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The Brachycephalic Issue: 1. Sweden Fall 2015

    Developments in Sweden in the fall of 2015 serve to highlight the challenges of addressing health and welfare in 'flat-faced dogs', i.e. The Brachycephalic Issue.  We follow them here, chronologically as they serve to exemplify the problems and, hopefully, to inform others working in this area.







    Recently, veterinarians in Sweden sent an open letter to the Swedish Kennel Club (SKK) Swedish Board of Agriculture (link to original; English translation 'Open Letter ...' below).  The letter proposes collaboration between the Swedish Kennel Club (SKK), veterinarians and regulators to address issues in brachycephalic breeds ('trubbnosar' in Swedish (snub-nosed)).   While acknowledging the long time activities of the SKK to promote healthier breeding of these dogs, the veterinarians suggest six proposals for action.

    (attachment: Open Letter to the SKK and the Swedish Department of Agriculture _without signatures.pdf )



    In subsequent responses the SKK welcomes increased collaboration with veterinarians*(link to original; English translation 'The SKK Welcomes ...' below) and outlines progress and proposals from meetings with the veterinarians and other stakeholders*(link to original; English translation 'Common Cause ...' below).  

    (attachments: The SKK Welcomes Increased Cooperation with Veterinarians_English.pdf and

    Common Cause to Reduce Respiratory Problems_English.pdf


    In response to the veterinarians' letter, owners and breeders of 'snub-nosed' dogs were invited to sign an online petition entitled : "We Care About the Whole Dog" (link to original, English translation 'Petition We Care...' below).  The text expresses commitment to health and welfare of these dogs, an acknowledgement of health issues, but also a call for evidence rather than accusations.  This petition was signed by 1047 people. (attachment: Petition_We_Care_About_the_Whole_Dog.pdf )


    The SKK, on 23 October 2015, published another press release addressing new and ongoing aspects of the issue.  It is clear that this is an emotional issue, that discussions on social media are sometimes provoking personal attacks and the SKK is calling for a measured and evidence-based approach.  (attachment: SKK Press Release regarding the Brachycephalic Issue_23 Oct 2015.docx )
    These developments highlight the complexities of the bigger Brachycephalic Issue and the expression of passionate opinions on both sides.  Here at, and with our IPFD partners, we will continue to follow this issue.  We will also assist in efforts to create a collaborative, international approach to this global and complex issue. See other articles in this category.




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the brachycephalic problems cannot be solved by the kennel clubs alone.

We need an european law for breeders. The kennel clubs in europe only "produce" a small number of these snub nosed dogs.

Most of them come from puppy mills and are "produced" to sell. No health checks,nothing.

These enormous numbers of puppies is what you see running aorund in the streets, the dogs from the kennel clubs are the minority. In Germany IKFB ( only FCI club for Frenchies) produces approx. 330 puppies, the largest animal registry in germany registers eachs year approx 6500 Frenchies.

Anymore questions?


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You cannot lay the blame for this mainly at the door of imports. The Kennel Clubs are culpable too and could play a huge role in promoting more moderate, healthier brachycephalics. In fact, the imports often have more moderate features than show-bred dogs. The vast majority of Pugs/Frenchies/Bulldogs in all the BOAS research done by the Royal Veterinary College here in the UK are Kennel Club registered. KC registration figures for e.g. Frenches in the UK is now approaching 10,000 a year. The BOAS research done by Cambridge comprised mostly KC-registered dogs and around 50% were show breeders.  Let me know if you need links to the papers (although I imagine you've seen them).

What the Kennel Clubs *can* do is ensure their breed standards do not cause problems and *really* make sure that judges are not rewarding dogs with traits that are known to cause problems (such as stenotic nares in French Bulldogs). The RVC research affords an opportunity to add some metrics to the breed standards (i.e. re cranio-facial ratios/nares etc). 

I have always felt strongly (hence why my focus) that if the KCs set the example, the others will follow. 

Insurance companies could play a huge role here too. In Pugs, given that recent papers point to 90% BOAS affected, it is fair to say that BOAS is a pre-existing condition. If insurance companies refused to insure Pugs and Frenchies unless the dam/sire have passed a function test pre-breeding, it could go a long way to dealing with the problem.

