit: discrimination between single – locus and multifactoral models of inheritance. Journal of Heredity 72(4): 296-298 30 L


Reviewed by members of BSAVA Scientific Committee (Sarah Caddy, Alex German, Jeremy Kirk, Caroline Kisielewicz, Lisa Morrow, Ian Self, Melissa Upjohn, James Warland) 2021

BSAVA members Member Only

If you are a BSAVA member please log in to access additional content. If you are not currently a BSAVA member and would like to join us please click here.

Quick links