RightPaw Brachycephalic Breeding Policy

Last updated: September 12, 2021

Summary

At RightPaw, we believe the health of dogs everywhere starts from the work of responsible breeders.

This is particularly true for brachycephalic breeds, who are known to suffer greater health risks throughout their lifetime than the average dog.

As a result, RightPaw Breeders of these breeds must complete a minimum standard of health testing, to ensure we are breeding the best dogs possible and setting puppies up for the best possible life.

Below is a summary of the minimum health tests required per breed. You will find a detailed summary of our entire Brachycephalic Breeding Policy below.

French Bulldogs:

  • X-rays for Hip Dysplasia
  • X-rays for Spinal Abnormalities

British Bulldogs, Miniature Bulldogs and Australian Bulldogs:

  • X-rays for Hip Dysplasia
  • X-rays for Elbow Dysplasia
  • X-rays for Spinal Abnormalities
  • X-rays for Tracheal Hypoplasi

Pugs:

  • X-rays for Hip Dysplasia

Boston Terriers:

  • X-rays for Spinal Abnormalities

Breeders must also provide a vet letter for their parent dogs, stating that their dogs are considered suitable for breeding purposes and confirming they have never been treated for an episode of BOAS or heat regulation problems.

RightPaw Brachycephalic Breeding Policy

At RightPaw we believe that the only way to responsibly breed French Bulldogs, Pugs, British Bulldogs, Miniature Bulldogs, Australian Bulldogs and Boston Terriers, is to be acutely aware of the health problems that commonly impact these breeds and for the breeder to be actively committed to breeding away from these diseases.

The French Bulldog, British Bulldog and Pug are classed as ‘extremely brachycephalic’, meaning they have extremely short noses and flat faces. Of all the brachycephalic breeds, these three are the most severely afflicted by health problems that are linked to their genetics and breeding. Many of these diseases do not have genetic tests available and so cannot be screened out of breeding programs via DNA tests. The only way to reduce and eventually eliminate these diseases is to select away from severely affected individuals and never breed from them. Miniature Bulldogs and Australian Bulldogs are newer breeds derived from the British Bulldog and can also suffer from similar health concerns. The Boston Terrier is another very short-nosed breed which is impacted by similar health concerns to the others listed above.

With international breed standards as they currently stand all of the above breeds are at a significantly increased risk of developing diseases such as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and Tracheal Hypoplasia, both of which can be severe or even life threatening1. The average life-span of the extremely brachycephalic breeds is shorter than other breeds of a similar size by almost 4 years2. RightPaw therefore believes it is crucial that breeders of these dogs demonstrate a commitment to moving away from severely affected dogs, for their practices to be classed as responsible. The spinal abnormality causing hemivertebrae (common in French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers in particular) is a highly heritable condition that can be successfully bred out of the population with concerted effort from responsible breeders12. Health testing to screen out dogs with hemivertebrae, narrow tracheas and moderate to severe BOAS will gradually decrease the prevalence of these diseases in the breed as a whole and minimise the risk of severe health problems in puppies being sold.

Love is Blind is an animal health and welfare campaign between the Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA to raise awareness about the problems caused by exaggerated physical features such as brachycephaly, short limbs and excessive skin wrinkling.

To be listed on RightPaw, breeders of the French Bulldog, Pug, British Bulldog, Miniature Bulldog, Australian Bulldog and Boston Terrier are required to conduct and produce certificates or evidence for the following health tests in their breeding dogs:

French Bulldogs:

  • X-rays for Hip Dysplasia
  • X-rays for Spinal Abnormalities

British Bulldogs, Miniature Bulldogs and Australian Bulldogs:

  • X-rays for Hip Dysplasia
  • X-rays for Elbow Dysplasia
  • X-rays for Spinal Abnormalities
  • X-rays for Tracheal Hypoplasi

Pugs:

  • X-rays for Hip Dysplasia

Boston Terriers:

  • X-rays for Spinal Abnormalities

Breeders must also provide a vet letter for their parent dogs, stating that their dogs are considered suitable for breeding purposes and confirming they have never been treated for an episode of BOAS or heat regulation problems.

BOAS standardised exercise response scoring is highly recommended to all RightPaw breeders. Only dogs scoring 0-1 on a BOAS scoring system, and who have never demonstrated dramatic breathing or heat regulation problems, are regarded as fit-to-breed10.

RightPaw believes there is a need for public awareness about the severity of brachycephalic health issues. These breeds are becoming increasingly popular, with French Bulldogs now the third most popular breed in Australia3. They feature commonly in advertising and are popular with celebrities. It is not surprising that they are becoming so popular – they are usually cute, amiable dogs who fit perfectly into city and family lifestyles.

The problem is that the general public are not aware that over 50% of French Bulldogs have a clinical condition called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)4 and many of these dogs will require surgery during their life to cope. Virtually all brachycephalic dogs would benefit from airway surgery as puppies to improve their long-term quality of life12. A distressingly large number of brachycephalic dogs die premature, young deaths from heat stroke or breathing distress following exercise or stress5. Many pet transport companies refuse to take brachycephalic dogs or do so only at the owner’s risk, due to their increased tendency to collapse when they overheat.