Edited by Jemima Harrison
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We need better numbers on percent / severity of affected dogs by breed.  Putting all brachys in one basket may confuse the issue.  

We  need better numbers/ statistics on sourcing; i.e. 'kennel club registered' does not necessarily equate to coming from a committed, health conscious breeder that follows breed and kennel club guidelines, depending on the club and country.

There are certainly marked differences across nations and regions for many of the factors in this issue.

There is a rather remarkable amount of activity going on in the kennel club world as well as the research arena in the last few years.  It will only be through actions on the part of many stakeholders that change can be acheived.  How quickly substantial progress in health and welfare will be accomplished remains to be seen.  

Increased focus in various venues and countries can only be a good thing.


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thanks for your comment, which I found very interesting. Obviously things are different ......

In Germany we have a copletely different situation from UK and US. I was really shocked about the UK kennel klub registered dog numbers.

I am really looking forward, discussing that issue with you in Paris and hope we get more numbers from other countries world wide in the meanwhile.


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Anne, my feeling is that French Bulldogs in the UK and US have flatter faces than in Germany. As the RVC research has found that the flatter the face, the greater the problem, I wonder if it would be useful to see some pix for comparison? Would you see anything like this, for instance, in the German show-ring? 

Could it be that German Frenchies have better nares, too? 


gold test frenchie 1.jpg

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the Standard for French Bulldogs is not the same all over the world. That means in most countries we judge on the FCI Standard. This is not the case in the UK and USA. The Dogs in UK for ex. look different . They are a little shorter, heavier have less neck length even though they are all Frenchies. But to answer your question, yes we see  Dogs like the ones on your Pictures in the Show ring but the Standard also says : no exaggerations, and the judge should punish stenotic nares.

What we (or at least I) look for  is :. Slightly longer nose , open nares, tail that is long enough to wag.

I post one example.



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This Frenchie looks much better, Anne - good to see. A bit of a tail, too, which is great.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the FCI, UK and USA standards in relation to head + muzzle/nose/neck. I've 'bolded' a few words to pick out the differences/points of interest. The US standard clearly calls for a less-moderate dog - but the differences between the UK and FCI standards are pretty small. There is certainly some flow between the FCI and UK dogs, as is demonstrated here, a kennel that produced the Crufts 2014 BOB.


FACIAL REGION: The head of the Bulldog is characterized by a shortening of the maxillary-nasal part as well as a slight to moderate slope of the nose backwards. The nose is slightly upturned (“snub nose”).

Nose: Black, broad, snubbed, with symmetrical and well opened nostrils, slanting towards the rear. The slope of the nostrils as well as the upturned nose must, however, allow normal nasal breathing. Muzzle: Very short, broad, with concentric symmetrical folds.  

The length of muzzle is about 1/6 of the total length of the head


HEAD AND SKULL: Head square in appearance and in proportion to dog’s size. Skull nearly flat between ears, domed forehead. The skin covering the skull and forehead should be supple enough to allow fine wrinkling when the dog is alert. Well defined muzzle, broad, deep and set back, muscles of cheeks well developed. Stop well defined. Lower jaw deep, square, broad, slightly undershot and turned up. Nose black and wide, relatively short, with open nostrils and line between well defined.


HEAD: Head large and square. ...The top of the skull flat between the ears; the forehead is not flat but slightly rounded. The muzzle broad, deep and well laid back; the muscles of the cheeks well developed. The stop well defined, causing a hollow groove between the eyes with heavy wrinkles forming a soft roll over the extremely short nose; nostrils broad with a well defined line between them.


(FCI) NECK: Short, powerful, slightly arched, without dewlap, broadens towards the shoulder. 

(UK) NECK: Powerful, well arched and thick, of moderate length.

(US) NECK: The neck is thick and well arched with loose skin at the throat.  

Although the FCI standard does not specify 'thick' it does demand "short, powerful" which can be interpreted as the same thing. Degree of arch and dewlap are the biggest differences here.


How much notice do FCI breeders take of the 1/6 muzzle requirement in the FCI standard? Clearly the UK dog I pictured above has a much shorter muzzle than that and, given Rowena Packer's recent research, I do think it would be good to introduce some minimum/maximum limits into all breed standards where there is the risk of excess.

