Our dogs with crushed faces suffer quietly for us

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Why do humans love dogs with squashed faces? Indeed, some of the most popular dog breeds are those whose noses appear to have been pressed against glass in utero: Pugs, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers all fall into these categories. The technical term for these types of crushed-faced dogs is “brachycephalic”. (The root brachia– means “short”, while cephalic means “from the head.”) Maybe humans love them because, with their snouts squashed towards their skulls until their faces are flat, brachycephalic dogs are unbearably adorable. Their big round eyes appear friendly, curious and kind; their wrinkled faces convey a delicious spectrum of moods, from cranky to delighted; and when their tongue sticks out of their mouth, as it often happens, it looks like they are blowing raspberries.

“I think there’s a good reason to believe that one of the things we love about a shorter-nosed dog is that it looks more like a human primate face,” Scientist Alexandra Horowitz in cognitive science and author of “Our Dogs, Ourselves”. said in an interview last year with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We have to recognize that it has gone too far.”

Appearances can be deceptive, however. While brachycephalic dogs may seem to lead the lives of happy cartoon characters, their daily lives can be full of discomfort – and often worse. From illnesses to genetic diseases, brachycephalic dogs don’t just have problems – their problems get worse. This is because over time these races become Following inbred than they were 100 years ago – which for some dog lovers and vets raises ethical questions about continuing to breed them. Indeed, humans can be dogs’ best friends, but in our quest to raise more best friends, we may have inadvertently hurt those we claim to love.

What it’s like to be a brachycephalic dog

It begins with the removal of the muzzle; although aesthetically pleasing to breeders and owners, this anatomical alteration forces the dog to breathe through nasal passages that are simply too small.


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“We can imagine when we have a cold and it is harder to breathe and we tend to snore a lot,” Erica Feuerbacher, associate professor in the Animal and Poultry Sciences Department at Virginia Tech, wrote in Salon. “It could be what it could be for these dogs.”

It is an affliction that can literally be unimaginable for humans. Humans are sometimes born with brachycephaly, although their symptoms are not the same as for these dogs. Molly H. Sumridge, an anthropozoology instructor at Carroll College, noted in Salon that humans with brachycephaly generally do not exhibit the intentionally elevated extreme symptoms in many dogs. “In humans, this is corrected in infants through the use of a cranial reforming helmet,” Sumridge told Salon.

“Due to a deformity of the skull and muzzle, many brachycephalic dogs have stenotic nostrils. [a condition caused by malformed nasal cartilage that strains the larynx], bulging eyes and deep nasal skin folds, “Marjan van Hagen, professor of animal behavior at Utrecht University, told Salon. This means that many animals are constantly suffering from shortness of breath, which “has a major impact on their everyday life, as they have to gasp to breathe with each breath. ocular proptosis, a condition in which their eyes protrude from their skulls.

That’s not all. The list of diseases related to being brachycephalic is long and “continues to grow” as we study them, Van Hagen says. Van Hagen can attest that dogs have abnormalities in the structures of the inner ear and tear ducts, having accumulations of cerebrospinal fluid in the spinal cord and skulls too small for a dog’s cerebellum (which helps control muscle activity). Even the jaws that make English Bulldogs look both fierce and silly are often, in fact, a source of pain: Brachycephalic dogs can have crowded teeth because there isn’t enough space in them. their jaws, resulting in inflammation.

There’s also a good reason why bulldogs love Uga, the famous mascot of the University of Georgia, must be constantly air-conditioned if they stay too long in the sun.

“Their brachycephaly also contributes to their not being as able to thermoregulate and can overheat easily, which again means that they are limited in what activities and under what conditions they can participate,” explained Feuerbacher. She also mentioned that it is common for English and French Bulldog puppies to have to be delivered by Caesarean section, which affects the well-being of the mother.

Small brachycephalic dogs are also prone to a disease known as hanging tongue syndrome. When their tongue is too big, missing teeth, or having an abnormal jaw bone, the soft pink muscle organ is constantly coming out of their mouth. Although it may sound cute, it can be very uncomfortable for dogs. If they aren’t able to stick their tongue out enough into their mouth to keep it moist, it can dry out, crack, blister, and become infected. Imagine the feeling of having chapped lips that are uncomfortable but on your tongue.

The intercanine language barrier

Dogs with squashed faces may also find it difficult to have conversations with their canine companions.

“Brachycephalic deformities can also inhibit a dog’s ability to communicate effectively with other dogs through facial body language,” Sumridge told Salon. In other words, because their facial structure seems stranger to other dogs, they are inhibited in their ability to communicate.

If it is so difficult for many of these dogs to survive, “talk” and in some cases even breed, how do they exist? Surprisingly, they’ve been around for a while, albeit in a healthier form.

“The origins of brachycephalic dogs depend on what trait you are looking to measure,” Sumridge explained. Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Pekingese are very ancient, for example, but the extreme nature of their current flat faces is more recent.

“The reproduction of flatter faces seems to have increased primarily over the past 50 to 100 years to accentuate the ‘baby face’ that many owners love and are drawn to,” Sumridge told Salon.

Modern dog breeds were created in the 19th century, while the concept of “purebred” became fashionable among Europeans during the Victorian era. As with so many things, this phenomenon may be linked to racism, especially the eugenic movements which argued that knowledge about genetics could be manipulated to create “perfect” specimens in the human and animal world.

Even if purebred brachycephalic dogs did not have this uncomfortable history, there would still be considerable ethical concerns about their continued breeding.

“Veterinarians around the world argue that there is widespread evidence for a link between extreme brachycephalic phenotypes and chronic disease, compromising canine well-being,” said van Hagen. “The selection of dogs with increasingly shorter and wider skulls has reached physiological limits. Continuing to breed them in this way, with this knowledge, can therefore be considered unethical.”

Feuerbacher noted that it is not just the brachycephalic races that have congenital health problems. A number of purebred dogs have health issues due to inbreeding, such as German Shepherds who are bred to have increasingly sloping backs and therefore developing back, hip and leg problems.

“I think we have a responsibility to our animals to keep them as healthy as possible, rather than just giving in to our desire for a certain aesthetic,” Feuerbacher wrote. “We can certainly select for different aesthetics, but if we keep the welfare of the animal in mind when making these selection decisions, we hope to find a balance and not select extreme characteristics that can have an impact. negative on the animal. “

The solution, experts say, is to discourage over-breeding. It is possible for dogs to continue to come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, while still leading healthy lives. The key, experts say, is to make sure there is genetic diversity in their lineage. Inbreeding, as the name clearly suggests, is bad.


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