Delta is the latest airline to add Bulldogs to its “no-fly” list, and not because their cuteness poses a threat to national security. American, English and French Bulldogs have all been added to the list based on Delta’s review of incidents over the past year. It seems that Bulldogs are among those breeds most affected by the challenges that flying poses to animals.

The short stick

Short-faced dogs and cats (like Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Persians, Scottish Fold and Himalayans) are called Brachycephalic breeds, meaning that their heads are short. This accounts for their snub-nosed appearance, but it also means they are prone to respiratory problems. Brachycephalic disease is inherent to these breeds. Although it is technically a conformational problem, these breeds are actually bred to look this way, despite the trouble it causes.

What is Brachycephalic disease?

Brachycephalic disease is a collection of conformational issues that contribute to respiratory distress, including:

Stenotic nares: This means small nostrils. As you can imagine, having tiny nostrils would make it more difficult to breathe.

Tracheal hypoplasia: This is a narrowed trachea, which is the passageway for air from our mouths to our lungs. Having a small trachea means having to work harder at bringing air to the lungs.

Elongated soft palate: The long soft palate can be sucked into the airway when air is breathed in, causing respiratory distress.

All of these things contribute to respiratory distress, and unfortunately, it can be a vicious cycle. Once distress occurs and the respiratory rate increases, inflammation to the airway causes swelling, further narrowing the airway. All of that huffing and puffing can also lead to dangerous hyperthermia or increased body temperature.

The big fix

Surgical correction is recommended to allow those animals with Brachycephalic disease to breathe a little easier. The nostrils can be opened up, and the elongated soft palate can be trimmed (along with the extra pharyngeal tissue). These surgeries reduce the chance of respiratory distress, but care should be taken to also try to keep these breeds calm, quiet and cool (easier said than done with frisky young Pugs!).

And luckily, if the pet is insured from a young age before any clinical signs are present in the pet, chances are the surgery can be covered by Petplan pet insurance. All of these breeds are also prone to obesity, which further compounds respiratory issues, so be sure to keep one eye on the scale at all times!

May 4, 2011
Pet Health

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