Breathing problems in certain dogs

This is of interest to many but especially lovers of bulldogs and similar.

There was an article on May 17th in The Smithsonian that caught my eye. So much so that I wanted to republish it for you.

Here it is.

ooOOoo

Breathing Problems in Pugs and Bulldogs Might Have a Genetic Component

It might not be their smushed-up snouts after all

They’re all good dogs. ( Frank Gaglione / Getty)

By Jason Daley

smithsonian.com
May 17, 2019
Smushed-up faces are what make certain dog breeds, like French and English bulldogs or pugs, so ugly-cute. But those good looks come with a cost. Many dogs in these breeds suffer from a disease called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). The compact architecture of their skull results in deformation, which make their nostrils or soft palate too small, obstructing airflow and leaving the pups gasping for breath. Researchers long thought that the main cause was their shortened faces. But genes found in another breed suggest that the shortness of breath might be in their DNA, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Ed Cara at Gizmodo reports that veterinarians began to notice that another small breed of dog, the Norwich terrier, was increasingly coming down with similar respiratory symptoms, a disease called upper airway obstructive syndrome. Unlike flat-faced pugs and bulldogs, however, the Norwich—bred for chasing rodents—has a nice, proportional skull. That got study author Jeffrey Schoenebeck, a veterinary scientist at the University of Edinburgh, wondering if the breathing problems in all the small dogs were genetic.

“That made us wonder if there was something similar shared across these different breeds, or if we were seeing two different diseases that just looked very similar,” he says.

Schoenebeck and his team decided to dig into the terrier’s DNA to find out. The team assessed 401 Norwich terriers for signs of the airway syndrome and also examined their genomes. Cassie Martin at Science News reports the researchers discovered one gene mutation in particular, ADAMTS3, was associated with the breathing disorder. Dogs with two copies of the mutation showed signs of fluid retention and swelling around the lungs. They had worse breathing scores than dogs with just one copy of the mutation or the normal gene.

When the team examined the genome of bulldogs and pugs, they also found that ADAMTS3 was common, meaning their funky faces might not be the only cause of BOAS.

“BOAS is a complex disease. Although skull shape remains an important risk factor, our study suggests that the status of ADAMTS3 should be considered as well,” Schoenebeck says in a press release. “More studies are needed to dissect the complex nature of this devastating disease.”

Cara reports that Norwich terrier breeders are already inadvertently combating the mutation. In Switzerland, Schoenebeck’s team has been working with breeders to give dogs breathing tests, identifying pups likely to develop the disease. As a result, the younger generation of terriers is less like to develop the disease than older dogs.

“In the 90s, something like 80 percent of the Norwich terriers that came into their clinic had poor breathing and this mutation,” Schoenebeck tells Cara. “But it’s decreasing further and further over time. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually selecting against this thing that we think is causing this disease.”

The genetic finding means that researchers can now screen directly for the mutation, and perhaps rid the terrier population of the disease.

The problem in flat-faced breeds may not be quite as simple to deal with. Wonky skull shape still makes the risk of developing BOAS higher, and the gene mutation adds to that risk. The team needs to do a similar study with bulldogs to figure out how much of their breathing problems come from their genes and how much comes from their cute little smushed-up skulls.

Smushed-up faces are what make certain dog breeds, like French and English bulldogs and pugs, so ugly-cute. But those good looks come with a cost. Many dogs in these breeds suffer from a disease called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). The compact architecture of their skull results in deformation, that make the nostrils or soft palate too small, obstructing airflow and leaving the pups gasping for breath. Researcher long thought that the main cause was their shortened faces. But genes found in another breed suggest that the shortness of breath might be in their DNA.

Ed Cara at Gizmodo reports that veterinarians began to notice that another small breed of dog, the Norwich Terrier, was increasingly coming down with similar respiratory symptoms, a disease called Upper Airway Syndrome. Unlike flat-faced pugs and bulldogs, however, the Norwich, bred for chasing rodents, has a nice, proportional skull. That got Jeffrey Schoenebeck of the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburghand and lead author of the study in the journal PLOS Genetics wondering if the breathing problems in all the small dogs were genetic.

“That made us wonder if there was something similar shared across these different breeds, or if we were seeing two different diseases that just looked very similar,” he says.

Schoenebeck and his team decided to dig into the terrier’s DNA to find out. The team assessed 401 Norwich Terriers for signs of the airway syndrome and also examined their genomes. Cassie Martin at Science News reports the researchers discovered one gene mutation in particular, ADAMTS3, was associated with the breathing disorder. Dogs with two copies of the mutation showed signs of fluid retention and swelling around the lungs. They had worse breathing scores than dogs with just one copy of the mutation or the normal gene.

When the team examined the genome of bulldogs and pugs, they also found that ADAMTS3 was common, meaning their funky faces might not be the only cause of BOAS.

“BOAS is a complex disease. Although skull shape remains an important risk factor, our study suggests that the status of ADAMTS3 should be considered as well,” study leader Jeffrey Schoenebeck says in a press release. “More studies are needed to dissect the complex nature of this devastating disease.”

Cara reports that Norwich Terrier breeders are already inadvertently combating the mutation. In Switzerland, Schoenebeck’s co-authors have been working with breeders to give dogs breathing tests, identifying doggos likely to develop the disease. As a result, the younger generation of terriers is less like to develop the disease than older dogs.

“In the 90s, something like 80 percent of the Norwich Terriers that came into their clinic had poor breathing and this mutation,” Schoenebeck tells Cara. “But it’s decreasing further and further over time. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually selecting against this thing that we think is causing this disease.”

The genetic finding means that researchers can now screen directly for the mutation, and perhaps rid the terrier population of the disease.

The problem in flat-faced breeds may not be quite as simple to deal with. Wonky skull shape still makes the risk of developing BOAS higher, and the gene mutation adds to that risk. The team needs to do a similar study with bulldogs to figure out how much of their breathing problems come from their genes and how much comes from their cute little smushed-up skulls.

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

ooOOoo

How great it would be if the problem facing these flat-faced breeds was slowly done away with.

8 thoughts on “Breathing problems in certain dogs

  1. Actually, as the owner of 3 smushed up face dogs, Boxer, American Bulldog & Boston Terrier, I never saw any respiratory problems in any of them. Hopefully, over time BOAS can be done away with.

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      1. I think that reverse engineering the breed for lack of a better term should be looked into. Start trying to bring back more of a muzzle. I am not a geneticist but I know this might involve breeding control subjects with a dog of similar stature that has the preferred trait. This could take generations.

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  2. Sorry, this may be unpopular but I believe that the breeding of very flat faced dogs should be discontinued. I have a friend who has French bulldogs. She is an excellent, caring owner, but admits that the breed can be “high maintenance” because she has to continually make sure that they do not overheat or get over excited. Their oxygen intake is less than for longer snouted dogs. I imagine that the same is true for Pekingese and many boxers.
    I love all dogs and have had pure pedigree breeds in the past ( cairn terrier, Australian terrier and Labrador) but think that it makes sense that mixed breed dogs are probably healthier in many ways. Why encourage the breeding of pedigree breeds that have problems?

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