Page 486 - WSAVA2017
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An Urban Experience
K.W. Prestrud1
1Norwegian Kennel Club, Health dept, Oslo, Norway
Kristin Wear Prestrud, DVM PhD, scientific director, the Norwegian Kennel ClubPb 163 Bryn, 0611 Oslo, Norway, e-mail:
Possible health problems following extreme conformation in dogs has been known at least since the 1960s (1). Some of the breed standards were originally written based on a few or even only one single dog, regarded as an outstanding specimen at the time.
Brachycephalic dog breeds are today’s best example of desired anatomical traits predisposing to serious disease, and the need for multi-stakeholder efforts to improve
the situation. Brachycephalic dogs have shorter facial bones than meso- or doliocephalic dogs; shorter jaw(s), flatter face with more prominent eyes and frequently
also wrinkling of the facial skin. In brachycephalic dogs, the is a reduction in size of the bony case of the muzzle and facial part of the skull, but the soft tissue is not proportionally reduced in volume. Hence, the air-filled cavities of the nose, sinuses, throat and chest may be reduced in size and diameter due to soft tissue crowding, resulting in impaired airflow and compromised respiratory function. This condition leads to BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome); the most serious of the health problems brachycephalic dogs are predisposed to (2). In addition to BOAS, brachycephalic dogs suffer from a wide range of health problems related to their anatomy, such as eye diseases due to their flat face and relatively prominent eyes, skin problems and dental issues (3).
There has been a lot of focus on the brachycephalic issue, particularly the last few years. A working group was established between the kennel clubs of the Nordic countries (Nordic Kennel Union) in 2016. The working group submitted their report early in 2017. At the Dog Health Workshop in Paris, April 2017, the workshop Exaggerations and extremes in dog conformation focused their work mainly on the brachycephalic issue.
All the common anatomical exaggerations in dogs somehow have an appealing effect on people or are regarded as desirable. If not so, they would not be common. The brachycephalic appearance is
obviously extremely appealing to people. Some of the brachycephalic breeds have increased amazingly in popularity through the last years ( Many owners consider the appearance of the brachycephalic breeds to be the most adorable, and think the snoring and other breathing sounds are normal for the breed (4). Owners tend to fail to evaluate their own dog objectively in this context. All stakeholders share responsibility for today’s situation – judges, breeders, breed clubs, kennel clubs, veterinarians, breeders and owners/buyers. The wide range of commercials and advertisements and media exposure of brachycephalic dogs has a strong influence on the puppy buyers’ desire for this particular look in their new family member.
Hence, the brachycephalic issue is a matter where there are multiple stakeholders who must work together for improved health and wellbeing. The BOAS problem is a result of the dogs’ anatomy (2). The written anatomical description in the breed standard, together with the traditional interpretation of this breed specific text, is the basis for which dogs are appointed to win in the show ring. A huge job has been done to improve the breed standard texts concerning health and function, but for some standards there is still need for revision. In addition, the judges’ interpretation of the standard text, and the breed specific judging tradition, must be a continuous focus in judges’ education and at judges’ conferences.
Both owners, breeders and show judges must learn
how to recognize breathing problems in dogs, and that breathing sounds are not normal in this breed. The brachycephalic, flat faced anatomy predisposes the dogs to serious illness (2). To improve the situation in the breed populations, the mean anatomy of the population must be moved towards less exaggerated features, in order to minimize the prevalence of disease caused by extreme anatomy. The judging tradition, together with the puppy buyers’ desire for a flat faced dog, complicates the work towards a less exaggerated anatomy in these breeds. The demand for a certain type of dogs among puppy buyers is so great that there even has been established
a big international business of smuggling dogs of smaller sizes across borders.
We will not see effective improvement of the situation until all stakeholders acknowledge their own part in this process. There is a wide range of stakeholders who can and must address their own role and do their share of the work.
The breed clubs and kennel clubs must do what they can and revise the picture of an extreme, flat faced anatomy as the desirable goal in relevant breeds. The breed clubs should be encouraged to write an appendix to the breed standard (educational illustrated breed compendiums),

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