Saturday, 30 April 2016

Arnie the Frenchie: the saddest story I have ever told

Arnie on his way home from his transatlantic trip to Germany

I get a lot of sad emails but none sadder that this email I got from French Bulldog owner Heather Hanna two days ago.

I want to reach out and say thank you. Your courage to speak out and your insight into pedigree dogs and dog breeding have completely changed my outlook on brachycephalic breeds. I have three frenchies of my own and do French bulldog rescue here in America. For many years, I had accepted the serious health issues that brachycephalic dogs suffer as being okay, because they are “normal” for the breed. I thought snoring was normal. In fact, I used to be fond of explaining to people that it had become my white noise. I thought reverse sneezing fits were normal. I don’t think I fully considered why these little guys overheat, but rather acknowledged it as a fact of life. I used to moisturize their little noses and wipe their butts without question. So many more issues that I believed to be incidental in owning a bully. I was wrong. I now find it appalling.  
About a year ago, all of that began to change when I received a little guy who suffers from severe brachycephalic airway syndrome. All my frenchies suffer in various degrees, none of which are acceptable, but he was an especially severe case because he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t play … His name is Arnie and he should have never been born.  

Arnie used to be an AKC show dog and he was winning lots of shows – that is until he could no longer keep weight for the show ring. So his breeders gave him up. They told me the problem is that he was a picky eater. I had no idea what I was in for, but picky eating wasn’t the problem.  
Arnie had a successful show career
For the first year and a half of his life, Arnie’s breeders kept him on prednisone to try and cover up his health problems, so they could continue to show and breed him. Apparently this is somewhat common. I noticed something was off with him almost immediately. If he laid down to try and sleep, he would begin to asphyxiate, so he tried to sleep standing or sitting up or with his head propped on something.  
His breathing was like a roll of thunder every time he inhaled or exhaled. It was nauseating. He would often pester me in the middle of the night to wake up. I think he got scared when he couldn’t catch his breath. I used to sit and hold him and cry because I couldn’t do anything to help him. Sometimes he would simply collapse from what I assume was exhaustion and urinate himself, just to stand back up and try to sleep. He could barely keep food or water down, which explains the “picky eater” excuse his breeders gave.  
I took him to some of the best veterinarians and vet schools here in America to try and figure out a solution. He already had his palate shortened, his nares opened, and his saccules removed, but he still couldn’t breathe. They kept suggesting he have another palate surgery, except logic told me that wasn’t the answer and started teaching myself about brachycephalia.  
Long story short is, I ran across a paper written by Dr. Oechtering from Germany. From there, I found your BBC piece. I contacted Dr. Oechtering and begged him to see my Frenchie. He eventually agreed and I took the dog to Germany in January. My only other option at that point was euthanasia.
Unfortunately Arnie went into cardiac arrest about half way through the surgery. It took them 20 minutes to resuscitate him. He remained in critical condition for the following 24 hours and doctors volunteered to stay at the clinic to ensure he pulled through. Dr. O told me that Arnie had one of the most obstructed airways he has ever seen.   
I don't know what I expected when I took Arnie to Germany, but I never expected the results to be this life changing - for the better. He went from having to fight for each and every breath, to being able to breathe easy. It is like my little guy woke up from a nightmare. His eyes changed - there is a light in them now that was once missing. He could barely make a brief walk out to potty before and now he can run and play. The first time I ever saw him play was about a month after the surgery. I broke down and cried grateful tears. He still has a losing battle ahead and the worst part is that he is far from being the only one. A terrible injustice has been done to these brachy breeds for purely aesthetic reasons by breeders past and present and kennel clubs worldwide.  
Arnie with Professor Oechtering in Leipzig
While in Germany, they did an MRI. Turns out, he also has syringomyelia. The only reason I knew anything about this disease is from your documentary, from the segment on Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. I was sick. I am still sick. This diagnosis explains several symptoms that I had either written off as allergies, i.e., the air scratching, or other funny behaviours like when the weather changes or bunny-hop on lead, as well as his head tilt, which I thought was a side effect of scoliosis. I now know that the head tilt is one possible symptom of syringomyelia and I've seen other Frenchies with it.


