An expert panel of veterinary surgeons at the FECAVA/WSAVA/DSAVA Congress in Copenhagen have issued a series of recommendations about the role of the veterinary profession in addressing the problems associated with brachycephalic breeds.

The expert panel consisted of Peter Sandøe (Denmark), Professor of Ethics and Welfare; Helle Friis Proschowsky (Denmark), a veterinary surgeon working with the Danish Kennel Club; Laurent Findji (France/UK), Specialist in Soft Tissue Surgery; Gudrun Ravetz (UK) – Senior Vice President, British Veterinary Association; Kristin Wear Prestrud (Norway) – Veterinary Scientific Director of the Norwegian Kennel Club and Åke Hedhammar (Sweden), Professor Emeritus in Internal Medicine (companion animals), a veterinary consultant for the Swedish Kennel Club and a member of the WSAVA Hereditary Disease Committee.

Kristin Wear Prestrud said: "Vets should dare to speak out. We must educate owners on all health and welfare matters, whether we are simply advising them that their dog is overweight or if we need to give advice on breeding or refuse planned Caesarean sections."

The panel's recommendations are:

At a practice level, veterinary professionals should:

  1. Advise the public not to buy animals with extreme conformation. This applies both to breeds and to individual dogs.
  2. Raise awareness among dog owners and advise them about health and welfare issues in dogs with extreme conformations. 
  3. Raise awareness among breeders, breed clubs and show judges and advise them as to health and welfare issues in dogs with extreme conformations. Take an active role in pre-breeding examinations and in giving advice regarding potential breeding stock.
  4. Inform dog owners and breeders about breeding restrictions if a dog is surgically treated for BOAS or other problems related to extreme traits linked to breeding (in countries where no such restrictions exist, strongly advise against breeding). Advise neutering at the time of surgery if good practice allows.
  5. Share data on health and welfare issues related to extreme breeding. Where a national submission system exists, submit details on conformation-altering surgery and caesarean sections related to extreme breeding traits. 

At an organisational level, the veterinary profession should:

  1. Implement a communication campaign to proactively raise awareness among the public in general and to advise them about health and welfare issues in dogs with extreme conformations. 
  2. Work together with national cynological organisations and other stakeholders to set up registers of confirmation-altering surgeries and caesarean sections as well as relevant screening programmes (ie pre-breeding examinations).
  3. Call for the revision of breed standards to help prevent BOAS and other brachycephalic-related disorders. Breed standards should include evidence-based limits on physical features (eg muzzle length) and approaches such as outcrossing should be considered.
  4. Launch and distribute veterinary health certificates for puppies and/or checklists for prospective buyers in support of responsible, healthy breeding.
  5. Develop evidence-based international standardised protocols for the examination of breeding animals regarding respiratory function and thermoregulation.
  6. Set up systems allowing the gathering of data from veterinary practices regarding health and welfare-related issues in dogs with extreme conformations.
  7. Set up undergraduate training / CPD to equip vets to take a more active role in providing breeding advice to breeders, breeder organisations and judges, related to extreme conformation and screening procedures.

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