|Junior - before facelift © rossparry.co.uk|
|Junior - after facelift © rossparry.co.uk|
The story of Junior the Bloodhound who had to have an
"Junior the Bloodhound had a rare disorder, had not grown into his skin properly, and the weight of the excess flesh above his face caused it to fold and cover his eyes. The problem resulted in a disorder called entropion, which could have resulted in permanent blindness if left untreated," wrote Dan Bean in the York Press.
If Mr Bean had done a little research, he would have discovered that excessive facial skin and entropion are common in the Bloodhound. In fact, the the second hit if you Google "bloodhound entropion" is from the new UFAW website on Genetic Welfare Problems in Companion Animals and it offers a very comprehensive overview of the problem:
Condition: Ectropion, macroblepharon and entropion
Outline: Bloodhounds have been selected for excessive drooping facial skin, and because of this are prone to eyelid abnormalities. The lower lids may be everted (turned-out). This condition is known as ectropion. Conversely, the upper lids may be inverted (turned-in); a condition called entropion. Ectropion disrupts the function of the lower lid in protecting the eye and drainage of tears and entropion causes chronic abrasion of the surface of the eye. Both conditions predispose affected individuals to forms of chronic conjunctivitis causing episodes of varying degrees of discomfort and pain throughout their lives unless eyelid conformation can be surgically corrected (which may be difficult). Animals should be chosen as pets or for breeding only if they have normal eyelid conformation or these diseases are likely to be perpetuated.
Junior (son of the 2009 Crufts Best of Breed, Trailfinder Fortitude) was very unlucky to suffer from this condition, according to the operating vet, Gary Lewin from Penrith in Cumbria. Junior's owners say Mr Lewin had done this procedure (whether entropion or facelift is unclear) on "500 spaniels" but had never before seen this problem n a Bloodhound.
I emailed Mr Lewin last Thursday hoping for some clarification before running the story here. After all, spaniels (with the exception of the Clumber) are not dogs that one associates particularly with entropion. I also suggested that if it was true he hadn't done the procedure on a Bloodhound before that it might only be because they are rare (only 50 registered with the Kennel club last year) rather than their lack of need. I will add his reply if he gets back to me.
Poor Junior. The dog suffered for five years before getting some relief from what must have been an agonising problem.
"We got him when he was just a puppy and noticed he seemed to be in a lot of pain in his early life," says his owner Denise Smart. "He could hardly see and he used to get grumpy as a result.
"We have four other dogs and he was really twitchy with the others when they came up behind him.
"We took him to the vets and he had an eyelash removed because they thought that might have been scraping against his eye, but it didn't make much difference. Then they thought of his eyelashes was too big and they tried working on that, but that didn't solve the problem either."
So in the end, major surgery was the only option. All the papers, by the way, wimped out on including pictures of Junior immediately post-surgery despite the Ross Parry news agency making them available.
But here's one of them - just so that we are under no illusion regarding the possible consequences of breeding dogs with extreme skin laxity (the Shar-pei is another breed that sometimes need facelifts for the same reason). I accept it is unusual for a Bloodhound to need surgery this extensive - but more minor ops to fix drooping skin folds that can cause eyelashes to rub and ulcerate the eye are not that rare.
The procedure is one of an increasing number being done to correct the defects that we have bred into dogs - as Petplan revealed last week. This story, too, was mis-reported - missing the point that it is utterly horrific that we're breeding dogs that need surgery in order to be able to see and breathe - and instead headlining the story as a "surge in plastic surgery for pets". It is not, of course, anything of the sort.
"According to the UK’s largest pet insurance provider, claims worth £1.5m were paid out in 2010 for nose surgery on cats and dogs, an increase of 25 per cent over the last three years," wrote the Telegraph on Thursday. "Petplan also paid out over £1m for eye-lid lifts on young dogs and almost a quarter of a million pounds for dental work on household pets. The company said that the rise in cosmetic surgery allows animals to live “healthier and more active lives”.
So, just to re-cap.. since Pedigree Dogs Exposed aired three years ago, there has been a 25 per cent increase in surgery done to relieve breathing problems in dogs and cats.
Some of this may be because of greater availability of the surgery and/or because vets may be recommending such surgery more often. But not all. And it is good evidence that there is still a long way before we can be justifiably be proud of the dogs we produce in the UK.
* Edit 22/8/11 @ 23.25pm: correction re price of the facelift - £800, not £8,000 as originally reported by the Yorkshire news agency (and all the national that carried the story). Operating vet Chris Lewin has not got back to me but I see he has added a comment correcting re the cost to the Daily Mail's version of the story, so have amended above.