Vulnerable truth disguised for flat-faced pets: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Sydrome (BOAS)

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“Max is a 10-year-old French bulldog and was abandoned because his owner could not afford the enormous medical bills.” Shau Opperman, Chief Veterinarian of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, an animal charity based in London, said.

Since 2018, flat-faced breeds like Max being given up has been on the rise, and it’s very concerning in the organization’s 159-year history.

“During these epidemic times, flat-faced dog breeds including French bulldogs and pugs are the top most popular types. The public was initially fascinated by their cute faces, but when the reality hits them and when they learned relatively more diseases hidden behind the faces (because of the genetic reasons), some owners hand their dogs to us. This a cruel fact.”

French bulldogs like Max are born with narrow airways and cannot breathe properly. Their condition will highly likely become worse due to aging. They pant heavily at night and at times cannot sleep properly. Similar to asthma to humans, these dogs need long-term medication to relieve discomfort. Fortunately for Max, veterinarians at the charity organisation performed tracheal dilation surgery.

Max is in good condition fortunately and has been adopted by a new family. Image credit: Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

The organization received more than 200 flat-faced dogs in 2018, including French bulldogs, English bulldogs, pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and more. They have performed 60 emergency tracheal dilation operations, and they don’t get lucky every time. The older the dogs get, the less resilient they are to recover.

Subtropical climate in Hong Kong poses a greater threat to flat-faced cats and dogs.

These animals are prone to heatstroke when the weather warms up. Long-term and frequent heavy panting will make them unable to enjoy going out and doing moderate exercise like normal puppies.

The organization urges the public to consider adopting a dog over buying, so we don’t become an accomplice to the profit-making industry that breeds flat-faced dogs for money, not for love.

At the same time, we would also like to friendly remind pawrents who are now having flat-faced dogs to keep in mind the followings:

1.Weight management – maintaining a normal weight is particularly important, as overweight can make your pet harder to breathe;

2. Harness over collar – a collar puts too much pressure on the neck and trachea dangerously, while a harness can effectively spread the pressure point;

3. Pay attention to temperature – especially in Hong Kong, when temperature is between 23 and 26 degrees, we think summer has not yet come, but our pets are already feeling the heat and prone to heatstroke. Air-conditioning must be provided at home, and some ice water should be prepared when going out (for example, a cold towel can be brought along too for a walk within 20 minutes).

4. Relief medications – If your pets seem to have symptoms of asthma, please bring them to a veterinary clinic for checkup. Medications is available to prevent acid reflux can reduce the intestinal gas that occurs during difficulty in breathing. Best to check with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate healthcare regimen.

International Dog Organization has actively been changing the judging criteria of dog shows and eliminating flat-faced features as a requirement. To deal with the root of the problems, let’s change our perception of “cuteness”. We now cannot pretend we don’t know the hidden health risks behind “cute” flat-faced breeds.


Hellodog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See more details here.

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