The compromised respiratory system of a brachycephalic dog means they are at higher risk of complications during an anaesthetic6. They can suffer from spinal issues due to malformed vertebrae7, sleep problems8, gastrointestinal issues9, eye ulcers, skin-fold disease and skin allergies10, all at a higher rate than other breeds. They commonly struggle against restraint at the vets for routine procedures such as nail clipping or taking a blood sample, as even a low level of restraint can induce a feeling of panic, due to not being able to breathe well. Most owners of a brachycephalic dog are unable to recognise the signs of BOAS in their dog as there is an incorrect public perception that noisy breathing and minimal ability to exercise in these breeds is normal13. Rescue organisations are becoming inundated with brachycephalic dogs at an alarming rate11.

More on Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

BOAS is a syndrome where dogs experience breathing difficulties and inability to exercise, as a result of the shape of their face and upper airway. Brachycephalic breeds have been bred for a short skull, but as the bones and nostrils have shrunk in size, the corresponding soft tissues (soft palate, tongue, tonsils, laryngeal saccules) have not shrunk with them, leaving these dogs with a tiny nose and face but with huge amounts of soft tissue at the back of their throat blocking their airways. BOAS is caused by a combination of these different issues in an individual, preventing them from breathing sufficient oxygen when they exercise or get excited. Some of these dogs cannot exercise at all, and collapse or faint in hot weather as a result of BOAS. Many owners of these breeds do not even realise their pet has clinical BOAS until they have a dangerous episode. Any dog that breathes noisily, snores and struggles for breath after walking might have BOAS and should be assessed by a vet. None of these signs are normal, for any dog. If we are to regard breeding these dogs as a responsible choice, then it is imperative that we stop accepting these conditions as ‘normal for the breed’.

References

  1. Packer, R. M., Hendricks, A., Tivers, M. S., & Burn, C. C. (2015). Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PloS one, 10(10), e0137496. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137496 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624979/)
  2. O'Neill, D. G., Jackson, C., Guy, J. H., Church, D. B., McGreevy, P. D., Thomson, P. C., & Brodbelt, D. C. (2015). Epidemiological associations between brachycephaly and upper respiratory tract disorders in dogs attending veterinary practices in England. Canine genetics and epidemiology, 2, 10. doi.org/10.1186/s40575- 015-0023-8 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579368/)
    1. Australian National Kennel Council Registration Analysis 2010-2019, Available at: http://ankc.org.au/media/9372/rego-stats-list_2010-2019v5.pdf &
    2. https://www.comparethemarket.com.au/pet-insurance/dog-breeds-aussies-love/
  3. Liu, N-C., Sargan, D.R., Adams, V.J, & Ladlow, J.F. (2015). Characterisation of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome in french bulldogs using whole-body barometric plethysmography. Plos One, 10(6), e0130741. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130741 (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0130741#sec012)
    1. O'Neill, D. G., Jackson, C., Guy, J. H., Church, D. B., McGreevy, P. D., Thomson, P. C., & Brodbelt, D. C. (2015). Epidemiological associations between brachycephaly and upper respiratory tract disorders in dogs attending veterinary practices in England. Canine genetics and epidemiology, 2, 10. doi.org/10.1186/s40575-015-0023-8 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579368/)
    2. Fleming, J.M., Creevy, K.E. & Promislow, D.E.L., (2011), Mortality in north American dogs from 1984 to 2004: an investigation into age, size and breed-related causes of death. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 25, pp. 187-198 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.0695.x)
  4. Miller, J. & Gannon, K. (2015), Perioperative Management of Brachycephalic Dogs, Available at: https://files.brief.vet/migration/article/22631/ask_brachycephalic-dogs-22631-article.pdf
  5. Ryan, R., Gutierrez-Quintana, R., Ter Haar, G. & De Decker, S. (2017), Prevalence of thoracic vertebral malformations in French bulldogs, pugs and English bulldogs with and without associated neurological deficits. The Veterinary Journal, 03, 221:25-29. doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2017.01.018 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28283076/)
  6. Roedler, F.S., Pohl, S. & Oechtering, G.U. (2013), How does severe brachycephaly affect dog’s lives? Results of a structured preoperative owner questionnaire. The Veterinary Journal, 198, 3:606-610. doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2013.09.009 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090023313004280?via%3Dihub)
  7. Kaye, B.M., Rutherford, L., Perridge, D.J. & Ter Haar. G. (2018), Relationship between brachycephalic airway syndrome and gastrointestinal signs in three breeds of dog. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 59 (11):670- 673, doi.org/10.1111/jsap.12914. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30094894)
  8. Packer, R., O'Neill, D. G., Fletcher, F., & Farnworth, M. J. (2019). Great expectations, inconvenient truths, and the paradoxes of the dog-owner relationship for owners of brachycephalic dogs. PloS one, 14(7), e0219918. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0219918 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6641206/)
  9. Honey, L. (2017), Future health and welfare crisis predicted for the brachycephalic dog population. Vet Record, 181 (21), pp.550-559. (https://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/181/21/550.2.long)
  10. Australian Veterinary Association Ltd 2021, Love is blind - advice from a specialist surgeon, viewed 14 May 2021, (https://www.ava.com.au/love-is-blind/advice-from-a-specialist-surgeon/)
  11. Southern Animal Health 2020, A more comfortable life: ‘need’ vs ‘benefit’ explained, Cheltenham VIC, viewed 14 May 2021, (https://melbournebulldogclinic.com.au/important-info/need-vs-benefit/)
  12. https://www.loveisblind.org.au/
  13. https://www.ava.com.au/love-is-blind/

Last updated: September 12, 2021