A leading vet has called for pugs and bulldogs to be banned.
Dr Gerhard Oechtering, a veterinary professor at Germany’s Leipzig University, claims it is unethical to breed the popular pets because they are often unable to breathe properly.
Speaking on a new BBC4 documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed – Three Years On, which is due to be screened tomorrow night, Dr Oechtering calls for flat-nosed breeds to be mated with long-nosed ones so that over time new generations do not suffer from blocked airways.
Inherited health problems experienced by some breeds were laid bare in 2008 in a BBC 1 documentary called Pedigree Dogs Exposed.
But Harvey Locke, a past president of the British Veterinary Association, said he believed the professor was being too harsh, and added: ‘No breed should be banned.’
The pug and bulldog are iconic British dogs, which are popular across the country as well as championed by celebrities.
In future, routine practice to improve the health of these dogs will be to mate small-nosed and long-nosed breeds - for example, a pug with a Jack Russell or a bulldog with a Staffordshire bull terrier.
Pedigree Dogs Exposed showed puppies bred with inherited diseases and deformities and featured pugs with breathing problems, bulldogs unable to mate or give natural birth, boxers with epilepsy and a prize-winning Cavalier King Charles spaniel with syringomyelia, a condition that occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for its brain.
The graphic footage provoked an outcry and led the BBC to scrap the TV coverage of the world’s biggest dog show, Crufts, after 42 years - even though it regularly attracted audiences of 14.5million.
The follow-up programme, which is to air just 10 days before this year’s Crufts at the NEC, Birmingham, will show that puppies are still being bred to standards that encourage unhealthy dogs and lead to their suffering.
This is despite the Kennel Club, which polices pedigree dogs, introducing sweeping changes.
The new programme is to focus on the poor health of pugs and bulldogs, flat-faced dogs known as brachycephalic breeds. These dogs often suffer from blocked airways.
Leading insurance company, Petplan, confirmed paying out claims worth £1.5m in 2010, up 25 per cent in four years, specifically for surgery to help pets breathe, and the vast majority of cases were for flat-faced dog breeds.
Dr Oechtering, the world’s leading expert in treating flat-faced dogs, is shown performing a two-hour operation to clear the airwaves and widen the nostrils of a four-year-old German pug, called Cissie.
He said: 'It is unbelievable that we need invasive surgery just to repair the basic needs of the dog. Breathing is the most basic need and this is no way acceptable from any ethical point we have today.
'The whole veterinary profession is faced more and more with the situation that we are becoming the repair troop for small animal breeders. We should totally stop breeding brachycephalic breeds. Breeders have shown they are not able to breed healthy animals.'
Leading UK vet, Dan Brockman, a professor of small animal surgery at the Royal Veterinary College said he agreed with removing extreme deformities in pugs and bulldogs through cross-breeding.
He said: 'The solution is in our gift but the people in control are either in denial about how the problem has come about or are deeply concerned that changing the appearance of the breed will change the personality of the breed.
'We are sleepwalking into perpetuating these problems but it is within our ability to resolve these issues with a simple outbreeding programme. Crossing short-nosed with long-nosed breeds would have some impact.
'But pedigree breeders are most concerned with preservation of the line, while welfare experts are most concerned about quality of life. If we wait for people to do this themselves it will never happen. I believe some legislation is essential to enforce a change.'
But Mr Locke added: 'There are ways that exaggerations in the conformity of certain breeds can be reversed.
'We should not be breeding from pedigree lines with extreme features or from dogs with any health problems whether it’s breathing or eyes.
'We won’t be able to reverse bad breeding in one or two generations, it will take decades. The important thing is to tackle it scientifically with welfare organisations and breed clubs and we’ll be in the right direction.'
Harry Redknapp said last night: 'I have had bulldogs for over 11 years and I’ve not had a problem with them not being able to breathe. I run them along the beach every day near our house. Maybe we’ve been lucky and not had problems but I certainly would not be happy having a bulldog that was crossed with a Staffie.'
Many breed organisations, and the Kennel Club, believe they were unfairly treated in the first documentary and are on tenterhooks over the new one.
Jeanette Field, vice-chairman of The Pug Dog Club, which has 1,600 members in Britain, said: 'We followed the stance of the Kennel Club and did not co-operate with the programme. But we’ve already changed our standards and pugs are being screened and X-rayed for health problems.'
Arthur Rowe, chairman of the Bulldog Breeding Council, also said standards had been changed and more were in the pipeline. 'We are trying to get judges in shows to reward bulldogs with wide open nostrils and we are waiting for results of work in Holland and the States on how to widen the trachea. Hopefully things will improve.'
Caroline Kisko, secretary at the Kennel Club, made clear that health of new puppies was the first priority for all breeding standards. 'It is against the standard to breed dogs that cannot breathe freely. Sadly, some dogs suffer ill health as a result of being bred for a particular look, which is unacceptable.'
She added: 'We have introduced veterinary inspections for dogs such as the bulldog and pug at Crufts and other shows, to encourage the breeding of healthy dogs, and we run the Assured Breeder Scheme which is the only one that sets standards for and monitors breeders, but unfortunately, outside the Kennel Club, there is an almost total lack of regulation to help protect dogs or to guide and educate breeders.'
An independent Dog Advisory Council set up last year is examining solutions for dog breeding problems in Britain, but new laws are unlikely.