Clinical Connections  –  Spring 2019

The RVC has established an interdisciplinary team to co-ordinate research expertise on brachycephalic companion animals and enhance dissemination of key findings to share insights with the veterinary community and wider world.   

The Brachycephalic Interdisciplinary Research Team, which is thought to be the first such university-based group in the world, will support vets by generating, distilling and disseminating key findings, which can then be used to aid client education and guidance on purchase decisions.

The multidisciplinary team will include experts from the fields of epidemiology, behavioural science, ophthalmology, neurology, anaesthesiology, ethics, musculoskeletal biology, dermatology and internal medicine, but this spectrum of disciplines is set to expand rapidly over the coming months.

Brachycephalic breeds are extremely popular but have numerous health risks

Explaining the development and focus of the Brachycephalic Interdisciplinary Research Team, Tas Gohir, Head of Knowledge Transfer and Impact at the RVC, said: “We knew that there is a huge amount of very high quality brachycephalic work going on across the RVC in lots of isolated pockets, but felt that impact from this work from these differing centres of excellence in brachycephalic animals could be enhanced by greater cohesion. So the concept is to link these disparate groups of people, working in different areas across the RVC, and see how much more effective we can be when we work as a single team.”

“This interdisciplinary group also offers an opportunity for better external sharing of information, by bringing the work together and helping promote it to the outside world. We will have a dedicated area on the RVC website where we inform people about the totality of the brachycephalic research that the RVC is doing. We don’t know of any other comparable group in the world which has the same focus on the full spectrum of brachycephalic research across a spectrum of species.”

Asked how the wider veterinary community could support work in this area and how they will benefit from the work of the group, he added: “There are many drivers for the current popularity boom of some brachycephalic breeds. For example, people may not realise the limited lives that many of these dogs endure or the associated health risks. These breeds are heavily [ab]used in advertising, which just fuels the demand for them in a public that does not see beyond the cutesy images portrayed in the media. The wider vet community can support what we are doing by working with us to make the dog-owning community more aware of health risks. An objective of the new team is reducing the unprecedented public demand for certain brachycephalic breeds.”

Brachy researchers at the RVC are helped by the existence of the new team as it unites them, while also sharing different research perspective on the same problem. The team is currently exploring how to increase the interdisciplinary input into current and future research at the RVC.

Dr Dan O’Neill, who leads the VetCompass Programme [] and is Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Epidemiology, said: “The new RVC Brachycephalic Interdisciplinary Research Team may lead to some the greatest advances in brachy research that the UK has ever seen. The potential of the team to revolutionise how we understand, share and use health information to improve the lives of brachycephalic animals is hugely exciting – we are at a pivotal moment in this exhilarating process.”

Both Dr O'Neill and Research Fellow Dr Rowena Packer are highly active in the UK’s Brachycephalic Working Group [], where they share information from RVC activities with a collaborative of academia, breeders and breed clubs, the veterinary profession, The Kennel Club, animal charities and owners, to translate these findings into meaningful and positive change.

Dr O’Neill commented that “Much of the health issues relating to dog breeds stems less from the dogs themselves and more from the humans associated with these breeds: it is only by joined-up thinking and efforts from all these relevant humans that we can really make the lives of our dogs better.”

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