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Birth-risk for flat faced breeds claims study

New research has found that flat faced brachycephalic dogs are the most likely breed types to encounter problems when giving birth.

Compared with other crossbred bitches, French Bulldogs are 15.9 times more likely to have difficulty giving birth (dystocia). This finding forms part of a project called VetCompass, which is led by the Royal Veterinary College, and has shed new light onto the risks associated with giving birth in dogs in the UK.

VetCompass collects anonymised clinical information on over six million companion animals under veterinary care in the UK. This paper is the latest of over 25 VetCompass studies published so far and was a collaboration with clinicians from the Vets Now nationwide network of emergency veterinary clinics.

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The study investigated bitches presented with difficulty giving birth from among almost 20,000 bitches attending 50 Vets Now surgeries. Researchers found that out of 20,000 bitches receiving emergency veterinary care, 3.7 per cent of these were treated because of difficulties encountered giving birth.

The most commonly affected breeds were the French Bulldog (15.9 times more likely), Boston Terrier (12.9 times more likely), Chihuahua (10.4 times more likely) and Pug (11.3 times more likely).

There has been a sharp rise in recent years in the popularity of flat faced dogs, and this study adds further weight to welfare concerns surrounding this increase. This research suggests that owners should consider carefully the risks before deciding to breed from their bitches, especially if these are brachycephalic.

Dr Dan O’Neill, a companion animal epidemiologist within the VetCompass Programme, said: “Giving birth in dogs is not always a benign process and our research shows this risk is especially exacerbated in some common brachycephalic and toy breeds. Prospective owners should bear these welfare costs for high risk breeds in mind when choosing their new puppy.”

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “VetCompass’ research will not only enable dog breeders to make responsible breeding choices to improve the health of these dogs, it will help to highlight what puppy buyers need to be looking out for if they are intent on owning one of these breeds. If people are choosing a breed simply for its looks and are not going to a reputable breeder, they are likely to face high vet costs and a lifetime of heartache.”

This study builds on previous ‘purchasing’ research by the RVC which found that appearance is the number one reason why owners purchase flat-faced breeds, even though their large, round, wide-set eyes, and flat rounded faces are linked with a variety of inherited diseases.


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