Flat-faced pup in Aylesbury Vale faces major ‘facelift’ surgery as welfare risk of breed exposed

Tuna needed facial fold surgery as well as a procedure to help her eyes and needs yet more surgery to help her breathing
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A young bulldog in Aylesbury Vale has undergone major surgeries to help her lead a life without suffering, in a case that highlights the dangers of breeding dogs with flatter faces.

One-year-old bulldog Tuna was rescued by the RSPCA in September 2021 as part of an animal welfare investigation and taken in by vet nurse Katherine Maling, who works at the charity’s Blackberry Farm Animal Centre near Quainton.

The young dog had many health problems due to being bred to have an extremely flat face, and had to sleep with her head propped on a pillow to help her breathe.

Tuna after her facial fold surgery. Picture © Bridget DaveyTuna after her facial fold surgery. Picture © Bridget Davey
Tuna after her facial fold surgery. Picture © Bridget Davey

In October, vet Kyra Jennings, of Bicester Vets, carried out major surgery on Tuna, to help relieve some of her discomfort and improve her quality of life.

Katherine said: “Tuna had facial-fold resection surgery - which is like a facelift - to remove some of the excess skin from around her face and muzzle.

“The ‘rope’ - the roll of excess skin - around her nose was causing her a lot of issues, like sore skin and hot spots that often led to infections. The weight of it also pulled her eyelids down, which made her eyes weep. Since the skin has been removed, Tuna has been so much happier.

“She also had an operation to treat her entropion - a condition in which the eyelid turns inward causing the eyelashes to rub against the eye - which can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful.”

Tuna before her facial fold surgeryTuna before her facial fold surgery
Tuna before her facial fold surgery

Katherine added: “Tuna has really been through it and is still recovering from such major surgery. Once she’s recovered from this, she’ll be going in for brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) surgery which will help her breathe more normally by widening her nostrils and removing excess tissue from her soft palate, which blocks the airways.

“After all of these operations, she will face a brighter future and will hopefully be able to lead a more ‘normal’ dog life. But it’s disgusting that she even has to undergo these surgeries in order to be able to breathe and live her daily life.

"I can’t believe people are deliberately breeding dogs to be this way. It is not OK and we should be fighting against how this has become normal for these breeds.”

The RSPCA is taking in more and more brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs with major health problems due to the way they’ve been bred to have short muzzles, flat faces, over-the-top skin rolls, and tight corkscrew tails.

Tuna as a puppy. The litter was delivered by C-section as her mother was unable to give birth naturally, due to her breedingTuna as a puppy. The litter was delivered by C-section as her mother was unable to give birth naturally, due to her breeding
Tuna as a puppy. The litter was delivered by C-section as her mother was unable to give birth naturally, due to her breeding

The charity’s Save Our Breath campaign urges the public not to buy breeds that cannot live normal lives due to the way they’ve been selectively bred.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Our focus on dogs’ appearance and a desire for ‘cute’ squishy faces has led to breeders selecting dogs with increasingly flatter faces, which has caused a whole generation of certain breeds who struggle to breathe.

“We understand why there is so much love out there for these breeds. But it’s wrong that we’re knowingly breeding for and buying because of features which compromise their health, behaviour and welfare - and it’s time we put a stop to this.”