Fundraising appeal launched to pay for major surgery to help bulldog breathe

An RSPCA branch has launched a fundraising appeal to pay for extensive treatment and major surgery to help a bulldog with severe health problems.

Four-year-old British bulldog Cleo was rescued by RSPCA inspectors and taken in by RSPCA Doncaster, Rotherham & District branch.

Branch chief executive Mary McSherry said: “Cleo is one of a growing number of brachycephalic dogs – or dogs with flat faces – coming into the RSPCA’s care with severe health problems due to the extreme features they’ve been bred for.

“Poor Cleo is only four but her life is being severely impacted by the health problems she’s plagued with. She has brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS); a group of conditions that affect a dog’s breathing due to their short, flat muzzles, narrow nostrils, and excess tissue inside their mouth and throat.

“Cleo will need major corrective surgery to widen her nostrils and remove excess tissue to help her breathe.

“She has already had surgery for bilateral entropion – a condition in which the eyelid rolls inward and rubs the eye – and cherry eye, in which the tear gland becomes inflamed. One of her eyes was particularly bad so vets, unfortunately, had to remove it.

“She’s also been having special medicated baths for her sore skin which we believe has been caused by allergies. She’s receiving pain relief and antibiotics, and any potential adopters will need to continue this in her new home as well as helping her recover from her BOAS surgery.”

While Cleo is not yet available for rehoming, the team at RSPCA Doncaster has launched a fundraising appeal to raise the funds needed to go towards her expensive veterinary treatment.

The surgery is expensive and often isn’t covered by insurers. The RSPCA has launched a new campaign Save Our Breath urging the public not to buy breeds who cannot live normal lives due to the irresponsible way they’ve been selectively bred. It comes as the number of British bulldog puppies being registered with the Kennel Club increased 149%, between 2011 and 2020, while the number of French bulldogs registered soared by 1,317%.

With the surge in demand for pets during lockdown there are fears that more brachycephalic dogs, cats and rabbits will have been bred by breeders resulting in even more sickly animals who require expensive veterinary treatment to help them carry out the simplest of everyday tasks such as walking and playing.

And the RSPCA fears that more of these animals could be abandoned or relinquished to charity as their owners struggle to cope with costly veterinary bills as the cost of living soars.

RSPCA chief vet Caroline Allen said: “Our desire for cuteness and the selection for shorter, flatter faces – known as brachycephaly – has resulted in dogs who struggle to breathe.

“Their excessive soft tissue causes obstruction in their airways and their abnormally narrowed nostrils and windpipes leave them gasping for air. Struggling to breathe, or even sleep is very distressing and affected dogs are struggling with this every day, with serious impacts on their welfare. They also face eye problems, skin concerns due to excessive wrinkles, and painful back conditions due to corkscrew tails.

“We understand why there is so much love out there for these breeds. But it’s wrong that we’re knowingly breeding for features which compromise their basic health and welfare.”

The public has an important role to play in helping to improve the future health of these breeds. We need to stop seeing these pets as cute and recognise the serious health issues they face.

The Save Our Breath campaign seeks to educate the public about the impact of this type of breeding on dog welfare. The RSPCA would like people to consider getting an alternative breed or consider a crossbreed that has a lower risk of problems.

Mary added: “We are working hard to limit Cleo’s suffering and give her the best possible life going forward. We are committed to undergoing all necessary surgery and providing all necessary medication in order to rehabilitate her. We would greatly appreciate anyone who can support Cleo’s journey by making a donation online.”

For those wishing to get involved in the Save Our Breath, there will be two surveys available to members of the public. One survey will collect crucial information on brachycephalic animals in advertising, while the other will allow the public to share their own experiences with these animals. This vital research will help inform the RSPCA’s experts as it works to protect future generations of these animals.

Supporters can also sign up to the Give Animals a Voice campaign network for the latest information and access to campaign materials.