Dog owners in Melton and Moorabool may soon have access to a new way to screen their bulldogs and pugs for breathing issues.

Dogs Australia has unveiled a scheme to screen Brachycephalic (‘Brachy’) breed dogs and Victoria is the first state in Australia to be rolling it out.

The Cambridge University/Kennel Club UK Respiratory Function Grading (RFG) Scheme assesses three of Australia’s most popular breeds – Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs – for breathing problems known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).

The RFG is a is a functional assessment of breathing performed under exercise without sedation under the supervision of a trained vet.

It is non-invasive, requires no anaesthesia, is clinically easy to do and is validated by objective measurements as published and peer reviewed by its developer, Dr Jane Ladlow, an award-winning specialist in small animal surgery who has a thorough knowledge of BOAS.

Dogs are graded normal, Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3 and is the only test that correlates with a dog’s respiratory function.

In Australia, the Chief RFG Assessor is internationally renowned specialist small animal veterinary surgeon Dr Arthur House, a partner of Peninsula Vet Emergency and Referral Hospital in Mornington. Dr House undertook specialist training in the UK and his role is to train vets in all states to become assessors.

The RFG grading scheme was launched in the UK in 2019. Dogs Australia, together with some Scandinavian and European countries, is one of the first to participate in the RFG scheme, closely followed by New Zealand and the United States. Initially, the scheme is designed for Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs but work is in progress for other breeds to be screened.

Dogs Australia president Hugh Gent said launching the BOAS scheme is a “big step towards improving the health of Brachy breed dogs and protecting the future of these much-loved breeds”.

“Dogs Australia and all our member organisations are at the forefront of enhancing genetic diversity and testing to ensure the health of our dogs, including Brachy breed dogs. We are very excited about the RFG scheme and its ability to help reduce the risk of breeding puppies with potentially serious breathing problems. It’s critical in helping breed healthy dogs,” he said.

“Brachy breeds are loving, loyal, and full of character and become part of your family. They are known for strength and agility and patience. They love to run around and spend time with their human family members. We do not believe these breeds should be discriminated against, which is why the RFG scheme will play a vital role.

“We also want the pet-owning public to become aware of the need to source their future dogs from breeders who are actively scoring via the RFG scheme, and whose breeding animals have lower grades. Dogs Australia and member organisations are rolling the scheme out around the country under strict supervision to ensure reliability and consistency of results.”

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