Monday 7 March 2016

Shocking videos reveal the extent of breathing problems in short-faced breeds

This distressing video is included in a new online initiative by a team at Cambridge Vet School aimed at educating owners, breeders and veterinarians about the breathing problems in short-faced dogs (what's known as brachycephalic obstructed airway syndrome - BOAS for short).

The Bulldog above, for instance, is demonstrating the impact of an elongated and thickened soft palate.

What you can hear with this Pug, below, is laryngeal noise.  As the team explains:  "It is called 'stridor' and it is a high-pitched noise, similar to wheezing and different from low-pitched noises like snoring or snorting. Usually this type of noise indicates a narrowed or collapsed larynx."

It is also often obvious in the way the body heaves when trying to take in air.

Then there's this noise which indicates nasal obstruction - when nostrils are pinched (stenotic) or because the nose is blocked by scrolls of bone and cartilage called nasal turbinates.  This can be accompanied by nasal flaring, where muscles around the nose contract as the dog tries to suck in air - very evident in this short clip.

Here's a mix of both pharyngeal and nasal noise.


And, finally, this is reverse sneezing -  very common in brachycephalic breeds and not as bad as it looks because it rarely last for more than a minute. It's actually something many dogs do, including some of my own (non-brachy) dogs.  I've never seen anything as severe as this, though.

I am sure the Cambridge BOAS research group would like me to point out that these are quite extreme examples. Not every Bulldog, French Bulldog of Pug suffers like this. I should say, too, that it is important for owners to seek help way before their dogs' breathing gets this bad - and to remember that BOAS is progressive. Dogs that are only mildly effected when young can go on to suffer. BOAS experts now advise that surgery early on is more effective than waiting.

The Cambridge team is specifically looking for brachycephalic dogs with no respiratory issues to help with their research.  If you have a Pug, Frenchie of Bulldog with whisper-quiet breathing, find out how you can help here.

It is the first time researchers have put together videos to show how different types of respiratory noise reflect where the problem lies internally.  The problem in the dog that is.

The real problem for Bulldogs, Frenchies and Bulldogs lies in a small part of some people's brains that releases a neurochemical hit in response to seeing a dog with a face like a baby's, even if the poor creature is blue with the effort of trying to suck in air.

Hopefully, we can cauterise it with education. 


  1. Dear Christ. Those dogs sound like they're dying.

    1. I cant bring myself to even listen.

      The last time I heard sounds like these was when I was visiting a home dealer in teak Morris-chairs which I was looking for for our beach cottage.

      The sounds were coming from behind a closed door. Not subtle sounds either and getting progressively distressing. I assumed some kind of Brachy breed, bulldog or..... So inbwetween ooooing over wood grain, quality and natural waxy finish (recycled mature "Burmese" teak to boot) I asked what the dogs were. She must have misread my concern because she looked at me and smiling lovingly, whispered "Bostons".

      Before I could utter a word in concern she had opened the door and unleashed the two darling freaks.

      OMG! Sadly breathing wasn't the only issue. These elderly lovelies had huge popping out milky blue eyes that went east west like mutant goldfish and were all over me in utter joy. In their excitement they began making even more terrible sounds. My neat cotton pressed travelling trousers were soon covered in slobber and dog hair and what smelled rather like urine. They seemed to shed (everything) in equal measure to their enthusiasm!

      Lovely, lovely doggies, pity about the breed.

      Brilliant conclusion Jemima.

  2. See, I clearly don't have that thing that makes me view flat faced dogs as cute (Im also happily child free and don't find babies at all cute, so perhaps thats something to do with it). I just find them deformed looking, I can't get past that; to me, a dog has a long nose, and I can't personally think of anything more adorable than a long houndy face and those doe eyes that go with it.

