One day conference at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) will discuss why brachycephalic dogs are more prone to serious breathing disorders.

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) will host an invite-only conference on November 11 in a bid to increase understanding of disorders suffered by brachycephalic (short-muzzled) dogs.

Researchers from the college will be revealing, for the first time, their evidence that increasingly short muzzles and large eyes heighten the risks of two serious disorders: brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) a common debilitating respiratory disorder, and corneal ulceration, which may lead to blindness.

Brachycephalic dogs are internationally popular; the bulldog is the sixth most registered dog in the US and the pug is the ninth in the UK. Breed standards for these dogs previously encouraged exaggerating short noses and large eyes; however the RVC’s research has found:

  • shorter muzzles, thicker necks and being overweight heighten the risk of BOAS
  • larger eyelid openings, nasal folds, short muzzles and exposed eye whites heighten the risk of corneal ulcers

Researchers have also found clinical signs of BOAS, such as respiratory noise and breathing difficulties, are not perceived as a problem by brachycephalic dog owners, instead being considered “normal for the breed“.

These findings tie in with previous reports indicating this perception as normal for the breed is common to many veterinarians and breeders. 

Rowena Packer, a PhD student in Animal Welfare at the RVC and speaker and organiser of the conference, said: “We hope this research and event will benefit brachycephalic dogs’ welfare, through potential avenues such as quantitative limits being introduced into breed standards, breed judges penalising unhealthy conformations in the show ring, breeders actively selecting for healthier dogs.

“We also need to raise awareness among veterinarians providing advice to brachycephalic dog owners and breeders so they can recognise their dogs’ respiratory and eye problems require veterinary attention.”

The RVC small animal referral hospital was integral to much of this research, with 700 clinical cases recruited from various clinical services for the studies.

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