Flat-faced dog has major 'facelift' surgery as welfare risk of breed exposed

Flat-faced dog has major 'facelift' surgery as welfare risk of breed exposed

A young bulldog has undergone major surgeries to give her a 'facelift'. The surgeries have been to widen her nostrils, remove excess tissue from her airways, and relieve her eye discomfort. This case acts as a reminder of the welfare risks associated with breeding dogs to have flatter faces.

One-year-old bulldog Tuna was rescued by the RSPCA in September 2021 as part of an animal welfare investigation. She was taken in by vet nurse Katherine Maling, who works at Blackberry Farm Animal Centre in Buckinghamshire.

The young dog had many health problems due to being overbred to have an extremely flat face. In October, Tuna underwent major surgery to help relieve some of her health problems and improve her quality of life.

Katherine said: 

Tuna had facial-fold resection surgery - which is like a facelift - to remove some of the excess skin from around her face and muzzle.

The 'rope', the roll of excess skin around her nose was causing her a lot of issues, like sore skin and hot spots that often led to infections. The weight of it also pulled her eyelids down, which made her eyes weep. In the summer, it was especially bad as I had to constantly clean and dry the area which Tuna really didn't enjoy.

Since the skin has been removed, Tuna has been so much happier.

She also had an operation to treat her entropion -  a condition in which the eyelid turns inward causing the eyelashes to rub against the eye. This condition can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful. The vet removed part of the eyelid, tightening up the area around her eyes which has made her much more comfortable.

She has more surgeries to come - it's hoped, once complete, the operations will allow Tuna to lead a life without suffering.

Katherine added: 

Tuna has really been through it and is still recovering from such major surgery, involving several serious procedures. She still has more surgeries to come, too. Once she's recovered from this, she'll be going in for brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) surgery which will help her breathe more normally by widening her nostrils and removing the excess tissue from her soft palate, which blocks the airways.

After all of these operations, she'll face a brighter future and will hopefully lead a more 'normal' dog life! It's disgusting that she even had to undergo this treatment to be able to breathe and live her daily life. I can't believe people are deliberately breeding dogs to be this way. It's not okay and we should be fighting against how this has become normal for these breeds.

Tuna will sadly always have some health problems as a consequence of the way she was bred.

Katherine said: 

Tuna isn't like other puppies who have endless energy. She gets tired easily and struggles to enjoy walks or play. She's spent most of her early life visiting vets and having x-rays, while other pups went to training and socialisation classes.

She used to snore extremely loudly and her body would strain for air while she slept. Her head would need to be propped up on a pillow to help relieve some of the pressure on her airways. 

The reality is that, even after all of these operations, her life will always be restricted and complicated, due to her health problems which have been caused due to the extreme way she's been bred. However, we hope she'll be able to enjoy a more normal way of life; and we'll do everything we can for her to make sure she's comfortable and happy.

The RSPCA is taking in more and more brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs with major health problems due to the way they've been bred to have short muzzles, flat faces, over-the-top skin rolls, and tight corkscrew tails. The charity's Save Our Breath campaign urges the public not to buy breeds that cannot live normal lives due to the irresponsible way they've been selectively bred.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said:

Our focus on dogs' appearances and a desire for 'cute' squishy faces has led to breeders selecting dogs with increasingly flatter faces which have caused a whole generation of certain breeds who struggle to breathe.

Some dogs can't sleep while others can only exercise for very short periods of time as they quickly tire and get out of breath. Some can't run and play with their doggy friends, and many find the hot weather incredibly difficult.

Unfortunately, some of these dogs also face other health problems, like serious skin infections and allergies due to their folds of fur, as well as eye problems, and painful back conditions caused by corkscrew tails.

We understand why there is so much love out there for these breeds, but it's wrong that we're knowingly breeding for and buying because of features that compromise their health, behaviour and welfare. It's time we put a stop to this.

The public has an important role to play in helping to improve the future health and welfare of these breeds. The RSPCA hopes that cases like Tuna's stop people from seeing these pets as cute and recognise the serious health issues they face as a result.

The Save Our Breath campaign seeks to educate the public about the impact of this type of breeding on dog welfare. The RSPCA is urging people to get an alternative breed or a crossbreed that has a lower risk of problems.

Anyone thinking of taking on a brachycephalic breed - like a British or French bulldog - should be aware of the impact on the dog's behaviour and the health problems these breeds can face, and the potential costs of veterinary treatments.

Katherine added: 

Tuna has had thousands of pounds worth of surgery so far, and she's only 14 months old. She's also very lucky to have access to a vet who specialises in these surgeries as they are very complex, and also incredibly expensive.

Her vet - Kyra Jenning - delivered Tuna via c-section as her mother was unable to give birth naturally, due to her breeding, and she has followed her and helped her every step of the way. 

I'm so grateful to her and everyone at Bicester Vets for their care and knowledge. Tuna is so lucky to have them looking out for her.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care - like Tuna - please donate online or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.