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Brachycephalic dog breeds like the English bulldog, French bulldog and the pug are among the UK’s most popular dog breeds – all three of these breeds fall within the top ten list by popularity, with the French bulldog right at the top in first place overall.
However, brachycephalic dogs, and particularly those of these three breeds are at heightened risk of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, a very limiting and potentially dangerous health condition that results from conformation exaggerations and an overly flat face.
Many pugs, English bulldogs and French bulldogs suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome or BOAS to some degree – and this condition poses such a risk to dogs that The Kennel Club, breed organisations like the French Bulldog Club of England, and veterinary organisations are undertaking and supporting research into the condition, and how it affects dogs.
Understanding BOAS, the conformation that causes it and how the condition impacts upon brachycephalic dogs is the key to helping to alleviate the condition’s impact – and vitally, to provide support and guidance to dog owners and breeders on breeding for health improvement and a good, unexaggerated conformation.
A large-scale veterinary research program is currently underway at Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital in Cambridge, which seeks to undertake a non-invasive respiratory function assessment of pugs, French bulldogs and English bulldogs and their conformation, and how it affects their ability to breathe.
If you own a dog of one of these three breeds, your dog may be able to take part in the study – helping to provide valuable information that could help to improve the health of all three of these breeds in the future.
In this article, we will look at what is involved in the Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital research program, and how your own dog can take part in the study. Read on to learn more.
The assessment for each dog that takes part in the study consists of four stages, which are designed to develop a complete picture of the brachycephalic conformation of different dogs and how this impacts upon their respiration.
The first part of the assessment involves a veterinary examination, which includes listening to the dog’s throat and chest with a stethoscope, assessment of the nostrils and how open or pinched they are, assessment of the dog’s respiratory signs – how freely they can breathe – and a trotting tolerance test, in which the dog is trotted for three minutes whilst monitored.
The second stage of the assessment takes the form of a closer look at the dog’s full head and muzzle, with measurements taken of their skull and cranium, muzzle, eye width, neck, girth, chest and body. Photographs of the dog’s head are also taken, from both the front and the side.
Stage three is a quick cheek swab being taken from the dog, in order to gather some DNA to support the other parts of the assessment.
The final part of the assessment, stage four, is a respiratory function assessment. This takes place in a special WBBP chamber where the dog can move about freely while their respiratory function is tested. The dog will spend a few minutes getting used to the chamber and settling down, and then they are recorded for twenty minutes simply breathing normally. An investigator remains in the room in sight of the dog during this part of the study, and you as the dog’s owner can view this part of the test from just outside the room.
If you own a pedigree French bulldog, English bulldog or pug, you can apply to have them assessed as part of the study. Dogs of these breeds with an excellent conformation and no signs of BOAS are welcomed, as are dogs that are known to be affected with BOAS to varying degrees too.
The aims of the study are to reduce the occurrence rates of BOAS within brachycephalic dog breeds, and improve the long-term health and welfare of dogs of this type as a whole. This means as wide a selection of dogs as possible need to be assessed, ranging from fighting fit to negatively impacted by BOAS in order to build up a complete picture of the current state of play across dogs within the study.
Assessment of dogs as part of the study is undertaken at Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital in Cambridge, so to take part with your own dog you will have to be able to get them there for your appointment.
You can find out more about the full details of the assessment and contact details for the researchers involved so that you can speak to them about arranging assessment of your own dog via this page of the Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital website.
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