Kendal and South Lakes vet praises Kennel Club breeding plan
A Kendal vet has welcomed a new scheme from the UK’s largest canine welfare organization to encourage responsible dog breeding among some popular breeds prone to health issues.
Pet charity Blue Cross has estimated that around 20% of pet dogs in the UK are now flat-faced breeds, such as boxers, bulldogs, pugs and French bulldogs, which may suffer from health problems such as eye disease, skin disease, respiratory obstruction and spinal deformities.
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Kendal vet Mhairi Helme, who works in the South Lakes and Lancashire, explained why these issues can occur, what owners should be aware of and how the Kennel Club aims to raise awareness of the problem.
“We call these dogs ‘brachycephalic’ and they are very popular despite their health issues,” she said.
“They look cute to people, are very interactive, and generally have nice personalities.
“They have very human traits, and also like to be ‘pampered’ and taken care of.
“However, they often tend to have spinal, neurological, ocular (large exposed and unprotected corneas, and dental (teeth crowded into abnormally short mouth) problems, but the main concern is respiratory.
“They have narrow nostrils with tiny windpipes, so any swelling in the pharynx or larynx can cause airway obstruction – it can collapse and the grunt many of them make when breathing is due to lack space to breathe properly.
“These dogs are prone to heatstroke and have difficulty cooling down as panting can exacerbate their breathing difficulties and are more at risk under anesthesia.
“They develop a syndrome called BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome) and it’s a downward spiral that can happen very quickly where they eventually have severe difficulty or can’t even breathe, and may require a tracheotomy (surgical opening of the airways).
“I’ve had patients who can be stressed in the kennel, then panting from stress, giving themselves BOAS and needing a tracheostomy, even though the underlying problem wasn’t a respiratory issue.
“The Kennel Club has started a program to mark the airways of certain brachycephalic dogs to encourage responsible breeding.
“Some French Bulldogs are much better and have the exercise tolerance of a Springer Spaniel for example.
“People would do well to ask for dogs with a less extreme brachycephalic conformation and not buy dogs whose parents are obviously not breathing well, but the diet is in its infancy and not yet widespread – that would be great to see him promoted.
“Many can’t even give birth and need a caesarean, which has huge ethical ramifications because a caesarean requires general anesthesia and puts the mother at risk.”