Breathe like a pug.
Pugs and their brachycephalic brethren have a long list of problems, but lets just talk about their airway for a second.
Pugs and other flat-faced dogs have, to varying extents, brachycephalic syndrome. The short version is that these dogs breathe REALLY badly. The long version is that they have up to half a dozen things wrong with their airway that narrows it.
Try this experiment: find yourself a straw, any will do, and breathe through it.
Only breathe through the straw. Try breathing quicker or slower and see how that feels.
How long does it take to become uncomfortable? Do you feel that instant relief when you finally breathe normally?
This is what it feels like for brachycephalic dogs to breathe. This is their reality. Their airway is narrowed, like yours was with the straw. They live like this. We breed them like this.
The sensation you were feeling is called air hunger. It’s beginning to be discussed more often as a welfare issue.
Brachycephalic syndrome consists of a number of abnormalities. Stenotic nares (closed nostrils) can be improved surgically, and affected dogs can still breathe through the mouth. A long soft palate reduces the diameter of the airway, and again can be improved surgically. The everted saccules, which may reduce the diameter of the airway by 50%, can also be removed surgically.
But you cannot fix the hypoplastic trachea. The dog’s windpipe may only be a fifth of the diameter it should be, perpetually restricting the dog’s breathing. They are forever forced to breathe through that straw. There’s nothing you can do about it.
A dog should have a nose. The disturbing trend of breeding flatter faced dogs has reduced the size if the skull, but hasn’t reduced the size of the tongue and soft tissues of the head. This flesh has nowhere to go, except to crowd the airway. Some pugs have so little nasal space that their nasal turbinates, the fine bones inside the nose responsible for the dog’s sense of smell, actually protrude backwards into the pharynx. Up to 30% of pugs were affected in one study.
Look at these skulls, one pug and one airedale terrier.
The pug’s bones are smaller, and there’s less space within the skull, but both dogs will have the same amount of flesh on the head. On the terrier it will be fairly normal. On the pug it’s packed in like a sleeping bag.
Consider how far their tongue protrudes. That’s how long their skull should really be to be ‘normal’. That’s how much nose is missing.
A dog needs a nose. These free spirits deserve to be able to breathe freely. We should not be breeding dogs to have flat faces because we like the look of it.
If you think we should, then go breathe through a straw.
For twelve years.