#BreedtoBreathe - how vets can improve health and welfare of brachy breeds

Posted on January 03, 2018 by Hayley Atkin

Brachy skull2017 gave us some worrying statistics about the rise in registrations of brachycephalic breeds, raising our concerns about a population-based increase in ill-health and compromised welfare among these breeds. With a 3104% increase in French Bulldog registrations, a 193% increase in Pug registrations and a 96% increase in Bulldog registrations over the past ten years, the figures speak for themselves.

But 2017 also gave us some superb examples of vets successfully mobilising to speak out against the use of brachycephalic breeds in marketing campaigns, raising awareness that the health and welfare issues surrounding brachycephaly are #notnormal. Along with other key stakeholders in dog health and welfare we successfully took on big brands such as Comic Relief, Heinz, Costa, Halifax, about their use of brachys in advertising and influenced changes in their marketing policies.

#BreedtoBreathe campaign

So, it goes without saying that there’s a huge strength of feeling within the profession about this issue. But what are we doing to harness this?  

This week we’re launching our #BreedtoBreathe campaign, centering around our newly published position on brachycephalic dogs. Developed through BVA Policy Committee and in partnership with our colleagues at the BSAVA, our position outlines how the different stakeholders in dog health and welfare can work together towards improving the health and welfare of these breeds.

More and more members are turning to us for advice on how best to take wider action so, as part of the position, we have set out a ten-point plan for practices. We hope this will support vets to further improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs and promote responsible ownership.

10 point plan for veterinary practices

  1. Offer pre-purchase consultations, such as the PDSA “Which pet?” consultation framework, with prospective dog owners. The potential health problems of brachycephalic conformation can be clearly outlined in these consultations.
  2. Strongly advise against breeding if a dog is suffering from BOAS or requires conformation altering surgery – consider neutering (where best practice allows) to prevent further litters with extremes of conformation that negatively impact on their health and welfare
  3. Promote the Puppy Contract (comprising of the Puppy Information Pack and contract for sale) through the practice communication channels, eg. website, social media, waiting room displays, newsletters and in local print and broadcast media
  4. Promote and actively participate in available health schemes (eg. BVA/KC Health Schemes), including those for brachycephalic breeds that currently exist amongst Bulldog, French bulldog and Pug breed clubs
  5. Carry out exercise tolerance tests (ETT) and functional grading for brachycephalic breeds as part of their annual health assessment
  6. Enrol the practice in clinical surveillance programmes such as VetCompassTM and SAVSNET, to contribute to data gathering and evidence generation
  7. Develop a practice communication strategy to repeatedly, clearly and consistently communicate the health problems experienced by dogs with brachycephalic conformation through the practice communication channels
  8. Develop practice policy to ensure that practice communication channels (particularly social media and advertising materials) do not portray dogs with brachycephalic conformation as cute, humorous or appealing
  9. Ensure practice policy supports staff to appropriately convey evidence-based information and advice to owners of dogs with brachycephalic conformation
  10. Support local breed clubs and representatives to develop and implement plans to improve the health of dogs with brachycephalic conformation

#BreedtoBreathe toolbox

Vet voices carry more weight than most on animal welfare issues and it’s important that there are voices all over social media pushing back against the use of brachycephalic breeds in marketing.

That’s why we’ve also created the #BreedtoBreathe toolbox, a space with shareable resources to support vets in raising awareness about the problems associated with brachycephalic breeds alongside our campaigning activity.

Keep up the momentum

As you’ll have hopefully gathered throughout this post, #BreedtoBreathe is the BVA campaign hashtag. Use it to keep the conversation going and help us follow your efforts on Twitter.

Over 2017 we’ve seen that together veterinary voices can make a huge impact. Now is the time to harness the profession’s influence and keep the up the momentum for the #BreedtoBreathe campaign for 2018. 

Hayley Atkin

Written by Hayley Atkin

BVA Policy Officer

Hayley provides the secretariat to BVA Scottish Branch and works with BVA members to develop evidence-based policy spanning companion animals, animal disease surveillance and farm assurance.