Posts Tagged ‘brachycephalic airway syndrome’

Although treated as cute on the internet, this Ohio bulldog is actually suffering from its reduced ability to cool itself through panting. That's why it has situated itself on a pile of ice.

This comes from the wonderful post by the Dog Zombie, a vet student and excellent dog health blogger:

From the other side of the fence, in anesthesia lecture we got a moment to think about the welfare of dogs. Dr. Bonne talked about managing brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs when they recover from anesthesia. When a dog is under general anesthesia, it has an endotracheal tube (“trach tube”) put down its throat to help it breathe. Most dogs need to have the trach tube removed before they are fully awake. Not brachycephalics. Dr. Bonne showed us a photo of a bulldog: “Look, there he is, wide awake with the tube in, breathing wonderfully. They will do that for an hour or so.” Brachycephalics often have tracheas the width of a tomcat’s, just 5.5 mm in diameter. It is not really enough for them to breathe. When they wake up with a trach tube in, it may be the first time in their lives in which they can breathe easily. Dr. Bonne expounded: “Can you imagine, they must spend so much energy every day, just to breathe. They are perfectly happy with the trach tube in. You should leave it in until the last minute, until they are almost ready to walk out the door. Nobody else tolerates the tube the way that these dogs do.” To my mind, she didn’t go quite far enough — she didn’t ever suggest that perhaps brachycephalics should be bred with a little more care to whether or not they can breathe. But I still appreciated the rant, as far as it went.

Now, if that’s not a welfare problem from poor breeding practices, then I don’t know what is.

The Dog Zombie also talks about a type of tumor that is caused by the reduced oxygenation that these brachycephalic breeds experience:

This is actually the veterinary fact of yesterday. During small animal medicine and surgery, a surgeon was discussing chemodectomas, tumors arising from chemoreceptors. A chemoreceptor is a cluster of cells which measures chemical changes in the body, such as oxygen level. The surgeon asserted that brachycephalic dogs (flat-faced dogs, like pugs and bulldogs) get chemodectomas more often than other types of dogs, possibly due to “chronic asphyxiation.” In other words, in his opinon (and that of other veterinarians), the fact that flat-faced dogs can’t really get enough air in through their tiny noses can actually result in cancer.

I’m not going to talk about the physiology behind how this would work, because we didn’t cover that in class. I will say that I think it is a failing of the veterinary profession as a whole to not discuss these kinds of issues more with people who are deciding what kind of dog to get. “That breed of dog is more likely to get this form of cancer” is a very different statement from “that breed of dog can’t get enough air into its system, which can cause all kinds of problems, including cancer. We should be encouraging breeders to breed a little more snout into these dogs so they can be healthy.”

So even if the dogs have relatively clear airways, there are still health and welfare problems associated with the phenotype.

This phenotype is a major scandal. How would you feel if you didn’t have the ability fully oxygenate yourself? I have been around lifelong smokers who have had issues with COPD, and I can tell you it’s not fun.

How would you like to have a reduced ability to cool yourself? How would you like if you had no sweat glands at all and were out running around in 95 degree heat?  You wouldn’t last.

Now imagine you’re a dog with a 102 degree body temperature and already compromised ability to shed excess heat. How do justify breeding something like this?

But because established breeders and their clubs have decided that it is “correct,” no one has called them out on it.

Until now.

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