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In a discussion of standards and judging of Brachycephalic breeds, it is helpful to also look at the work being done with the Breed Specific Instructions program in the Nordic and other European countries.  We have profiled some of this here: and elsewhere on the site.


BSI_frontpage.thumb.png.e90405f0e1834ba8Here are a few excerpts from the BSI document:

"The task of a dog show judge is to preserve the characteristics of each breed within the frames of the approved breed standard. This must never be done at the expense of soundness. It is the responsibility of the judge to be acquainted with the breed standard as well as such health problems which by exaggerations related to breed type may harm the individual dog and interfere with the development of the breed as a whole.

A breed standard does not describe exaggerations but the wording of breed typical characteristics can mislead judges and breeders to such interpretations that specimen with extreme type will be preferred at shows and in breeding."


For the French Bulldog:

"French Bulldog (Bouledogue francais) – brachycephalic and small molossoïd breed The special conformation of this breed with shortened skull and overly short bridge of nose as well as underdeveloped tail, cause health problems if exaggerated further.

Areas of risk are: 1. Breathing: Problems which could result from overly short muzzle as well as pinched nostrils, insufficient room foremost in throat, pharyngeal cavities and/or ribcage. 2. Face: Too short muzzle and protruding eyes which increase the risk of eye injuries. 3. Proportions and construction: Overly short proportions in neck and back as well as insufficient angulation in fore- and hindquarters can cause powerless dragging movement. 4. Underdeveloped tail: Lack of visible/touchable tail vertebrae is a disqualifying fault. 5. Skin problems. Look for sound breathing, correct bridge of nose, eyes, skin, tail and movement.

Breed standard reads; “Length of muzzle about 1/6 of the total length of the head”. Gait should be free and active. The breed standard calls for an “active” dog which is “powerful for its small size, short, compact in all its proportions”, but the French Bulldog must not be excessively short in neck and back." 


The Frenchies also, of course, come under Brachycephalic Breeds, in general, and the appendices that detail assessment of breathing and eye problems.

"Brachycephalic breeds The short skull/faced (brachycephalic) breeds are represented in FCI groups 2 and 9, and constitute a group of breeds, where the typical features are expressed to a varying degree in skull, muzzle, jaws, eyes, ribcage and skin. Exaggerations in the specific conformation might lead to serious health problems in these breeds; especially, but not exclusively, referring to breathing and regulation of body temperature. 
See Appendix 2: assessment of breathing distress See Appendix 3: eye problems "


The basis of the BSI program and specific efforts in various countries is to raise awareness of health issues among judges and to educate.  Tools include a video on assessing breathing, see the video: Making Assessments of Dogs' Respiration.





Another keystone of the BSI program is that judges must submit evaluations of dogs, justify (at least to some extent) their decisions, and, if they make awards to compromised or extreme dogs they are contacted by those running the program.  It may be that judges who do not follow the guidelines will not be invited to judge again in the specific country or for the breed in question.  Of course, monitoring and implementing the guidelines is a big challenge.  In Finland, for example, there are active discussions on judging and health on the judges Facebook page.  

We hope to have further articles on from both the judges' and exhibitors' perspectives.  Most importantly, the question is to what extent are such efforts successful at influencing both what is seen in the show ring and breeding practices.







Edited by Brenda Bonnett
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I can only speak for the German IKFB ( FCI) breeders. We try to breed dogs with a little longer muzzle, but this is a real challenge because if the nose gets too long, we have a lack of type. On the other hand the 1/16 muzzel requirement: who ever measures this?

I think it's difficult to define certain limits in numbers.

I am a breeder and a judge so I know both perspectives. As a breeder I want functional dogs, even though they are Frenchies but they must still look like Frenchies and not like puggles or Frenchidoodles or whatever.  As a judge I try to NOT look for the extreme. I am looking for the middle dog, if you understand what I mean. It's not always easy to follow that rule. Judging also is a very political thing, as a judge one always hopes to be invited to judge, unless your are an allrounder or have many FCI groups on your judges certificate.

The BSI is a clever idea because it sensitizes judges and exhibitors for the health problems which is a beginning.

We are working on an BSI sheme in the VDH in Germany as well but we will have it for ALL breeds because the BSI can also lead to discrimination of breeders and breeds.





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