Kennel Club Launches Learning Resource for Health Concerns in Brachycephalic Breeds

The Kennel Club has launched a Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) online learning resource on the Kennel Club Academy, to provide free and easily accessible education to those with an interest in BOAS and the research being undertaken at Cambridge University with brachycephalic dog breeds.

The Kennel Club recently voiced its concerns that the French Bulldog, a brachycephalic breed, could become the most popular breed of pedigree dog in the UK within two years, overtaking the Labrador Retriever, as people buy the breed on a whim because it is considered to be fashionable and is owned by celebrities.  Furthermore, other brachycephalic breeds, such as the Pug and Bulldog are also increasing in popularity, with new owners often unaware of health issues that can affect some dogs in these breeds.

Many puppy buyers, existing owners, and some breeders, can be unaware of what is abnormal in these breeds and the consequence of symptoms associated with exaggerate physical features that are often misinterpreted as ‘cute’ or ‘endearing’. This resource aims to provide education and advice on brachycephalic health and welfare for viewers from all levels of knowledge.

The online learning resource includes an educational film highlighting research currently underway at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, with BOAS research team Dr Jane Ladlow, Dr Nai-Chieh Liu and Dr David Sargan explaining their experience of how the syndrome affects brachycephalic breeds, the symptoms that indicate disease, and the team’s advances in brachycephalic research through surgical intervention, diagnostic measures and genetic markers. The film also focuses on differences in disease manifestation for French Bulldogs, Pugs and Bulldogs, with examples of both healthy and affected individuals from each breed.

The film highlights to puppy buyers the importance of seeing puppies with their parents to observe the health and breathing of the parents, and the importance of health testing. It also gives first-hand experiences from owners who purchased a puppy without knowing the health history of the parents, drawn to the ‘endearing’ brachycephalic noise (which indicates that the affected dog is struggling to breathe normally), and the consequences this has had on their dog’s quality of life.

As well as the BOAS film, information is provided from a range of sources, such as peer-reviewed scientific literature, and advice from canine charities and brachycephalic breed clubs and councils. It is hoped that the resources supplied from leaders in BOAS research will also apply to those within the veterinary profession, either those studying at university or professionals well-grounded within their career, and will supply them with the tools to diagnose BOAS before it progresses into its severe stages. Subscribers also have the option to test their knowledge with an online BOAS assessment.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: "“Breeds such as the French Bulldog and Pug have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, leading to a huge demand for them. This has provided a ready market for unscrupulous breeders to effectively churn out puppies for profit, with no regard for their health and welfare. 

“It is estimated that the Kennel Club only registers around 30 per cent of the population so there are undoubtedly thousands of undocumented or unregistered dogs, such as those being brought into the UK illegally from Eastern Europe and those being crossed with other breeds, which could be being deliberately bred with exaggerated features in the hope that they will appeal to puppy buyers.

“Brachycephalic breeds require experienced owners and this resource will allow viewers to make an informed decision as to whether these breeds are right for them and will alert them to what they should be looking out for when buying a dog.”

Visit the Kennel Club Academy to view the online learning resources that interested parties can subscribe for free.