Extreme traits can contribute to poor overall health in a dog

If you live with a bulldog, French bulldog, pug or other brachycephalic breed, you’re probably familiar with large veterinary bills related to breathing difficulties, eye injuries and nasty skin-fold infections. But you might be surprised to learn that those dogs are also more prone to common conditions that affect all dogs.

That was the finding of a research team at Nationwide after analyzing its database of 1.27 million dogs from 2007 to 2015. They looked at 184,748 dogs of 24 breeds identified as brachycephalic – meaning they had large heads, short snouts and protruding eyes – to determine whether those dogs were less healthy, as healthy or more healthy than dogs without those features.

When accidents, infectious diseases and conditions related to brachycephalic anatomy, such as elongated soft palate and a smaller-than-normal trachea, were removed from consideration, brachycephalic dogs were less healthy across the board. Ear infections, allergies, bladder infections and pneumonia were all found at higher rates in dogs with shortened faces.

The prevalence of pneumonia was twice as high in brachycephalic dogs.

Brachycephalic dogs also had greater rates of digestive issues, (including their infamous flatulence), tooth extractions, hyperthermia (overheating), valvular heart disease, bacterial skin infections, anal gland problems, patellar luxation, intervertebral disc disease, corneal ulcers and conjunctivitis.

Which breeds fall into the brachycephalic category? The breeds mentioned above are no surprise, but the list also includes the affenpinscher, Boston terrier, boxer, Brussels griffon, cavalier King Charles spaniel, dogue de Bordeaux, Japanese chin, Lhasa apso, mastiff, bull mastiff, Neapolitan mastiff, Pyrenean mastiff, Tibetan mastiff, Spanish mastiff, Pekingese and Shih Tzu.

What can be done?

Veterinarian Philip A. Moses says that beyond treating individual dogs surgically to relieve their breathing difficulties, it’s important for kennel clubs, breeders, owners and veterinarians to recognize and learn about the health problems in these dogs and how they can be improved through better breeding.

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