Being in rescue, I see a lot of puppy mills mamas, but also a lot of Frenchies from families who can no longer afford their health care. I have been active in several Frenchie groups – online, local groups, and from the sidelines in the show ring, but anymore all I can see when I look at these dogs are stenotic nares and stubby bodies – basically ticking time bombs.
From my experience, many veterinarians seem to be almost as clueless as owners about the extent of the problems that come with breeding these “cute” dogs. Right now there is another American Frenchie in Germany for the same surgeries. I can’t believe I ever thought this was acceptable. Never again.
Thank you for all your hard work and dedication in educating people like me about the realities. Know it doesn’t always fall on deaf ears.

Arnie is two years old.

Why did Heather take Arnie to Germany for treatment?

Professor Gerhard Oechtering at the University of Leipzig believes that the 'traditional' soft-palate surgery for brachycephalics is no longer sufficient because the dogs have become more extreme. He has pioneered a new procedure in which he uses a laser to remove some of the nasal turbinates. These are scrolls of spongey bones that aid respiration but they are scrunched in brachycephalics, affecting the dogs' ability to breathe and - critically - to thermo-regulate. This is why short-muzzled dogs overheat so easily.

You can see the turbinates (also called conchae) clearly in these three skulls. The first is a wolf's.


This (below) is what a pit-bull type's turbinates look like.



And this (below)  is what a brachycephalic dog's look like (in this instance a Pug's).  Note , too, the severe deviation of the nasal septum in the middle.

Skull pictures courtesy of Gina Gray

More info on Professor Oechtering's work  here and here.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

And the answer to the question is...


Just over two weeks ago, I posed the question: what breed is this five-week-old puppy? Most people, not surprisingly, thought she was a Neapolitan Mastiff.

The answer? This pup is a Great Dane of the extreme type now favoured in some parts of Europe, particularly France.

For comparison, here's a 'normal' 5-wk-old Dane pupster.


So how will the first pup grow up?

Well here's her sire.

Source


And here's her dam.

Source
Compare those two with what Great Danes used to look like.

German Champion Bosco Von Der Saalburg (b: 8/8/1921)

German Champion Dolf Von Der Saalburg (b: 2/7/1924)
Want to see the rest of the 'hypertype' litter? (Source)



















The  mastiffication of the Great Dane in Europe is one of dog-breeding's true horrors. Today in the French show-ring we're seeing dogs like this, bred by people who have completely lost the plot.


Interested in learning more about this issue? Check out Maria Gkinala's fantastic - if deeply depressing - Great Dane Gnosis blog. Her most recent blog entry features this hypertype Italian-bred dog.


He's an international champion, no less, approved for breeding by the European Union of Great Dane Clubs.  

We see some bloody awful Danes in the UK show-ring here, too - generally lighter in build, but with some truly dreadful eyes.

Astonishingly the owner of this UK dog chose to take her to an open show last summer, instead of to a vet.   


She didn't win, but to even think this is OK to exhibit..? 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

4 mins 43 seconds of wall-to-wall wrong



This is just so awful in so many ways that I ended up laughing.

(And it also made me feel very, very old.)

Monday, 11 April 2016

BREAKING NEWS: Norwegian KC admits "we went too far" and pledges to revolutionise 'brachy' health



In an extremely strong statement regarding brachycephalic health, the Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) has today admitted that the breeding of short-faced breeds has gone "too far" and has pledged to reverse the damage.

In response to what it refers to as  the "well-documented" health problems associated with a short nose, the NKK has committed to exploring/initiating the following measures for Bulldogs, Pugs, French Bulldogs and other brachy breeds:

  • outcross projects designed to improve anatomy of the most extreme breeds without compromising genetic diversity
  • a further "extensive" revision of breed standards to remove clauses which predispose for health problems/reduced functionality - to include those breeds that are edging towards being brachycephalic
  • a pre-breeding endurance test for brachycephalics (treadmill and heart-monitor).
  • registration of puppies dependent on a statement that neither parent has undergone airway surgery
  • profile photographs of all dogs being shown in order to monitor trends.

The NKK has also determined to ensure the issue is discussed at FCI level and says it may contact the UK Kennel Club direct as the KC is the country of origin for several brachycephalic breeds (including, of course, the Bulldog).

It is a very happy day here at the PDE Blog and I want to say a big fat "well done" to the Norwegian Kennel Club for this brave and far-reaching statement - especially coming so soon after the ill-tempered denial from the Australian Kennel Club about the extent of the suffering in brachycephalics. (See here.)

