Earlier this year Mayhew had an influx of seven French Bulldogs come into our care. The dogs, aged between one-and-a-half and five-years-old, were handed into us separately in the space of just one month.
In the last few years there has been a huge surge in the popularity of brachycephalic pets such as Pugs and Bulldogs, with more and more being available to buy. The French Bulldog was recently named as the UK’s most popular breed of dog, overtaking the Labrador, according to The Kennel Club.
Unfortunately, French Bulldogs are one of the many brachycephalic pets, who are bred to have a flat face, that can end up abandoned and in our care either due to ill health or from being bred to sell and no longer wanted.
While six of the French Bulldogs were all treated for varying degrees of health problems often associated with brachycephalic pets including chronic ear infections, skin conditions, and dental problems, there was one that was in a particularly bad state.
Five-year-old Elsa was suffering from multiple problems including an inverted tail. The French Bulldog’s screw tail had grown inside her body and the resulting tail pocket was continuously getting yeast and bacterial infections. The bony part of her tail pushed inside her rectum and the area was extremely itchy and painful.
After spending months clearing the infections through medication and regular cleaning, our experienced Vet team were then able to surgically remove the bony top of her tail.
Mayhew’s Head Vet, Dr Ursula Goetz, said: “It was an incredibly difficult procedure as it was very close to her anus and care had to be taken to ensure her anal muscles were not damaged.
“The surgery was successful although Elsa was very poorly following the operation. Many brachycephalic breeds, with French Bulldogs often being the worst, are prone to vomiting post-surgery and Elsa suffered badly, so anti-sickness medication had to be prescribed.
“Brachycephalic breeds suffering from an inverted tail tend to wiggle their bottoms against the floor due to the infections and itchiness. You may have seen videos online showing this and many people think it is a funny or cute trait of these breeds, but it is actually caused by pain and discomfort.”
However, not all screw tail dogs are as lucky as Elsa, whose condition was operable. A dog’s vertebrae are the bones in its spine, but unlike humans, in healthy dogs and puppies, the bones of the spine extend way beyond the pelvis to form a long straight tail.
Head Vet, Dr Ursula Goetz, added: “Screw tail dogs such as Pugs and French Bulldogs can suffer from malformed spinal bones, known as hemivertebrae, which have an odd shape that can cause the whole spinal column to twist.
“If these bones are confined to the tail, the twisting may not affect the dog’s spine in any significant way. But if there are deformed hemivertebrae bones in the main part of the spine, the twisting can put pressure on the spinal nerves that lie within the column of vertebrae and result in neurological problems for the dog. Thankfully, Elsa hasn’t shown signs of any neurological issues.”
Due to her bulging eyes, a common trait in flat-faced breeds, Elsa’s eyes constantly water because they are exposed to more air and dry out quicker. Also a lack of proper tear draining means she has moist tear stains in between the skin folds on her face, which can cause irritated sore skin that can become infected if not carefully cleaned regularly.
Elsa’s ears had also been plagued by bad cases of yeast and bacterial infections and a radiograph confirmed that both her ear canals had narrowed due to ongoing chronic infections.
Our Head Vet, Dr Ursula Goetz, added: “With infections this chronic, surgery would often be required to completely remove the ear canals but, luckily for Elsa, we were able to control the infections by thorough cleaning twice a day.
“This reduced the inflammation allowing the ear canals to open up and meant Elsa didn’t have to undergo another invasive surgery. At present both ears look healthy, but they will need regular cleaning for the rest of her life to ensure infection doesn’t return.”
As if that wasn’t enough, poor Elsa also has ongoing problems with her teeth because they are misplaced and squashed, which is typical in French Bulldogs because of their short muzzles.
As soon as Elsa received the medical treatment she needed, she was ready for adoption and soon found her new forever home.
Our Dog Adoption Officer, Lisa Guiney, said: “Most of these dogs will require ongoing medical treatment throughout their lives such as cleaning the teeth and skin folds every day, weekly medicated baths and regular ear cleaning. All of which can be costly, a lot of effort and very time consuming.
“When it comes to exercise, rather than going for one long off-lead walk every day, it is safer to take three shorter off-lead walks as brachycephalic breeds tire easily and find it difficult to breathe due to their short muzzles. It is important that an owner understands the needs of their pet, monitors their breathing while exercising and takes extra precautions to ensure they don’t overdo it.
“Please think carefully whether you will be able to care for a brachycephalic pet before getting one, both financially and timewise. Getting a pet is always a big responsibility but these breeds need extra care and you must be fully prepared.”
We do not judge and are here to assist and offer advice on the best course of action for pets and their owners. If you have any concerns, please contact us for help on 020 8962 8000 or email [email protected]
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