They’re photogenic and popular on Instagram – but flat-faced dogs often endure serious breathing problems. Now, more and more are having surgery
The most striking thing about Sidney’s mouth, which has been hoisted wide open with rope, is his teeth. They are in unusually good condition for a four-year-old bulldog. His incisors, while gappier than a row of gravestones, are a brilliant white and his tusk-like canines gleam like polished ivory under the surgical lights. Further down the dog’s jaw, however, the picture is less healthy. Sidney can’t breathe properly. He has been put under at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for an operation that may help.
As Sidney waited in a holding pen at the animal home’s hospital, he and Frankie, a similarly affected French bulldog two doors down, could be heard snorting and gasping, even at rest. They suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), which is estimated to affect half of all brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs, most notably bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs. Shaun Opperman, Battersea’s veteran head vet, has scrubbed up for an operation he now performs with alarming regularity.
Breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs and boxers are prone to a range of health problems, many of which are related to their short skulls and other characteristic features.
Some animals with BOAS find ways to prop their mouths open to survive the night, using furniture or toys as wedges
Insurance premiums for the dogs can be high … an operation for BOAS can easily come to £3,000
'This is a calamity': the surgeons keeping pugs and bulldogs alive