|© Ralph Rückert|
Take a good look into this French Bulldog's eyes. He has just woken up from an anaesthetic and the endotracheal that supported his breathing during the procedure is still in place. Dogs always fight it because it makes them gag. But not this dog - and many other brachycephalics. The ET tube has opened his airways, enabling him to breathe properly - possibly for the first time in his life.
His story was posted on Facebook last week by a German vet, Ralph Rückert.
I was so moved that I asked Dr Rückert if we could translate it and post it here.
Here's what he wrote:
It might sound implausible, but the French Bulldog in the photo just woke up from anaesthesia. The eyes focus on me and see me. Seconds later we removed the pulse oximeter from the tongue, and the dog rolled itself upright.
Every (every!) other dog will immediately try to dislodge the endotracheal tube at this moment, which is why we usually take it out much sooner. But with Frenchies (and other flat nosed dogs) we leave the tube in position as long as possible, dreading respiratory collapse during the home stretch of their anaesthesia.
This frequently leads to the moment - a moment that regularly sends cold chills down my spine - when you realise that these dogs, while fully conscious, are enjoying the ability to breathe without effort (through a tube) for the first time in their life. I know that I am anthropomorphising unashamedly but nonetheless: when you pull the tube eventually, the wheezing starts up again and you see - I swear to high heaven - a glaze of resignation and disappointment fall over their eyes that were previously bright with fascination.
This is a moment where the lifelong - and too often ignored – suffering of many brachycephalic dogs becomes crystal clear to see. Sadly it is a moment only vets witness. The first time I noticed this phenomenon, I was inclined to dismiss it as my own sentimental fabrication. But as time passed, I heard stories of the same curious and touching moment from several colleagues with a lot of experience with flat nosed breeds. You absolutely have to ask yourself honestly what it means when a dog prefers the discomfort of an endotracheal tube to its natural airway.
In fact, one in six Kennel Club registered dogs today is an extreme brachycephalic - either a Frenchie, Bulldog or Pug - up from one in 50 ten years ago. Thousands more are being bred outside of the Kennel Club, feeding the obscene demand for flat-faced "cute".
It is, frankly, the biggest explosion in suffering the purebred dog world has seen in modern times.