After reading an article in Vet Times, I became interested in the breeding of animals and how particular breeds have certain health problems that can be life limiting
I am particularly interested in brachycephaly – having a shorter skull shape than is typical for the species. Many breeders see brachycephaly as a desirable trait and is seen particularly in dogs, such as pugs and french bulldogs.
Brachycephaly is purposely caused by breeders who want to fulfil demand for a ‘cute’ look and is becoming more common in cats and rabbits.
In cats, brachycephaly is mostly seen in breeds such as Persians and Exotic Shorthairs.
Image credit: icatcare.org
From this photograph, it is clear to see that cats suffering from this condition have a greatly shortened muzzle, compared to the typical length. The top and bottom jaw do not align correctly and the teeth and jaw are misaligned. Naturally, this causes dental problems, mouth ulcers and difficulty eating. They are also prone to skin fold infections which are painful, at best.
Rabbit breeds, such as the Netherlands Dwarf and the Lionhead, are also known to suffer from the condition:
Image credit: RWAF
As in cats the jaws of rabbits with the condition are misaligned. In rabbits, it is essential that their jaws align, so as to prevent overgrowth of the ever growing teeth. As this is not possible in brachycephalic rabbits, they are prone to lacerated mouths, abcesses, chronic pain and even death.
These animals also have trouble breathing and will snore in their sleep because of this. Stenotic nares (severe narrowing of nostrils) are also a symptom of brachycephaly and severely inhibit the breathing of animals with the condition. As a result, these animals tend to have sedentary lifestyles and so are more likely to become obese.
Brachycephalic animals also have distorted tear ducts and so tears and puss overflow onto their faces, making the animal very uncomfortable and blocking the animals vision.
Lop eared rabbits, though not necessarily brachycephalic, are also suffering due to inbreeding. They gain middle ear infections and cannot communicate with other rabbits properly, leading to behavioural problems.