Published: 10 Jul 2014 | Last Updated: 10 Aug 2023 15:27:40

A specialist clinic for brachycephalic dog breeds – also known as short-muzzled dogs – such as pugs, English and French bulldogs, cavalier King Charles spaniels and Pekingese, has been opened by the RVC at its Queen Mother Hospital for Animals in Hertfordshire.

The Brachycephaly Clinic opened on Tuesday 1 July and is the first of its kind in the country exclusively specialising in the health of short-nosed dog breeds. This type of breed is one of the most popular pet choices in the UK, but the breeding of brachycephalic dogs has lead to a variety of health issues for the animals. These include problems with their bones and gait as well as eye, heart, ear (including hearing), skin, and breathing complications.

Brachycephalic dogs (for example the bulldog pictured below) have a compressed skull in the front and in the back, which results in the soft tissues being crammed within and around the skull. In severe cases it can even appear the dog has no nose at all.


This means the animals are at especially high risk of developing respiratory problems such as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).

The clinical signs include breathing difficulties, noises during respiration, ‘constant smiling’, overheating, gagging and choking.

But it isn’t just a dog’s breathing that is severely affected by the condition. The short skull also results in the dog’s skin folding over the front of the face, creating deep crevices which are a warm and moist environment that encourages growth of bacteria and yeasts. These bacteria can then attack the skin causing infection.

The flattening of the skull also causes the eye sockets to become shallow, meaning the eyeball protrudes significantly. Therefore the cornea is more exposed than usual, making it more likely to become dry, leading to ulceration or direct trauma. Other health issues can include heart problems, ear and hearing issues and complications with the animal’s bones and gait.

If a dog was brought to a veterinary clinic with this complex set of clinical signs it may have to see several different specialists at different times. The aim of the RVC’s new multidisciplinary clinic is to bring a ‘transdisciplinary’ approach to caring for brachycephalic dogs. This means bringing all clinical services together ensuring the animals get the best holistic and individualised patient care.

Senior Lecturer in Soft Tissue Surgery and the Brachycephaly Clinic lead, Dr Gert Ter Haar  said: “Veterinary medicine has been following in the footsteps of human medicine for many years. But as doctors specialise they can lose sight of the big picture, only focussing on their own area of expertise.

“This can lead to a patient being past from specialist to specialist with the root symptoms never really being found, or with inefficient use of time and money and the need for repetitive anaesthetic procedures. This can also happen in animal care, especially with animals with a complex set of symptoms, like those often associated with short-muzzled breeds.

“Therefore at RVC we have found the most effective way to treat an animal is our transdisciplinary approach. This means at our clinic we will have all the specialities under one roof so the patient and their owner can be rest assured they are receiving the best possible bespoke care, all during the same visit.”

For more information about the surgical work performed by our specialists see Advanced Techniques & Specialist Procedures and Veterinary Soft Tissue Surgery at RVC small animal referrals.

Notes for editors

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the England's largest and longest established veterinary school and is a constituent College of the University of London.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing and is ranked in the top 10 universities nationally for biosciences.
  • The RVC is the only veterinary school in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.
  • A research-led institution, the RVC ranked as the top veterinary school in the Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science unit of the most recent Research Assessment Exercise with 55% of academics producing 'world class' and 'internationally excellent' research.
  • The RVC also provides support for the veterinary profession through its referral hospitals including the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, Europe's largest small animal hospital, which sees more than 8,000 patients each year

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