Over the last few years we have seen a marked increase in the number of brachycephalic dog breeds, such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs, being surrendered to the rescue. They have become increasingly popular pets, with the French Bulldog being the most popular breed in the UK in 2019, and second most popular in 2020. The quirky appearance and often good natured personalities of these breeds has great appeal, but whilst they can be wonderful additions to the family, brachycephalic dogs can suffer from may health complications related to their short squashy faces.
“Brachycephalic” means “broad, short skull” and these breeds all have a dramatically shorter face and muzzle than many other breeds. The bony structures of the skull are very short, but the soft tissue structures such as the tongue and soft palate are the same length as in other longer faced breeds, so they often have an excess of soft tissues squashed into a very short mouth. A long soft palate can flop down over the epiglottis at the back of the throat and cause partial obstruction of the airway, causing the characteristic noisy breathing heard in these breeds. Additionally, brachycephalic breeds can suffer from narrow nostrils and nasal passages, too many small turbinate bones in their sinuses and abnormalities of the soft tissues in the larynx. All these factors can make normal respiration really difficult for these dogs, with many of them appearing out of breath after hardly any effort and struggling to catch their breath, especially in warmer weather.
We have been fortunate at NCAR in that many of the surrendered brachycephalic dogs have not been too severely affected by the various abnormalities and have not been compromised to a level where surgery has had to be considered, but that is not to say that they aren’t affected to a moderate degree.
More recently, a beautiful little female pug called Penny joined us at the rescue and it was clear from her first veterinary examination that she was quite severely affected by some of the brachycephalic abnormalities. Her breathing was incredibly loud and snorty, even at rest. She had visibly very narrow nostrils, with almost no space for decent air flow, and her soft palate was very over long for her size and frequently flopped down over her epiglottis, causing temporary obstruction of her upper airway and increased snorting and heavy breathing to correct this.
If she ran or even walked for a few minutes, her respiratory rate and effort would increase and she would be panting heavily trying to get enough air.
We sent Penny for assessment for corrective surgery at the Small Animal Teaching Hospital at Leahurst, as it was clear how much her quality of life was affected by having such poor breathing and as she was only a young dog, we wanted her to have the best chance of a more normal life in the future. Penny was found to have several of the brachycephalic abnormalities following a CT scan, including very narrowed nostrils, increased turbinate bones in her nasal passages and an overly long soft palate. She underwent surgery to reduce her soft palate and widen her nostrils, which we are thrilled to report has been a huge success. Penny’s foster carers have said they can barely hear her breathing at rest now, which is a dramatic improvement and should help to ensure that Penny has a good chance at a normal happy life of running around to look forward to.
Sadly the charity has had to pay out nearly £2000 for this operation and as we all know it has already been a hard few years, so we are asking if you can give a donation of £1 or more to help us with this appeal. Every penny counts and will help towards Penny’s future. Thank you