Wednesday 25 January 2017

Fighting for air their whole lives

© Ralph Rückert

Take a good look into this French Bulldog's eyes. He has just woken up from an anaesthetic and the endotracheal that supported his breathing during the procedure is still in place. Dogs always fight it because it makes them gag. But not this dog - and many other brachycephalics.  The ET tube has opened his airways, enabling him to breathe properly - possibly for the first time in his life.

His story was posted on Facebook last week by a German vet,  Ralph Rückert.

I was so moved that I asked Dr Rückert if we could translate it and post it here.

Here's what he wrote:

It might sound implausible, but the French Bulldog in the photo just woke up from anaesthesia. The eyes focus on me and see me. Seconds later we removed the pulse oximeter from the tongue, and the dog rolled itself upright. 
Every (every!) other dog will immediately try to dislodge the endotracheal tube at this moment, which is why we usually take it out much sooner. But with Frenchies (and other flat nosed dogs) we leave the tube in position as long as possible, dreading respiratory collapse during the home stretch of their anaesthesia. 
This frequently leads to the moment - a moment that regularly sends cold chills down my spine - when you realise that these dogs, while fully conscious, are enjoying the ability to breathe without effort (through a tube) for the first time in their life. I know that I am anthropomorphising unashamedly but nonetheless: when you pull the tube eventually, the wheezing starts up again and you see - I swear to high heaven - a glaze of resignation and disappointment fall over their eyes that were previously bright with fascination. 
This is a moment where the lifelong - and too often ignored – suffering of many brachycephalic dogs becomes crystal clear to see. Sadly it is a moment only vets witness. The first time I noticed this phenomenon, I was inclined to dismiss it as my own sentimental fabrication. But as time passed, I heard stories of the same curious and touching moment from several colleagues with a lot of experience with flat nosed breeds. You absolutely have to ask yourself honestly what it means when a dog prefers the discomfort of an endotracheal tube to its natural airway.

Meanwhile, the Kennel Club has just revealed that the French Bulldog is now the third most popular breed in the UK with over 21,000 registered in 2016; up from just 526 ten years ago.

In fact, one in six Kennel Club registered dogs today is an extreme brachycephalic - either a Frenchie, Bulldog or Pug - up from one in 50 ten years ago. Thousands more are being bred outside of the Kennel Club, feeding the obscene demand for flat-faced "cute". 

It is, frankly, the biggest explosion in suffering the purebred dog world has seen in modern times. 


  1. I've seen this in practice as well, during my years as a vet assistant.

  2. I see this at least once a week in the veterinary hospital where I work. As the technician monitoring anesthesia for almost every surgery we do, I dread the brachys more than any other breed. And not just during recovery...they are more prone to issues during the surgery itself. Dental procedures are the worst, because you have the misshapen muzzles and maloccluded teeth to deal with, on top of the anesthesia risk. All because of fashion. Sad.

    1. The trach tube sizes are also very different from other dogs. I'm a "go big or go home" person. I would postulate that every bulldog I've intubated has taken a tube that is several sizes smaller than what one would normally choose for a dog of similar mass.

      My last bulldog patient was a good 65 lbs. I had a size 9 set out for him. Had to go down the line of tubes before finally getting a 7.5 down the hatch.

      So, not only do we have a significant blockage of air movement, but the delivery system itself is now way too small to move the amount of air necessary in a quick manner for an animal of that mass. It was the living equivalent to the experiment in middle school health class in which on did jumping jacks and then attempted to breathe through a straw. Heck with the smokering (the original intent of the exercise) ; make it the intubated-brachycephalic-breathing demonstration!

  3. It is a sad sight. The anesthetic risks are usually compounded by the patient being overweight, too.

    The pre-operative protocol that is now being recommended for brachys includes an anti emetic injection, as well as a corticosteroid injection to reduce swelling of the airway after extubation. In some of the more extreme brachys, we will put them on oxygen before we even sedate them, as a safety precaution. Very sad.

  4. So upsetting to read.Again,as bad as the breeders are, I really blame the "ignorance is bliss" attitude of people who can't wait to buy a "cute dog".

  5. Sad and intensely frustrating...

  6. Putting myself in the position of that little dog was just so easy and it's terrifying.

    I find it quite inconceivable that there are people who just can't feel it never mind see it even in their own dogs, but yes even some vets don't.

