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Flat-faced dogs have a high risk of painful skin conditions

A new study led by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London has found that flat-faced dogs with skin folds, such as bulldogs or pugs, are up to 50 times more likely to develop a painful skin condition called skin fold dermatitis. With symptoms including reddened skin, ulcers, and a bad smell, this condition – caused by friction, excessive moisture, and lack of ventilation deep in the folds of the skin – can often be extremely debilitating for dogs, leading to significant discomfort and pain. 

By analyzing the records of over 900,000 dogs in the UK, the experts found that English Bulldogs were most likely to be diagnosed with skin fold dermatitis. Compared to crossbred dogs, English bulldogs had 49.1 times the risk of developing this condition, followed by French bulldogs (26 times the risk), pugs (16 times), basset hounds (10.7), cocker spaniels (7.5), shar peis (6.4), boxers (4.6), and Cavalier King Charles spaniels (4.5). By contrast, the most protected breeds were found to be Yorkshire terriers (0.1 times the risk), border collies (0.3), whippets (0.43), Patterdale terriers (0.45), and Lhasa Apsos (0.47).

The most common symptoms of skin fold dermatitis were reddened skin, inflammation, moistness, bad odor, and pain, occurring most frequently on the lips (36.8 percent), facial folds (22 per cent), vulvas (14.2 percent), nasal folds (nine percent), tails (5.8 percent), and periocular folds (3.5 percent). 

“Skin fold dermatitis is a common problem in dogs with skin folds or pockets,” said study senior author Anke Hendricks, a veterinary dermatologist at RVC. “It is not always easy to spot where folds are deep, nor is it necessarily recorded in the health records, and as such this study is likely to underestimate the problem. Prevention or treatment of infection requires very frequent skin care or medication throughout a dog’s life and adds a considerable care burden and cost to living with an affected dog.”

“As humans, we hold the power to ensure that every pet dog starts life with good natural health,” added study lead author Dan O’Neill, an associate professor of Companion Animal Epidemiology at RVC. “When choosing which dog to own, this means selecting a breed that does not have extreme conformations such as folded skin which can lead to a lifetime of painful skin infections.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer  

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