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Short-nosed dog breeds may have undiagnosed breathing problems

Owners of popular short-nosed dog breeds may be putting their pets’ health at risk by putting the signs of their animals’ breathing difficulties down to being ‘normal’ for their breed.

Studies by the Royal Veterinary College have been published by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) in their Animal Welfare journal, stating that dog owners of short-nosed breeds such as pugs, bulldogs and Pekingese, aren’t seeking essential treatment because they are disregarding their pets’ tell-tale signs of breathing issues as normal.

Brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs have a compressed upper jaw, which results in soft tissue being crammed within the skull. This can lead to brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) which can stop a dog from enjoying the simple pleasures of its life – exercise, playing, eating and sleeping.

Researchers surveyed 285 dog owners, whose pets had been referred to the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals. BOAS was identified as affecting 31 of the dogs, and upon surveying the owners, researchers found a disparity between owners’ reports of severe clinical signs and their perceived lack of a breathing problem to be of great concern.

All affected dogs were reported by their owners to snore and over two-thirds of affected dogs were reported to show breathing difficulties during exercise. Despite this, 58 per cent of the owners stated their dog did not currently have, or have a history of breathing problems, suggesting that most owners of dogs with BOAS do not recognise the problem.

As “short-nosed” dogs increase in popularity – Kennel Club registrations of Pugs alone almost doubled between 2007 and 2010 – owners are being warned that there is a downside to their cute looks, and that undiagnosed breathing issues are causing their beloved pets agony.

Rowena Packer from the Royal Veterinary College said: “Our study clearly shows that owners of brachycephalic dogs often dismiss the signs of this potentially severe breathing disorder as normal, and are prepared to tolerate a high degree of respiratory compromise in their pets before seeking help.”

Dr Charlotte Burn, who led the research added: “Just because a problem is common, that doesn’t make it less of a problem for the individuals who suffer it.”

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