An animal welfare charity has issued a fresh warning to ‘think twice’ before opting for a flat-faced breed in the wake of the death of a dog in their care.
Poor Leonard died following emergency surgery to try to help him breathe.
He struggled due to Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), a condition seen in dogs who have been bred to have short, flat, ‘squashed’ faces.
Leonard, seven-year-old a French Bulldog, had breathing problems due to his breed’s characteristic facial features, which were so bad he even had trouble eating.
His was one of the worst cases the charity has ever seen.
The little guy was covered in pressure sores when they took him in, which led the team to think he had been kept in a crate and used for breeding before he was found on the streets.
He was also terribly thin, had sores in the folds of his nose, and was diagnosed with a urine infection when he was brought in.
As you can hear in the clip below, Leonard really struggled to breathe, often making snorting, wheezing and panting sounds.
Jenna Martyn, Centre Manager at Blue Cross, said: ‘Leonard couldn’t breathe through his nose at all.
‘He could barely eat, because he had to alternate between breathing and chewing and the only way of getting oxygen in was through his mouth. It was always a risk he might choke.
‘He would have these bursts of energy, so he wanted to be an energetic dog. And his breathing would just stop that for him because he would have to then just stand there and gasp for breath.
‘Running around in the park chasing a toy, or having fun with friends, is not something Leonard could have done.’
The only thing that could be done to help Leonard’s breathing issues was to have him undergo surgery to widen his nostrils and remove a section of the soft palate at the back of his mouth.
Breeds with flat or squished up faces are known as brachycephalic.
They have a shorter upper jaw and muzzles, but the same amount of skin and soft tissue around their nose, mouth and throat, which can block their airways and make it hard for them to breathe.
Surgery can help, but Blue Cross are keen to highlight that there’s no quick fix for these dogs and the complicated procedure comes with risks.
They point out that up to a quarter of dogs endure some kind of complication during or following the surgery and up to 4% die during or shortly after the procedure.
Brachycephalic breeds are more at risk under anaesthetic for many reasons, including the fact there’s greater difficulty in getting oxygen into their bloodstream.
Unfortunately, little Leonard didn’t make it through his recovery, passing away in hospital just hours after the surgery.
Alison Thomas, Head of Veterinary Services at Blue Cross, said: ‘Sadly we’re having to do more of these surgeries just to help these animals to breathe a little easier. Many people see this surgery as a quick fix for these issues, considering it a normal procedure for these dogs.
‘Whilst surgery can help, it is not a complete cure. Even with surgery, many of these dogs will continue to face a level of difficulty with breathing. These breeds frequently suffer additional health problems, such as eye problems, skin disease and joint disorders.
‘We’d urge anyone considering taking on a brachycephalic breed of dog, cat or rabbit to really do their research and understand the care they will require throughout their lives.’
These types of breeds remain popular choices all over, with prices online rising as high as £10,000 per puppy in some parts of the country.
Leonard wasn’t the first French Bulldog to need help from Blue Cross with health issues.
The team recently helped nurse an eight-week-old puppy back to health after the poor pup was bought online for £3,000 and signed over to the charity by owners who said they had underestimated the time and care the youngster needed.
A third French Bulldog, Fendi, collapsed on a run while with a friend of his owner and needed emergency treatment at the charity’s London hospital.
Alison said: ‘Prospective owners should consider the needs and limitations of these breeds before taking them on.
‘As with Fendi, lack of understanding of the needs of brachycephalic dogs can contribute to the need for emergency care. French Bulldogs don’t make great running partners.
‘Sadly, the snuffling and wheezing noises which are often perceived as cute are actually the sounds of obstructed breathing resulting from the selective breeding aimed at creating this particular look.
‘As the weather gets warmer and we head into summer, higher temperatures pose additional risks as loss of heat by panting is a real challenge for these dogs.’
Jenna added: ‘When an animal like Leonard passes away for a simple thing that we take for granted every day, to breathe, it’s so painful. It’s still painful now.
‘The hospital team were heartbroken, and my team here at the rehoming centre were heartbroken. One of the hardest things we have to do in our job is say goodbye.
‘I’ve worked for Blue Cross for 18 years and I can truly say that this is one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had.
‘We want Leonard’s story to raise awareness of the needs and struggles of these breeds and make people aware that sadly there is no quick fix for their issues.’
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