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How can owners of dogs with exaggerated physical features help their pets?

Owners of pet dogs with exaggerated physical features need to be fully aware of the specific health and welfare problems that are faced by their much-loved pets so that they can help them live a more comfortable life.

Examples of exaggerated features include very flat faces, very large and protruding eyes, disproportionately short legs and excessively wrinkled skin. Exaggerated features often prevent dogs from breathing or walking normally and often lead to chronic and painful skin and eye problems.

Dogs with exaggerated features usually require specialised veterinary care to help them to be more comfortable and to improve their quality of life. These dogs also usually need ongoing extra daily care from their owners in addition to general care needs.

If you own a dog with exaggerated features, you can help your pet in a number of ways:

1. Be fully aware of the specific health and welfare problems for the breed

Read as much as possible on the health problems suffered by the specific breed and the ways owners and vets can try to help these dogs to be more comfortable.

For example: Brachycephalic (short muzzle) breeds such as Pugs, British bulldogs and French bulldogs have serious difficulty breathing due to their flat faces which causes significant distress to the dogs. Owners of brachycephalics need to be aware of the other serious health problems that occur as a result of the breathing difficulties including chronic sleep deprivation, painful eye and skin problems, heat stress (which can be fatal), exercise intolerance (collapsing), digestive problems and other health issues.

Knowing the full extent of the problems and recognising their severity and impact on quality of life is the first step towards taking action to try to best help these dogs.

2. Talk to your veterinarian

Veterinary care is critical to try to help dogs with exaggerated features to be more comfortable and to improve their quality of life. Early intervention is very important. Seek veterinary advice as soon as possible, when your dog is a young puppy, and continue throughout their life. Intervening early on can help to reduce the worst consequences of these problems.

Your vet will be able to assess your dog’s health, advise the best time to undertake any medical or surgical treatment and recommend the best treatment options, including referral to a veterinary specialist. They can discuss ongoing daily extra care needs that you can provide as an owner to help your dog to be more comfortable.

Your vet can also discuss additional practical measures owners can take to try to prevent a health crisis. For example, using a harness instead of a neck collar for brachycephalics and only taking very short and slow walks in cool temperatures to reduce the risk of heat stress or collapsing.

Your vet can also discuss the early signs you need to look out for to know when your dog may need urgent emergency vet care.

3. Prevention is key

Finally, if your dog has exaggerated features causing welfare problems, you can help ensure these are not passed on to future generations by getting your dog desexed.

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Updated on June 24, 2021
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