|New report suggests that for Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and other brachycpephalic
breeds, fighting for breath can be as unpleasant as drowning
This might seem obvious, but breathlessness and its specific welfare impact on animals has not been well-articulated in the veterinary literature before.
"Breathlessness, in its various manifestations, has been studied extensively in human beings who report that it can be extremely unpleasant and distressing," say authors Ngaio Beausoleil and David Mellor.
The authors found that brachycephalic airway syndrome in modern dog and cat breeds "increases respiratory effort at rest and likely leads to air hunger during exertion" - in other words,the most unpleasant kind of breathlessness reported by humans.
"Air hunger is the sensation experienced at the end of a long breath hold. It is often described as ‘increased urge to breathe’, ‘shortness of breath’, ‘needing more air’, ‘unsatisfied inspiration’, ‘smothering’ or ‘suffocating’. It is always reported to be unpleasant, and even moderate air hunger is more unpleasant than maximal respiratory effort ."
Indeed, the authors put the welfare impact of severe brachcypehalic airway syndrome in the same category as drowning or being deliberately asphyxiated.
While this paper explores the issue of breathlessness across the board (i.e.not just due to conformation), the authors are currently preparing a second paper exploring the extent and impact of brachycephalic airway syndrome on welfare in dogs and cats.
Hopefully, this will increase the pressure on breeders, Kennel Clubs and dog owners blind to the problem in pursuit of a distorted sense of "cute" to take the issue more seriously.
Watch this space...
"Introducing breathlessness as a significant animal welfare issue" by NJ Beausoleil and DJ Mellor, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, July 2014.
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