    But even if I did find the brachy look cute, how torturous would it be to see something you love suffering every day just to appease your love of those looks? It must cause a ton of guilt, or it would to me; perhaps thats why the cognitive dissonance is so strong with some brachy owners? Its gotta be extremely hard to admit to oneself that prioritising looks over welfare has resulted in a pet with a more difficult life than it needs to have.
    I had a severely brachy cat, a rescue, certainly not a breed I'd have chosen, and she had never-ending problems; you could hear her breathing from the other room and I toyed with euthanising her a number of times but the vets just said 'thats how the breed is' and didn't think it was bad enough for that. It wasn't good enough for me. If any other cat lived as she did and struggled to breathe as she did, and nothing could be done to ease this, it would be pts.
    But even though I didn't pay for her or seek out an exotic short-hair, I still felt guilty every day I saw her, guilty for not being able to do anything to help her.
    I don't own pets to be depressed every time I see them, and I don't think anyone does; hence, cognitive dissonance 'oh, it isn't as bad as people say!' 'my pug doesn't have any problems at all!' 'if she was suffering, she wouldn't eat or drink or play!' All that illogical rubbish to make one feel better about owning a deformed animal.

    Im not saying by breed is perfect, far from it; it concerns me hugely the way my breed's health and lifespan is going. But he can breathe freely, and run for hours (demands it, in fact) jump, climb, swim, do everything a canine should be able to do. He is conformationally sound.
    Sad as it is, I'd rather a dog that lives to 8 or 9 but lives a free, unhindered life where it can do the things its nature tells it to, than a dog that might live a few years more but its entire life is spent struggling.
    I think any human would choose the former life over the latter too.

    Yet, once again, we assume dogs to be so distinct from us that the ability to breathe un-hindered, clean themselves correctly, eat easily and run without collapsing on a warm day isn't that big a deal to them.
    In fact, to a dog, those things are the BIGGEST deals.

    Its just sad all round really. But fortunately, I have noticed opinions changing, at least among joe public if not among the people that matter most yet :(

    1. I even find microcephalic babies adorable!

      It's of course a tragedy and terrible disease, but have you noticed how luckily these little unfortunate babies are in fact still very much loved by their mothers, siblings and family. I reckon it's because those baby features are all the more pronounced.

      It's just all adorably expressive grumpy baby face and huge wide eyes.

    2. I see it as strange to see flat-faced dogs as cute. I was at the beach with a friend who owns a Shih Tzu and we saw 2 stunning greyhounds. Her comment: "Oh look! There are 2 of those ugly dogs." I think greyhounds are beautiful.

  3. I've often wondered what that reverse sneezing is. On very rare occasions one of my dogs also does it. I thought it was some kind of mild asthma attack. It only lasts a few seconds, is very rapid and doesn't sound as loud or as troubled as this pug. Almost sounds like he is forgetting to breath out, little panic attack? He has a normal long JRT nose.

  4. Oh IC looked it up, reverse sneezing is just one of the two ways including normal sneezing to clear the nose of anything stuck in there, hair, dust what ever, general blocked nose.

    Poor little pug he cant even reverse sneeze properly?!

  5. Both my pups do the reverse sneezing, and its worse than the video above… vet didnt help much, is there something i can do for this????? they are totally paralyzed when it happens… cant move, or walk, they just stop dead in their tracks till its over…… :(

    1. That sounds like an ashma fit type thing!

      If its not, just reverse sneezing apparently if you close their nostrils very briefly once it stops immiediately as they open their mouth and the soft palate relaxes. Or you gently slide your finger over their tongue and hold it down a few seconds.

      Im not an expert on this, this is just what I saw on youtube and it does seem to stop it immiediately for some dogs. Though blocking the nose of a pug might be rather dangerous or alternatively superfluous.

      Are your dogs flat faced breeds? If it happens a lot like more than just once or twice in a year best get a another opinion from a different vet. It could be more serious, or an alergy to household detergent something like that, perfume, quite common apparently.

  6. My cocker spaniel has been reverse sneezing for over 3 years now. No explanation for it. She also has chronic rhinitis. The honk as I call it is horrible and can go on for several minutes or seconds. I put my hand over her nose to get her to hold her breath. It can take a while to stop it. She is so used to it now that she just stops and waits for me to come to her. It is very distressing for both of us, I know it is completely abnormal Peggy knows it, but how these dogs owners can just ignore it and see it as part of the charm of the breed I just do not understand.