persian cat

The curse of a short nose…

I found this article on “short-nosed” breeds of cats & dogs (brachycephalic is the correct word)

BVA and BSAVA statement on brachycephalic breeds
Following recent calls urging veterinary surgeons and their professional associations to take action to address the health problems experienced by brachycephalic dog and cat breeds, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) have issued the following statement:

BVA and BSAVA’s members are seeing concerning trends in dog and cat health and welfare linked to the rise in ownership of brachycephalic breeds and we are unequivocal in the need for all those with roles to play – including vets, breeders, breed societies, the pet-buying public as well as others – to take action to combat the health problems that brachycephalic breeds experience due to extreme conformation. Both organisations are committed to using scientific evidence and data – now readily available – to understand and tackle extremes of conformation.

BVA and BSAVA both strongly recommend that animals which show extremes of conformation that negatively affect their health and welfare should not be used for breeding. Vets have a duty to always prioritise the best interests of their pet patients, which, for affected animals, can involve performing surgical procedures to correct conformational disorders. They have a concurrent duty, for example acting through professional associations such as BVA and BSAVA, to be part of initiatives that aim to address the health and welfare of a breed beyond the individual affected animal.

This is why BVA, at the recent BSAVA Congress, promoted the importance of vets submitting data on caesarean sections and conformation-altering surgery to the Kennel Club, to improve the future of dog health and welfare.

We recognise and take seriously our responsibility to develop and contribute to all such initiatives that aim to address the health and welfare of these animals and we will continue to work with all stakeholders who can positively influence and improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic breeds.”

So what does that mean then practically?  What is all the “fuss” about?

Short-nosed cat and dog breeds often suffer a few anatomical challenges, to say the least.  As the term states, short-nosed means lack of nose and lack of distance from front to back of nose.

There are a few structures in the nose that need to be considered in this.  First there are the nostrils.  Those are often “collapsed” or “narrowed” in short-nosed breeds, making it difficult for them to breathe.  That’s the front position.

Lets have a look at the middle position.  There is a duct running from the eyes to the inside of the nostrils and this duct lets the tears flow through a mini canal.  When that canal gets squashed, the tears have nowhere to go but “over the top”.  So you’re getting tear stripes and tear stains, wetness and possible fold eczema as a result of this squashed little nose.

Then there is also the back position to consider.  The soft palate has its length but the nose hasn’t.  This leads to a lot of flapping about of a loose bit of kit in the back of the throat.  That’s OK most of the time if you like to hear a bit of snoring at night.  But when it gets hot outside, things heat up for pets.  They’re relying on panting to get rid of heat as well as lying on cold surfaces.  They don’t sweat.  I have seen pets come in during an emergency, blue tongue, gasping for air and being short nosed.  That dog had been panting all afternoon, vibrating its super-long palate in the process.  This had caused the soft palate to swell up and block the entrance to the trachea, the air pipe.  No view of the trachea, the air pipe at all on inspection, just one big swollen blob!

Finally, there is also the birthing to be considered of pets with big heads and short noses.  It hardly goes to plan in a natural way.  The heads are big, the bodies are small and the birth canal can only take that much.  Often the brachycephalic end up in elective caesarians and it’s not because they’re too posh to push.  There is often no way they’re going to pass.  So welfare in those breeds are a big issue and the checks are a must.

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