There also needs to be a big well-done to all those who have worked so hard to secure change for brachycephalic breeds - including researchers, dog-welfare campaigners and those vets who have been brave enough to stand up and say enough is enough. Very significantly last year, over 1000 veterinary professionals in Sweden signed an open letter demanding change - something that has triggered a lot of discussion and a brachycephalic conference hosted by the Swedish Kennel Club a few weeks ago.

I'm delighted, too, to see the recognition that teeth/oral health is an important issue for brachycephalics. The PDE blog has taken a lead on documenting this oft-overlooked issue, largely thanks to the campaigning work done by Canadian veterinary dentist Dr Fraser Hale - see here and here.)

Pug skull  © Gina Gray

The NKK statement in full (available online here):

From veterinarians, concerns are frequently raised regarding suffering and reduced functionality among the brachycephalic breeds. The fact that a shortened nose creates a predisposition from problems are by now well documented.

The Norwegian Kennel Club has for a significant time focused on the problems regarding respiratory issues and problems with temperature regulation for the brachycephalic breeds.

The Norwegian Kennel Club’s work has so far consisted of the following:



  • Spreading information and raising awareness among owners, breeders, breed clubs
  • BSI (Breed Specific Instructions regarding exaggerations in pedigree dogs) – this includes both providing general information to judges as well as incorporating BSI as a part of the education of judges), to prevent exaggerated dogs being awarded
  • Breed standards have, in general, been modernized in recent years. However, there are still descriptions in several standards that will make dogs predisposed for reduced functionality and health problems
  • In 2015, the NKK sent a letter to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, encouraging them to make registration of surgery to improve respiratory function for brachycephalic breeds mandatory. The Norwegian Kennel Club offered to manage the register of dogs having undergone this type of surgery. The Norwegian Kennel Club has no information of which dogs, or how many dogs, are currently being operated on. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority declined the suggestion to register these operations.
  • The Norwegian Kennel Club is currently part of a working group for dog welfare, with several other animal welfare groups in Norway. This group has worked extensively over the past six months on concrete suggestion to improve the health for these breeds
  • The Norwegian Kennel Club wants to establish an endurance test for the brachycephalic breeds – this work is well underway 
Recently, the Norwegian Kennel Club board voted unanimously to intensify the work to improve the health for the brachycephalic breeds. The intensified efforts will begin this spring, and will include the following:


  • The Norwegian Kennel Club will raise the issue during the Nordic Kennel Union meeting in April 2016
  • The FCI will be contacted to ensure dialogue with the countries responsible for the breeds in questions. The Kennel Club may also be contacted directly regarding this matter, as they are responsible for several of the brachycephalic breeds. The dialogue with the various countries will include:
  • Outcross projects, with the intent of improving the anatomy of the exposed breeds, without reducing the genepool
  • Extensive revision of the breed standards with descriptions predisposing for health problems/reduced functionality
  • Revision of breed standards for breeds where even shorter noses are likely, or who are close to being at risk (nose/skull=1:2)
  • The Norwegian Kennel Club will establish a voluntary register where owners can report that their dog has been operated for respiratory problems. This will be registered in DogWeb, the Norwegian Kennel Club health database, open to the public. Letters with information regarding surgery may also be sent to breed clubs and breeders
  • Statements from the owner(s) of parents that these dogs have not undergone surgery for for respiratory issues will be registered when the litter is registered 
  • Profile photos of all dogs being shown at dog shows will be taken and registered.

Dedicated breed club

The Norwegian Bulldog Club has already done solid work to improve the health for their breeds, and have, in their Breed Specific Strategy, begun work to develop an endurance test.

This test is a tool to measure whether the dog has problems breathing and/or regulating temperature during activity, so that the healthiest individuals may be selected for breeding. Endurance testing has also been attempted by other clubs, but the Norwegian Kennel Club now wants to improve this test by using treadmills and measuring heart rate to establish a more standardized test. The treadmill is ready, as is the customized heart rate measurers, and the testing of the equipment will begin already this week. Shortly, the Norwegian Kennel Club and the Norwegian Bulldog Club will being the actual testing of dogs.

We hope that this test will provide an objective and scientific measurement of health, and therefore suitability for breeding. Hopefully, this will become one of several tools in the ongoing work to reduce the problems and suffering for brachycephalic breeds through selective breeding. We are aware that the short-nosed breeds also have other significant health issues as a result of anatomy, particularly with eyes and teeth. We believe that the improvement in anatomy as a result of the measures now being taken will also help in these areas, and this will be considered part of the evaluation process for all initiatives.

