Many flat-faced dog breeds, including French bulldogs, are associated with breathing problems which can be life-threatening. Known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) this condition can leave dogs gasping for breath, and it was previously thought it was the anatomy of their short faces that was responsible.
Researchers at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies have discovered however that the cause may be genetic; a mutation in a gene called ADAMTS3. This mutation is also present in a breed with proportional noses; Norwich terriers. These terriers are known to suffer from a breathing condition similar to BOAS, which is called Upper Airway Syndrome. In investigating the genetic cause of this syndrome, the researchers discovered the mutated version of ADAMTS3, which is also common in flat-faced dogs like French bulldogs. The mutation causes fluid retention and swelling, and it is believed that fluid retention in the nasal passages of dogs could be the reason dogs with the mutation are more likely to develop breathing problems.
With this new understanding of the cause of breathing problems in some dog breeds, future vets may be able to conduct genetic testing to help identify at-risk animals. This information could also one day help dog breeders avoid producing puppies that are going to be affected by respiratory problems.
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