    Our (ex) Australian vet has taken to the radio, he chitty chats once a week about dogs and cats. I was simply appalled that during the episode I listened to he completely brushed over the problems brachycephalic dogs suffer from. He was asked what flat faced dogs were called by the host when he was struggling to pronounce the word brachycephalic. The host was it seems actualy hinting at a subject for the vet to discuss but in fact the vet waxed lyrical about the pugs he used to own instead. He then went on to promote pedigree dogs over cross breeds because of the "you know what you're getting" argument. Saying now he has children he would definitely advise pedigree over cross breed etc etc. This is also a vet who refuses to acknowledge dogs are being over vaccinated and sticks to annual vaccination protocols. This is a vet who is broadcasting his crap far and wide!!!

    It does often genuinely sometimes feel like there there is an active conspiracy to keep dogs suffering like this.

  7. So what are we supposed to do? Do we attempt to wipe out a breed? & how? Is every single frenchie, pug or other struggling the same? There is problems with lots of pedigree & designer mongrel breeds.. these all need addressing!

    1. By the use of the word mongrel I believe you obviously are not a fan of mixed or cross breed dogs. What you are supposed to do is not breed dogs what ever mix that cannot breath properly. It is a very simple thing to do, but it seems hard for many to get their head around, that dogs are not meant to have concertinaed craniums and/or flat faces, especially as the KC happily endorse the breeding of them by happily taking breders money to register puppies. They used to breed the breeds that are now extreme brachy dogs without breathing problems, as the extreme concertina of the skull and extreme snubbing of the nose has only been bred in to these breeds in the last 50 to 80 years.
      The KC happily wiped out many breeds of spaniels putting them all under one hat the Cocker spaniel and creating one standard and did the world spin off it's access? No, but it has caused major health issues in the breed using one standard and throwing away so much genetic diversity. With a careful breeding program all the brachy breeds could be bred to not be brachy, but if you are saying that being "brachy" is what defines the bred, then I for one would not be worried if you were not allowed to bred dogs to be brachy anymore. You would not be wiping them out (Which sounds like you would go around destroying each dog), you would just not breeding any more with this terrible man'made inherited disorder. Which would be an act of extreme kindness in my opinion.
      Many dog breeds that have been created by man have gone extinct and as I said before, "the Earth has not spun off it's axis." There are many issues with dogs illnesses, puppy farming etc and they all need addressing, but let us not dilute this big issue, that Extreme brachycephaly is a man-made inherited disorder that results in severe life-long health problems for the dog.
      Have you actually read what the vet said above? He uses the word "frequently" to describe how often he experiences this phenomena with brachy breeds.

      "frequently: regularly or habitually; often."

      Jane Howarth, North Devon UK

    2. Sorry about the grammar and spelling mistakes, in my reply, but hopefully it can be understood. I should've read through, before publishing.

      Jane Howarth

    3. Yes it's a mistake, human folly to breed dogs such as these, with these kinds of exaggerations. These kinds of breeds do yes need rethinking "Anonymous27 January 2017 at 11:05", a reversal of their misfortune. Failing that they shouldn't be bred at all. Yes. Dog breeds aren't all necessarily sacrosanct, easily created and as easily destroyed in the show ring, doesn't really matter how long their history is or isn't supposed to be.

      Personally of course I would be extremely sad even stricken if some of the more gorgeously healthy large landrace, livestock guardian breed types went extinct because they represent a gold mine of valuable sound working canine genetics. There have been intentional tragedies of these kinds in history. But dogs purposely bred to suffer do not represent the same. That we can actually draw comfort and companionship from them, exactly because of such is a warped, perverted missinformed thing*.

      There are many healthier little companion dogs to choose from that I would definitely also miss if they were no longer around, yes. What would I do without being able to wake up every morning to the little lively body warmers with gleaming naughty eyes and pointy wet noses prodding me out of my slumber. My life just wouldn't be the same as though the sun had finally gone out for good.

      We need to think carefully about whether we are perpetuating suffering in our choices of dog, we might not be fully informed. Sadly it's so that we just cannot take it for granted that every dog purposely bred is not going to suffer for how it's bred. We need to educate our children not to expect the same.

    4. Ban the breeding of dogs under 3 years old and ban vets from performing these surgeries or c sections on otherwise healthy dogs.

      Would be sad for 2 years, then this problem would vanish forever.

  8. They are popular at the moment but once people start having to pay the huge vet bills and realise how many health issues this breed has their popularity will decline. It is just unfortunate so many animals will have a life time of suffering in the mean time.

