The RVC helps shape international agreement on what constitutes naturally healthy body shapes for dogs

ICECDogs Infographic - click for full version
ICECDogs Infographic - click for full version
The International Collaborative on Extreme Conformations in Dogs (ICECDogs) has published a position paper, heavily informed by research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), that helps owners to recognise good innate health in dogs. The international agreement is the first of its kind and provides a guide for animal caregivers, and the wider public, to identify healthy natural physical characteristics in dogs and to predict and assess potential health and welfare based on body shape. This will help anyone who cares about dogs to understand how likely a dog is to suffer from negative impacts resulting from an extreme conformation.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor for Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC and co-founding ICECDogs member, said:

"I have spent the past decade researching and developing the innate health concept at the RVC in London. No owner ever wants an unhealthy dog but the huge popularity of dogs with extreme conformations suggests that many owners have not fully grasped the link between body shape and quality of life for dogs.

"The new ICECDogs position on innate health helps owners understand that extreme conformations are not natural, normal, healthy or desirable for dogs. Innately healthy body shapes can now become a new normal for dogs that we can all celebrate."

The RVC and other evidence suggests that many dogs with extreme conformations endure a lifetime of potential or real suffering from poor innate health which can significantly reduce their overall quality of life. The ICECDogs paper has received support from major UK dog welfare groups that are part of the UK’s Brachycephalic Working Group and builds on the RVC’s wide research in this field.

Dr Dan O’Neill, who is also Chair of the UK Brachycephalic Working Group, further added:

"The UK BWG welcomes this international position that consolidates our shared human ethical commitment to avoiding extreme conformation in dogs. The BWG supports all welfare-focused activities that aim to protect the health and welfare of dogs from the adverse impacts of brachycephaly as an extreme conformation in dogs."

Aiming to raise awareness about what a naturally healthy body shape in dogs looks like, as well as hopefully contributing to a decline in ownership trends of dogs with extreme conformation, the ICECDogs is calling for support from owners, breeders and the general public to improve the welfare of dogs by:
  • Not promoting, breeding, selling, or acquiring dogs with extreme conformations
  • Carefully considering the issues relating to extreme conformations before taking a final decision on what type of dog to acquire
  • Understanding the criteria for good innate health and insisting that every dog must meet these innate canine norms.

Dr Michelle Groleau, ICECDogs member and Director Animal Welfare, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), said:

"The escalation of extreme conformations in animals and the serious harms resulting from them are a priority issue for the CVMA. There is an urgent need for the public to be made aware of the severity of the current situation and to learn how they can contribute to a solution".

The full ICECDogs paper, can be accessed at:

More information about the UK’s Brachycephalic Working Group, can be found at:

More information about the RVC’s VetCompass research, can be found at:­ss/papers-­and-data/o­riginal-pu­blications

About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK’s largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2023.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • The RVC is a research-led institution, with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

About ICECDogs

Further information is available at:

The International Collective on Extreme Conformations in Dogs (ICECDogs) is a global multi-stakeholder group that works together to minimize welfare issues resulting from extreme conformations in dogs by seeking out and applying evidence-based canine and human approaches.

The current focus of the ICECDogs is to support national/regional multi-stakeholder groups engaged in the issues raised by extreme conformation in dogs, and to act as a leader in the development and dissemination of policy and guidance on minimizing extremes of conformation and promoting moderate, healthy conformation in dogs.

ICECDogs collaborates with (multi-)stakeholder groups in the following countries:

  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. Denmark
  4. Ireland
  5. New Zealand
  6. Sweden
  7. United Kingdom

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