Key focus area 

There is no doubt that several short snout breeds have major challenges when it comes to health, and that the challenges in this area is not consistent with good dog welfare. This is an important health issue we are going to sharpen the focus on in the future. The development of certain breeds should not have gone so far. Nevertheless, this very unfortunate development has occurred, and measures must therefore now be reinforced. It goes without saying that NKK should lead the way in this effort, and we have great expectations that our work will give good results, says CEO Ms. Trine Hage.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

ANKC accuses scientists of "relentless attack" on pedigree dogs


The above clip is an excerpt from yesterday's ABC The Drum - a popular early evening news/current affairs programme in Australia.  It's just one of a host of pieces in the media following the publication yesterday of a new paperfrom a team at the University of Sydney, that documents the trend towards smaller, flatter-faced dogs - similar to that seen in the US and the UK, too.

Significantly, the paper (and indeed all the media coverage) highlights the fact that flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs are more susceptible to respiratory, digestive, skin and eye conditions and that on average they die four years earlier than more 'normal' breeds of dog.

It's provoked an angry response from the Australian National Kennel Club (ANKC), which has accused the researchers and others of being part of a "relentless attack on purebred dogs".

Yesterday, on its Facebook page, the ANKC published a rebuttal - although today, after it appeared to get increasingly stressed about a small number of critical comments, the whole page was taken down.

Fortunately, nothing posted on the internet ever properly disappears; you'll find a copy of the whole statement below.

Much of it falls into the category of logical fallacy - essentially, flawed reasoning used by someone trying to counter a fact or view they don't like.

• "ANKC Ltd are disappointed with the comments in the ABC article attributed to Assoc. Prof.Zuber and Dr.Crawford which continue the relentless attack on purebred dogs"

Yep... because there's got to be an anti-purebred agenda here - rather than, you know, there is actually a problem with flat-faced dogs.  After all, there is now an enormous amount of peer-reviewed science articulating the issue. 

This is an ad hominem attack on two professionals who are much more likely to be expressing their genuine concern that some dogs have problems living because of the way they've been bred - after a lifetime's experience treating them.

Both Max Zuber and Julia Crawford are senior veterinary surgeons. Implying some ulterior motive may play well with the ANKC electorate, but it will not wash with the general public.

• "...amongst some of the inaccuracies in the article is the age to which Bulldogs can live, healthy Bulldogs from caring and responsible breeders can live to in excess of 10 years."

It is true that some Bulldogs live to 10 or more (although no evidence that these are only dogs from "caring and responsible breeders")  The point is that most studies have found that the average age of death is six years old. There is also a good recent study (see here) that found that brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds die, on average, four years earlier than non-brachy breeds.

• "It is regrettable that, in articles on the state of pedigree dogs health there is no acknowledgment of the multi thousands of dollars spent by ANKC Ltd Breeders on health testing and support of ongoing research into Canine Heritable Diseases.  The Canine Research Foundation (CRF) is the official vehicle for funding ANKC Ltd research programs, it is an independent public charitable trust and is funded by a $1 levy on every puppy registered with the ANKC, A good proportion of the funds have been allocated to researchers at Sydney University a fact which Prof.Zuber and others choose not to acknowledge. Since 2000 CRF grants to researchers at Sydney University have totalled $324,000"

I certainly understand why the ANKC would like it mentioned that it funds health research - but that isn't the story here.  The story is simply that there's been a big increase in the number of these dogs being bred and that it represents a welfare issue.

Worryingly, in the listing of all the money the ANKC has given to the University, there is the heavy implication that the ANKC feels the University is biting the hand that feeds it (and indeed, there were a couple of comments to this effect on the FB page before it was taken down). Here's one - which prompted a sharp comment from another poster.



I sincerely hope the University of Sydney will not allow its scientific independence and integrity to be compromised.  Unfortunately, I know of others that have bowed to pressure from kennel clubs for those important canine research dollars and pounds.

• Of the estimated 341,000 puppies bred in Australia in 2015 only 20% (66,000) came from ANKC Ltd Breeders, it is from the 275,00 non registered puppies that most of the problems associated with BOAS are found. 

