Helping pug and bulldog owners find out if their dog is at risk

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BEFORE you chuckle at that video of a snoring pug or sleepy French bulldog sitting upright on a sofa, you might need to ask if that animal is actually suffering from just trying to breathe.

Countless online videos, showing dogs like these snoring, grunting, wheezing or snuffling, are labelled as ‘cute’ and shared virally.

But vets and the RSPCA are helping owners understand the reasons behind the snoring are not adorable at all.

In fact, many of these ‘flat-faced dogs’ suffer chronic sleep deprivation and breathing difficulties for their entire lives, because of the way they’ve been bred to look.

Sadly, these problems are so common, many owners have come to think they’re a ‘normal’ characteristic of the breed, and don’t realise their dog is quietly suffering.

That’s why the RSPCA has developed a quick online quiz that helps owners identify if their dog is at risk.

The quiz asks owners a series of 5 questions, which include ‘when resting, can you hear your dog breathing from more than 1m away?’ and ‘does your dog make snuffling or snorting noises when excited?’.

Answering yes to two or more questions triggers a warning to owners to consult their vet about the possibility their dog is suffering from a serious and chronic respiratory condition (though both the RSPCA and AVA encourage owners with any concerns to consult with their vet regardless).

Health issues of flat-faced breeds

Dogs with very short muzzles (brachycephalic breeds), such as Pugs, British bulldogs and French bulldogs, can have serious breathing problems as the length of their muzzle has been progressively shortened through selective breeding.

However, the soft tissue inside the nose, mouth and throat is not reduced, so it can block their airways and constrict their nostrils and windpipes, making it even more difficult to breathe.

Anyone who has lived with chronic snoring or sleep apnoea knows the misery that results from a long-term lack of quality sleep.

These dogs endure the constant and excruciating sensation of being out-of-breath; something no owner wants their much-loved dog to experience.

Some dogs will faint or collapse due to a lack of oxygen, especially when exercising or excited.

Many are forced to try to sleep sitting or standing up, because it is the only way they can get enough air.

Dogs depend on their breathing to cool themselves as well, so these breeds can overheat with alarming speed and ease, and sadly this can be fatal.

The owner survey forms part of RSPCA Australia and the Australian Veterinary Association’s ongoing Love is Blind campaign, which seeks to address the serious welfare issues faced by some dog breeds as a result of the extreme features they’ve been bred with.

Do you own or know a French bulldog, pug or British bulldog? Ever wondered if their snoring or breathing while exercising is normal? Take the quiz to check if your dog might be at risk and find out how to help them live a healthier life.

To follow this issue, sign up to the RSPCA’s e-news at www.rspca.org.au.

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