Gov’t: Short-snouted dogs such as bulldogs, pugs are most likely to die on planes

By Sharon Theimer, AP
Friday, July 16, 2010

Short-snouted dogs most likely to die on planes

WASHINGTON — Bulldog and pug owners beware: Short-snouted breeds accounted for roughly half the purebred dog deaths on airplanes in the past five years, Transportation Department data released Friday shows.

Overall, at least 122 dog deaths were reported since May 2005, when U.S. airlines were required to start disclosing them, the 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.

In addition to trying to cool themselves, dogs may also pant excessively in the cargo hold due to stress or excitement, Bandy said.

Bandy said he has flown one puppy and one adult dog before, both in early spring with no issues. He advises against shipping dogs during hot months, and says owners should make sure the cargo hold is climate-controlled. If dogs are easily stressed or not well-socialized, they are probably not good candidates for air travel, Bandy added.

The Transportation Department said mixed breeds accounted for four airline deaths and a dozen dogs who died were of unknown breed.

In all, 144 pet deaths were reported by airlines over the past five years, along with 55 injuries and 33 lost pets.


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The Bulldog Club of America:

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