With a quarter of dogs owned in the UK now being classed as ‘Brachycephalic’ (short-faced), vets around the UK are more than ever, being faced by a rising problem – helping dogs to breath. I have been a qualified veterinary surgeon for just over 7 months and have already been bombarded with the problems these breeds face.
In these short 7 months I have had to induce two bulldogs less than 3 years old into a coma to allow them to breath. Why? Because brachycephalic dog breeds have been bred for cuteness, not for the ability to live. All these breeds have almost the same amount of skin, soft tissue and muscle as their long-nosed cousins, however these tissues are all squeezed into a much smaller space. This means their soft palate hangs over their larynx and windpipe. They can also have smaller nostrils, oversized tongues and narrower windpipes. All this pressure on the lungs to drag in oxygen passed these obstructions can cause secondary problems including collapse of the larynx, hiatal hernias, regurgitation and even right-sided heart failure.
Unfortunately, this is not where the problems end. Eye ulcers, skin fold infections, dystocia, dental disease from severe malocclusion of teeth and ‘cherry eye’ (prolapse of the third eyelid tear gland) are just some more of the issues these breeds face.
What I hope for the future is education; not a ban on these breeds. With educated owners and responsible breeding these dogs can make loving family pets. My advice would be to do your research. Puppy farmers can be very clever at concealing their puppies real background. Check if the mother or father has had any serious health problems or surgeries, along with buying pet insurance and knowing what it will cover as soon as possible. Keep your brachycephalic pets cool and unstressed and take them for regular health checks – snoring is not normal or cute and is a sign of serious respiratory issues!
– Sophie McCarty
– Eilis Scally (illustration)