Breeds such as French Bulldogs and Pugs are incredibly popular here in Australia, and it’s easy to see why: they are human-centred by nature and make excellent companions. And they are incredibly comedic. However, these brachycephalic breeds — that is, breeds that are “short-headed” — aren’t without their drawbacks.
Generations of breeding to develop certain aesthetic features have left these animals with a range of issues that often result in them spending more time at the local vet clinic than the average dog.
What issues are common among brachycephalic breeds?
There are a number of common issues suffered by brachycephalic breeds, which ultimately affect their quality of life. These issues include:
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) occurs as a direct result of select breeding for short noses. Dog with BOAS, as you might expect, have difficulty breathing — both at rest, and even more so when exercised or subjected to hot weather. Generally the condition worsens as the dog ages and veterinary intervention is usually required.
Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome is an issue common amongst breeds where there has been select breeding for large, bulging eyes (often paired with shallow eye sockets). Brachycephalic ocular syndrome is a range of disorders, including an inability to fully close the eyelids, protrusion of the eyeball, and abnormally large eye openings. Dogs with this condition often show signs of chronic irritation, and ulceration of the eyes may also occur. In some cases, breeds with these sorts of eye problems can also be prone to eye proptosis, where the eyeball is displaced from the skull if the skin is accidentally pulled too hard or the eye area is subject to trauma.
Skin Fold Dermatitis is common when dogs are bred to have excessive skin wrinkles — which of course is common among the brachycephalic breeds. Animals with excessive skin folds always carry a heightened risk of developing dermatitis and other skin conditions.
As long as brachycephalic breeds are still bred with aesthetics valued over function, issues such as BOAS, eye issues and skin issues will continue to be problematic for these dogs and their owners. While some dogs are lucky enough to have manageable conditions, others may require surgery to help them achieve an acceptable quality of life.
Dogs suffering from BOAS may require surgery to reduce airway obstruction, while dogs with brachycephalic ocular syndrome can also require surgical intervention — and of course this is essential if they suffer from eye proptosis. Even dogs with chronic skin can require surgery to remove excess skin folds.
It’s imperative that potential dog owners who are interested in brachycephalic breeds do their research and purchase from a reputable breeder whose animals do not have a history of these conditions — and who ideally are moving away from breeding dogs with overly exaggerated aesthetics and instead favouring animals that are physically sound and able to live happy and comfortable lives.
Evolving veterinary care
From a veterinary perspective, the increasing popularity of brachycephalic breeds in Australia means that veterinarians need to be well versed in the aforementioned issues — and also be equipped to handle any surgeries that might arise as a result of them.
At VetPrac, the “Fix the Face Workshop” is a popular workshop that covers many of the common surgeries associated with these breeds and aims to provide vets with a broadened repertoire of options for patients. VetPrac workshops deliver hours of hands on, wet lab practice in top quality surgical training facilities, guided by a specialist.
For more information regarding VetPrac’s “Advanced Fix the Face Workshop”, please click here.