Continuing on with describing the talks at the Dog Breeding for the Future conference (March 13, 2023, in Hurdal, Norway): the second talk of the day was Dr. Dave Dean, a practicing veterinarian at Valley Vets in South Wales. His talk was titled “Practice Policy on Brachycephalic Breeds.”
Dr. Dean talked about being a primary care vet and being asked to assist with the breeding of dogs who were quite unhealthy, who he did not feel should be reproducing. Having that discussion with owners is always challenging for veterinarians. Dr. Dean drew the line when presented with an English bulldog with severe orthopedic issues and difficulty breathing. After declining to assist the owner in helping this dog to breed, he realized he could help other veterinarians handle similar problems.
Dr. Dean’s goals were to change public perception about dogs whose health problems have been normalized as “just part of the breed.” Knowing that many owners have difficulty recognizing some of these issues, he hoped to provide more information about the reality of what they may look like. He worked with management at his practice to define several goals:
- Veterinarians should document abnormalities on physical exam, instead of, for example, describing labored breathing as “normal for the breed.”
- Veterinarians should be encouraged to talk openly about abnormalities with owners.
- All staff should be educated – for example, if a dog with obvious breathing issues is in the waiting room, staff should not go up to the owner specifically to play with the dog and tell the owner how cute it is.
- Dogs with extreme morphology should not be used by the practice in advertising or social media.
- Veterinarians at the practice should not provide pre-breeding exams or infertility treatment for dogs with extreme morphology that limits their breathing ability.
Dr. Dean repeatedly emphasized that all patients should receive the same level of care; dogs with extreme breed-specific health issues should never be discriminated against. His goal was just to guide the public away from acquiring such dogs and breeders from breeding more of them.
The policy was well received on social media by other veterinarians and owners (though the practice did find itself repeatedly reassuring owners that dogs with extreme breed-specific health issues would receive care – just not assistance in breeding). There was backlash from some breeders on social media. Overall, however, the practice has felt well supported with this policy and is finding other practices reaching out for advice in emulating it.
Dr. Dean finished by noting that he feels that he isn’t doing enough to help dogs with extreme morphologies that affect their health. A theme of this conference was “what can we do next?” and “how can veterinarians work together to find solutions?”, something that you’ll read about again as I post on more talks.