Washington Owners of bulldogs and pugs, beware: Short-snouted breeds accounted for roughly half the purebred dog deaths on airplanes in the past five years, government data released Friday shows. That comes as no surprise to the owner of the University of Georgia’s famous mascot, Uga, who has a surgical procedure done on the dog to help him fly safely.
Overall, at least 122 dog deaths were reported since May 2005, when U.S. airlines were required to start disclosing them, the Transportation Department says. The dogs died while being shipped as cargo.
English bulldogs account for the single highest number of deaths among the 108 purebreds on the list: 25. Pugs were next, with 11 deaths, followed by golden retrievers and Labradors, with seven deaths each, French bulldogs with six, and American Staffordshire terriers, four.
Boxers, cockapoos, Pekingese and Pomeranians accounted for two deaths each.
Owners should consult with veterinarians before putting their dogs on planes, the department said. It believes the deaths represent a tiny percentage of the pets shipped on airlines.
Short-nosed breeds — known as “brachycephalic” in the dog world — have a skull formation that affects their airways, said Dan Bandy of Shawnee, Okla., chairman of the Bulldog Club of America’s health committee.
“The way all dogs cool themselves is basically through respiration, either just panting or the action of breathing in or out, is a method of heat exchange for them,” Bandy said. “A dog that has a long snout or a long muzzle has more surface area within its nasal cavity for that heat exchange to take place. So breeds like Labradors or collies or those types of dogs with the long muzzles have a more efficient cooling system.”
Brachycephalic breeds tend to be heat-intolerant in general, Bandy said. They pretty much have the same amount of tissue and structures within their skulls as long-nosed dogs, but it’s compressed, and that can contribute to encroachment on their airways, he said.
Sonny Seiler of Savannah, Ga., who owns the University of Georgia’s mascot, Uga the English bulldog, said people who fly English bulldogs are taking a risk. Seiler said that’s why he takes precautions. Before each Uga is a year old, Seiler has a surgical procedure done at the University of Georgia veterinary school to enlarge the dog’s airways.