Pugs, Boston Terriers, French and English bulldogs, oh my! Their distinctive, squashed little noses are so cute! But are these smushy face doggies getting the short end of the stick? According to experts, yes.
The term brachycephalic means “short-headed,” giving the face and nose a pushed-in appearance. While breeders and owners may find the flat face of these breeds aesthetically pleasing, the short noses pose a problem that is worsening over time.
A brachycephalic dog’s life may be rather uncomfortable because they usually suffer from a condition known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome or BOAS. Further, such breeds tend to become increasingly inbred, raising ethical questions regarding the continuation of these breeds.
Unfortunately, many flat-faced dogs are at risk of experiencing several health problems. Symptoms such as noisy breathing or snoring are overlooked because they seem normal for the breed. However, educating yourself on BOAS will help you to better help your pet, and go to the veterinarian when symptoms arise.
The Lowdown on Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)
For brachycephalic dogs, the problem begins with removing the snout. As a result, the breed is forced to breathe through nasal passageways that are too small.
“We might imagine when we have a cold and it’s harder to breathe and we tend to snore a lot,” explained Erica Feuerbacher, an associate professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science. “That could be what it might be like for these dogs.”
Marjan van Hagen, a professor of animal behavior at Utrecht University, also added that “due to malformation of the skull and muzzle, a lot of brachycephalic dogs have stenotic nares (a condition caused by malformed nasal cartilage that strains the larynx), bulging eyes and deep nasal skin folds.”
Unfortunately, this means that many of these animals suffer from shortness of breath and painful eye conditions caused by malformed sockets. Additionally, flat-faced dogs suffer from narrowing windpipes, often leading to considerable strain on the surrounding muscles and tissue. Consequently, this muscle strain gradually aggravates the condition.
As short-nosed dogs have difficulty breathing, their blood contains less oxygen. Due to this, they are also at risk for heart failure. Moreover, the extra effort necessary to breathe can also cause painful acid reflux.
Clearly, Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome is no walk in the dog park. If it’s so difficult for these poor dogs to live their day-to-day lives, how is the breed surviving?
Innapropriate Breeding Practices Among Flat Faced Dog Breeds
“The breeding for flatter faces seems to have increased mostly in the last 50-100 years to accentuate the “baby face” that many owners love and are attracted to,” Molly H. Sumridge, an instructor of anthrozoology at Carroll College, noted. “
Yet, it was not until the Victorian period, when middle-class city dwellers started keeping pets for themselves, that modern dog breeds were developed. Moreover, Eugenics proclaims that an ideal animal is breedable.
Sadly, the idea of the “purebred” is alive and well today, particularly among Kennel clubs, and breeders alike. Thus, the extreme demand for certain aesthetics, such as flat faces, has negatively impacted some breeds.
“Veterinarians all over the world argue that there is widespread evidence of a link between extreme brachycephalic phenotypes and chronic disease, which compromises canine welfare,”professor van Hagen stated. “The selection of dogs with progressively shorter and wider skulls has reached physiological limits. To continue breeding them in this way, with this knowledge, therefore can be considered unethical.”
It’s clear that there is an ongoing risk for chronic health issues in flat-faced dog breeds. While these breeds are cute, it’s important to stress the importance of proper breeding practices and giving these pets the healthcare they need.