Many companion animal veterinarians are advocating for awareness of brachycephalic dog breeds.
Brachycephalic is the scientific term for a short skull that frequently presents with a shortened muzzle and large, round head. They often have a reduced respiratory passage and elongated soft palate, making breathing difficult.
Breeds such as English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers, are often recognized as severe brachycephalic breeds.
Short-faced breeds are predisposed to breathing conditions like brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, which presents with noisy or laboured breathing, sleep apnea, and stress or heat intolerance during exercise.
In severe cases, these breeds don’t have the ability to give birth naturally and require a cesarean section because the size of the puppy’s head is too large to pass through the mother’s pelvic opening.
With the breathing issues, brachycephalic dogs can have risks when placed under anesthesia.
Veterinarian specialist Dr. Daniel Joffe said breeding severe brachycephalic dogs can be inhumane.
Dr. Joffe works at the Calgary Animal Referral and Emergency Centre (CARE Centre). The centre has English and French bulldogs who come in weekly with life-threatening distress because of their breathing struggles.
“If they can’t be born naturally, then we shouldn’t be breeding them,” Joffe said. “It’s not fair if the mother has to undergo surgery to have the puppies multiple times because of the breeders, they’ll have multiple litters throughout their life, and to me, that’s the line.”
Joffe said breeds that have short faces often do better in dog shows.
According to the Canadian Kennel Club, “the perfect Bulldog must be of medium size and smooth coat; with heavy, thick-set, low-swung body, massive short-faced head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs.”
Another Albertan veterinarian, Dr. Kent Fruson, acknowledges the difficulties brachycephalic dogs endure.
“I wish most puppy buyers would collectively understand what a horrific thing we’ve done by selective breeding and have caused undue suffering in puppies,” Fruson said. “Straining expenses on new owners, and they don’t see it until usually later in the dog’s life.”
Fruson said, “it has to be the buyer who rejects purchasing, but there are close to eight billion people on the planet, and we’re not likely to get buyers to stop or boycott the breeds in the veterinary community.”
Both Joffe and Fruson acknowledge why people love the breeds but want buyers and breeders to understand the complications and health issues the breeds deal with genetically.
Jayda Krushel attends the animal health program at Olds College and owns an English bulldog named Hank.
During her program, Krushel did a project on brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. She said during her research, she realized the seriousness of brachycephalics, especially in English bulldogs like Hank.
“Hank is a mess, almost like he’s a problem; this is not good,” Krushel said. “It’s certain things we’ll learn that I’m like, okay, I’m gonna avoid that breed of dog.”
Two-year-old Hank has since only endured head tremors. An unknown condition that is common in English bulldogs, resulting in headshakes.
In other attempts to gain awareness of brachycephalism, veterinarians from the United Kingdom and other European countries have collaborated with a campaign called Vets Against Brachycephalism.
Norway has initiated a ban against breeding brachycephalic dogs due to the number of health conditions and issues associated with the breeds.