Battersea Dogs and Cats Home last year took in the highest number of abandoned flat-faced breeds in it's 159-year history.

Abandoned Pugs and French Bulldogs with life-threatening breathing problems are the "biggest welfare issue" animal shelters face today.

While flat-faced dogs are now 'must-have' fashion accessory for celebs including David Beckham, Brad Pitt and Miley Cyrus, latest figures show the breeds are paying a price.

Last year 213 dogs of a classic brachycephalic breed were taken and the breeds include English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus and Boxers that have fallen into the hands of "irresponsible selective breeding".

But of the total 40 were French Bulldogs and 47 were Pugs.

Vets at the animal shelter performed more than 60 life-saving operations in 2018 to widen dogs' airways which were so narrow, "it would be the equivalent of us breathing through a drinking straw."

The heartbreaking warning comes as celebrities show off their expensive pets that are likely to be struggling to breathe once the cameras have turned off.

Shaun Opperman, Head vet at Battersea Dogs and Cats Shelter, said: "While breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs are undoubtedly cute, they're also a classic example of irresponsible, selective breeding.

"Over the years, breeders have chosen the flattest-faced dogs in the litter to breed, and this has created traits that are dangerous and damaging to the dog's health.

"Many French Bulldogs and Pugs now have airways that are so narrow, it would be the equivalent of us breathing through a drinking straw.

"The corrective surgery massively improves their quality of life, but it's a risky, invasive operation and recovery can be very complicated."

The shelter released images of a tiny French Bulldog undergoing the complex Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) surgery.

Mr Opperman continued: "The dogs Battersea takes in really holds a mirror up to society and reflects what breeds are the most popular in that moment.

"Sadly, that mirror also shows the ugly side of dog ownership, and for these dogs, looks literally can kill.

"The rising number of Brachycephalic dogs is one of the biggest welfare issues that Battersea is facing right now, which is heartbreaking to see."

Vets at the shelter performed 62 BOAS operations last year - a heartbreaking increase from the seven surgeries conducted three-years earlier.

The same year, the animal home took in 47 Pugs compared to 36 in 2014 and 40 French Bulldogs - staggering rise from eight in 2014.

Flat-faced breeds which struggle to breath due to a narrow airway has a huge impact on their lives by effecting the simplest things all dogs should naturally be able to do such as running or playing.

While vets are working hard to carry out the complex BOAS surgery to open their airways, it is sadly no miracle cure and the majority of dogs will struggle to exercise even after the procedure.