So show us the research that proves this is true... Only of course they can't because there isn't any. There are no required health tests as a condition of ANKC registration for Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs and those that win in the ring are, unfortunately, often among the most exaggerated. Indeed, there is quite a market in Australia for alternative Bulldogs with more moderate features because they often cope better with the Australian climate, but these are not recognised by the ANKC and, indeed, would be considered mongrels.

Hell, the ANKC breed standard for Bulldogs still requires that  the skull "should be very large - the larger the better"; a requirement that is clearly detrimental to health and one of the reasons why most Bulldogs are born by C-section. Before the ANKC took down its page, it defended this by pointing out that it didn't adopt the new UK Bulldog standard (which asks for a more moderate "relatively large" skull) because of resistance from Australian Bulldog breeders.

Right. And you want us to take you seriously regarding your commitment to purebred dog health?

There were another couple of interesting posts on the ANKC page before it disappeared too - this one from Maria Karlsson, who happens to be a Swedish veterinary surgeon.



The ANKC's response:



The page disappeared shortly afterwards. It is impossible to know for sure who the author of the ANKC's comments was, but the statement itself was written by Hugh Gent, President of the ANKC. (He says so on his Facebook page).

It was also Mr Gent who posted a link to a study on BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome) in French Bulldogs, without making it clear that it was a study funded by the UK Kennel Club and nothing to do with the ANKC.  UK vet nurse Katy Price commented to point out that the study had found that almost 50 per cent of Frenchies had trouble breathing and then attempted to post a link to another study on BOAS done by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College. Her comment was removed and she was blocked.

The ANKC's rebuttal statement in full:

ANKC Ltd are disappointed with the comments in the ABC article attributed to Assoc. Prof.Zuber and Dr.Crawford which continue the relentless attack on purebred dogs, amongst some of the inaccuracies in the article is the age to which Bulldogs can live, healthy Bulldogs from caring and responsible breeders can live to in excess of 10 years.
 
It is regrettable that, in articles on the state of pedigree dogs health there is no acknowledgment of the multi thousands of dollars spent by ANKC Ltd Breeders on health testing and support of ongoing research into Canine Heritable Diseases . The Canine Research Foundation (CRF) is the official vehicle for funding ANKC Ltd research programs, it is an independent public charitable trust and is funded by a $1 levy on every puppy registered with the ANKC, A good proportion of the funds have been allocated to researchers at Sydney University a fact which Prof.Zuber and others choose not to acknowledge. Since 2000 CRF grants to researchers at Sydney University have totalled $324,000 they include: Dr Christine Griebsch for Evaluation of serial thromboelastography and platelet mapping in dogs with immunemediated haemolytic anemia treated with aspirin or clopidogrel. Assoc Professor Peter Williamson for research into Genetic management of canine lymphoma and Primary immunodeficiency in Australian German Shepherds, and a study of integrated genomics source for the health and well-being of dogs in Australia. Dr.Chris Weir for Efficacy of a personalised tumour vaccine to treat dogs with cancer. Dr.Katrina Bosward for Coxiella burnetii (Q fever): is this an important agent of disease in Australian dogs and reservoir for human infection?. Dr.P.Sheehy, Generation of ‘clinic ready’ canine induced pluripotent stem cells for regenerative medicine. Dr.Govendir Improving therapeutic control of seizures and Long term use of phenobarbitone in idiopathic epilepsy. Dr.A.Dart Magnetic resonance imaging as a predictor of stifle pathology in naturally occurring cruciate ligament disease in dogs. 
In a recent interview with the ABC on the subject of brachycephalic breeds ANKC Ltd President Hugh Gent OAM conceded that the whelping of Bulldog puppies was a problem with a large percentage requiring caesareans, however, further information on research into the problem, given to the ABC in the interview has yet to be presented. 
What is not recognised by many commentators on the health of pedigree dogs is that there are two sources for obtaining puppies, in Australia, Registered Breeders and those who are not constrained by codes of ethics regarding health testing and programs to eliminate hereditary diseases, the majority of whom sell their puppies through the Internet. Of the estimated 341,000 puppies bred in Australia in 2015 only 20% (66,000) came from ANKC Ltd Breeders, it is from the 275,00 non registered puppies that most of the problems associated with BOAS are found. A separate posting will be made regarding important research in to BOAS.

Move along now... nothing to hear

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