  9. I'm surprised that no one has developed a protocol for tracheostomies for brachycephalic dogs. Tack back the neck folds, shorten those slobby lips to reduce the chance of occulusion and the result should be a dog that can breathe reliably.

    1. Actually this is sometimes done, along with nostril resections and removal of excess tissue in the upper airway. The issue isn't finding surgical fixes. The issue is that these dogs should not NEED surgical fixes in order to engage in a life function as basic as breathing.

  10. I'm so happy that my Frenchie has a bit longer muzzle. He doesn't have quite as hard time breathing asost of the Frenchie's I see. He still snores loudly at time but rarely wheezes when he breathes

    1. I'm glad your frenchie is ok. I hope you can try to educate other potential frenchie owners to go to a breeder that breeds longer muzzled frenchies rather than the extreme flat faced ones.

  11. Maybe it's time the kennel club thought more about the dogs health when setting breed standards and less about the money.

  12. all dogs whatever breed come with a issues, just like human beings you have a child, you have know idea before it is born and you have no reason to be tested whether it would have spina bifida or have any other health issue, hereditary disease,or otherwise, not have Baby in case it has red hair because you dont like red hair, would you then say we ban people from having children or what do you do with your disabled child, Going back to the subject of "conversation", we get a good litter of very healthy French Bull dogs no hereditary diseases found in or known of in puppies all good breathers no pinched nostrils " Stenotic flares" do we then not breed Brachycephalic dogs, Next we have a litter of puppies Labradors, 2 have bad hips 1 blind and 2 with a cleft palette all very common in Labradors so we stop breeding or having the pet dog labradors or any other dog with a long nose " also Prone to "cleft palate" so now we have dogs with no short noses and no long noses, Now we have a litter of Spaniels of any types but more frequently Springer Spaniels very prone to water on the brain or encephalitis so we no longer breed any spaniels, all of the imperfections come in any dog of any size of any parentage so we stop breeding dogs whether they be pure bred or not, Mongrols or not all have health issues, what is worse are those breeders that mix two solid breeds and not passing the relevant information or being so ill informed that they go home over joyed new owners) new puppy, but could have two sets of health issues as again improper breeding practices and incorrect information from breeder has aloud a misinformed happy new owner of nothing any disease which is common in ether breed, ie cocker poos, lets have a go here, have bothe brain, fitting, water issues as well as hip bone and sight issues,!! SO who is wrong where,? we have been breeding dogs originally for specific purposes from the Throne downwards for keeping laps warm in carriages, to hunting dogs gathering game when shot, we know longer breed them for this reason but because people love the traits of a certain breed and save up sometimes for a good couple of years and more to get the dog they have always wanted. In the case of married couples that have no children it is a much desired option to have a family pet also completes a family with children, when anybody purchases a puppy of any breed it could have a number of issues not known until that dog becomes an adult whther it be breathing, allergies heart bone or kidney and otherwise, Exactly the same as we as human being have children we dont stop having them becuase their might be change because untie Jayne has stomach ulcer and your side of the family has mental health somewhere down the line, stop having children, lets get back to being realistic and stop taking what one person says so literally as these comments make things bad for those breeders that are honest , give over all the information for possible health issues including information prior to even booking a puppy and ask and follow throuhg with puppy guarantees,, What we and all these specialst should be concentrating on is doing the best they can to make these dogs that are bought to them as healthy as possilbe and then sort out the issues of back street bad breeders that do not look after their breed or care for their animals correctly and only do what they do for a quick buck in their pocket, LETS GET BACK TO REALITY AND LOOK BEHIND CLOSED DOORS EDUCATE AND NOT BELITTLE BE HONEST ADULT AND MATURE CARE NOT DESPAIR, ?!!

    1. Part2, You say, "as healthy as possible", so the pups you sell (If you are a breeder) are as healthy as an extreme brachy dog can be? So do you tell the new owners, that being extreme brachy, that they have a higher chance of having breathing issues and may need very expensive surgery to help them with this? You also tell them that they have a very high chance of having CM and later developing the very painful condition SM? No, doubt you do tell them to insure them though, because you know they have a very statistically higher chance with a brachy breed on needing to use insurance, but that's okay, because you being an honest breeder have bred your extreme brachy dogs to be as healthy as they can be, when they have to suffer with you deliberately breeding them to be extreme brachycephalic. Well done you!

