Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
Kennel Club figures show a 3000% rise in ownership of pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus and boxers since 2007. Yet many owners remain unaware of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and other health issues common to flat-faced, brachycephalic dog breeds.
Brachycephalic – meaning ‘short head’ – causes a squashing-up of the soft tissue within the dog’s nose and mouth. Folds of skin around the face further narrow and obstruct the dog’s airways causing wheezing, snorting and the struggle for breath that characterise flat-faced dogs that suffer Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. But it’s not just breathing that’s a problem for flat-faced dog breeds.
Brachycephalic dogs can’t move enough air through their narrowed airways
In hot weather, we humans cool ourselves by sweating. Dogs can’t sweat. So when they’re too hot they have to cool down by moving more air over their moist tongues and airways. That’s why we see dogs ‘panting’ when they’re too hot. Brachycephalic dogs can’t move enough air through their narrowed airways so can easily overheat and even die in hot weather.
Flat-faced dogs still have the same number of teeth as longer nosed breeds. Fitting all 42 teeth into a shortened mouth causes overcrowded teeth to overlap making teeth and gums harder to keep clean and free from decay and disease.
High risk of conjunctivitis, ulcers and even sight-loss
Skin-folds around the face provide a hiding place for fleas, disease-carrying mites and other irritants that can cause hair loss and fungal skin infections. Shortened muzzles cause the eyes to stand out more allowing the thin film of protective moisture to dry more quickly risking conjunctivitis, ulcers and even sight-loss.
Selective breeding has so effectively accelerated the evolution of the larger head-size of flat-faced dogs that other, naturally evolving, parts of the anatomy haven’t been able to keep up. Brachycephalic bitches frequently require a caesarean section to deliver their pups. Pet charity, The Blue Cross, report that more than 80% of English Bulldog and French Bulldog pups are delivered by C-section births.
Pressure for change
Pressure for change is coming from a number of concerned sources. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat Faced Animals (CRUFFA) have begun educating advertising agencies against using flat-nosed dogs in ad campaigns. The more extreme breed standards are under review by The Kennel Club and other international breed regulators.
But the most effective pressure may yet prove to be economic. The increased risk of corneal ulcers and breathing problems in brachycephalic breeds means that owners are likely to have to pay more when insuring flat-faced breeds, with Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and related conditions possibly excluded from their insurance cover.