      And by the way if I found out that I could pass on the genes for a health condition that would make a child struggle to take every breath and end up with CM/SM. No, I would not of had any children.
      Yes, let's get back to reality, really take a look at your extreme brachy dog/dogs and come out from behind your closed door blindness and actually read the research, and open your eyes and ears to what is in front of you. Stop breeding dogs to be extreme brachy. They don't need to be bred to be like this and history shows you that.
      I used to be like you and laugh at the snoring and think when they choked it was just part of the breed, because I was told, "it's just part of the breed," but I then did my research and realized it was not cute, the dog was struggling to breath and I had been deliberately unknowingly breeding them to be like that and it does not have to be part of the breed. So what's your excuse for continuing to breed or feed the market buying an extreme brachy dog?
      I've tried doing the educating, not belittling honest mature adult, care and not despair crap and you get the crap you just displayed in reply. The diluting the problem, what if you had "a stomach ulcer," though is a new one on me. Normally you just home in on puppy farming and those awful mongrel breeders. Now I just try to shame you, because that is what you should be.

      Jane Howarth, Mongrel Breeder

    2. Yes, you do actually test unborn babies for health issues, especially spin abifida and many mothers terminate a pregnancy if spin abifida is diagnosed. Humans use DNA tests and scanning during pregnancy to find out if any problems and termination is an option taken by many, when a health issue is found.Parents now can be screened for several genetic disorders before having children, if a genetic issue is known to be in the family history. We have just green lighted producing children from 3 parties (people) in the UK due to advances in screening for genetic disorders and trying to breed children without them.
      Your counter argument that any dog can be born with a health issue, is a sort of trying to make two wrongs in to a right. The issue is that breeders of extreme brachy dogs will not accept that being extreme brachy is a health disorder, so they intentionally breed dogs to have this disorder in alarming numbers, knowing that the majority will suffer, because of it.
      It is not the same has someone breeding from a dog, and the pups have a health problem that has not been bred for intentionally.
      And let's get back to reality, the only way you will ever get a healthy litter of French Bulldog pups is if they are bred with a less extreme skull morphology and that probably can only come around through crossbreeding. Trying to improve skull morphology in such a small genetic pool of dogs would be very dangerous, and condense the gene pool further. Throwing up even more health issues. So your hypothesis about the healthy French Bulldog litter versus the Labrador litter is pure fantasy La La land thinking.
      Is it not sad that someone saves for years without knowing the they are buying a time bomb of suffering and very high vets bills, to buy an extreme brachy dog to then struggle to pay for the health issues that thus occur, because of being extreme brachy and they then have to give the dog up to a rescue center. You do know that rescue centers are seeing a massive rise in extreme brachy dogs being brought in to them , due to owners not being able to afford the veterinary care that the majority of extreme brachy dogs need. AS this BBC article tells PLease read the whole article."Meanwhile, evidence suggests that an increasing number of the dogs - more correctly known as brachycephalic or short-muzzled dogs - are being abandoned by their owners.
      Six dog rescue companies told the BBC that the breeds were being given up in greater numbers.
      Battersea Dogs Home and Bluecross Animal Rescue received a total of 314 "flat-faced" dogs in 2015, compared to 226 in 2014, an increase of 39%."

    3. Bearing in mind Brachycephaly itself is an inherited disease of the skeletal system, should we also be rewarding breeders with trophies who breed Labradors with cleft palates? Is this getting back to reality? A level playing field of intentional disabilities?

      Why should any breeders be rewarded for producing animals with ever increasing exaggerations that are impairing normal function? Many cannot even breed normally, breath normally, see normally or even walk and run normally. Should we be rewarding these breeders and keeping quite while they walk off with champion disabled dogs. All intentional, acceptable.

      It's not a fait accompli, there is certainly something that can be done about it. It's not a mystery either. Outside of one or two kennel clubs generally it's not being done yet, because it's seen as normal. How can we see an altogether avoidable disease as normal in dogs but not humans......what if we refuse to see it. Should we be allowed to continue doing it? Interesting questions right?

      How can there be a perfect french bulldog? Because of the characterising brachycephalic disease I can assure you you won't find one with normal teeth in the show ring even if it can somehow miraculously breath normally. Just for one example among a litany of avoidable health defects FBs are 100% prone to. Extreme chance about it they're intentionally bred that way. No mistakes.

      Most certainly inbreeding is not condoned in most societies and is mostly illegal in the West. Yes unless there is a test many don't have children when they know the chances are very high that their offspring inherit some terrible genetic disease either. Absolutely. It would be criminal to do that intentionally to our children. Yes there are some highly unfortunate cases where parents don't know and a tragedy could be the result.

      With information so freely available it's only with malice aforethought that we continue doing what we are doing to so many dog breeds. This is fast becoming the reality that breeders cannot avoid. Luckily.

      Why do people like "Lady Ga Ga" still insist on keeping French Bulldogs thus amplifying their popularity? It's because they're pig shit ignorant thats why and why blogs like these are still so very important.

    4. Absolutely disgusted at the K.Cs in general for their refusal to recognize there are severe problems becoming increasingly obvious in ALL breeds after extensive time as a K.C recognized breed.

      They need to hire an evelotioinary biologist to advise where their rules and constitution are letting them, and the public down if they want to continue as professional bodies for the improvement of the species. As caretakers of the 'breeds' they can only fail while the refuse to address the many diseases and deformities they ask the public to support.

      Out crossing must be seen to be acceptable by members, even if their registration and inclusion into Pedigrees takes longer.

      While there are statements to the contrary anywhere in Mission statement, constitution, and rules of K.Cs, they will get or retain only members who reflect that.

      No 'protocols' to allow out crossing will succeed or reverse the trend until their own constitution allows recognition of the results- Forget acceptance for now, recognition must come 1st.

      Those who try to breed thought fully bred crosses for any purpose, I wish the best of luck. But it must be remembered that use of pedigree breeds to do so is only an improvement on pure breeds.
      Any future re-indroduction of pure breeds will AGAIN bring the possibility of doubling up on genes for genetic faults, many of them unable to be tested for, and some not yet manifested.

      If The K.Cs can't or won't addmitt this is a serious problem for ALL dogs that needs clear and direct action, I see only one solution... Formation of an alternative registry based on purpose. ie, The breeding of dogs to match the purpose/expectations and environment they are destined for.
      So it will be clear once again from a buyers perspective what their own responsibilities are: To select a breeder who shares their expectations of a dog, and provide an environment that tests and favors dogs that respond best.

      It should be clear the messages the canine species is forced to act on for its continued evolution are not environmental.
      They are not responding to the environment of Humanity that brought the species here any longer. It is responding to an over riding cultural influence. The contrary messages from the registering bodies that state, in effect, The environment beyond a K.C membership is an invalid one. Only what is accepted as part of a recognized registering body should govern the evolution of the species. Not the environment that has and continues support of Domestic Dogs as a species. Not the environment the species is dependent on, only a specific, small and very limited section of it.

      It does not select based on how a well a dog 'responds' to its own environment, its demands and expectations. But on how PREDICTABLY well a dog responds to limited very small, unchanging conditions of a K.C environment.
      The focus is not on unreached possibilities and potential. It is on LIMITATION to the unchanging, unchallenged, conditions and expectations of 'standard' conditions.

      So I agree. This isn't just about Pedigree dogs. This is about the Species Domestic Dog.Seen as a whole, its not in good shape.

      I don't believe any body tasking itself to 'Improvement' or 'betterment' of dogs, with any claim to be for all dogs, can work effectively while refusing to 'recognize' the species as a whole.

  13. The other excruciating thing of these breeds is that once they've had their surgery to shorten the palate, widen the nostrils and pharynx to make them breath easier we often see a change of character. From easy, relaxed puppies who can't be asked to go on a walk they turn into more energetic dogs who enjoy exercise. Some owners don't appreciate this as they think their dog is different, while all it can do now is get oxygen in.

    We should stop breeding these dogs, there are some breeders who have started breeding them with longer noses, less problems. If all breeders would do this there would be much less suffering.

    Bernadette (vet)

  14. My girl has had 2 litters of the Mexican frenchie. They have a longer snout and never have breathing problems.I particularly like this crossbreed. I love frenchies but I don't agree with irresponsible breeders trying to produce an even more flatter nose. Higher mortality rate in puppies and lifelong discomfort for the breed.

  15. I found this Nederlands french bulldog breeder's page (link below) and found it quite refreshing to see so much information about the health defects commonly suffered by French bulldogs. They discuss BAOS and muzzle length, and other physical defects. They bemoan the fact that the KC does not have a mandatory health test in order to have a dog FCI registered. They've developed their own health testing protocols and want the KC and breed clubs to make similar health testing protocols mandatory. Was nice to see a (seemingly) responsible breeder of this breed.