Picture pawfect

News Page 20th December 2017

A University of Northampton animal welfare expert is asking dog owners for help with her research – by taking pics of their pet pooches’ faces.

Certain breeds, like bulldogs or pugs, can develop serious health problems as a result of their head shape – but not all dogs within these breeds will go on to have problems.

However, skull measurements taken from owners’ photos might one day help us identify which ones will, says PhD student Claire Mitchell.

“Flatter faced breeds like bulldogs often suffer from breathing difficulties due to misshapen nostrils or elongated soft palates, whilst dogs with long muzzles, such as greyhounds, can develop a variety of dental problems.”

Claire’s study, which was featured on ITV Anglia news last night, aims to better predict those head shapes where health problems are likely to develop.

Currently, different breeds are just classified as having either long, medium, or short heads, and there are no clear guidelines within breeds of what constitutes ‘at risk’ dogs, says Claire.

“The current classification system is based on the one for human skulls, and doesn’t take into account muzzle length. So a pug is in the same category as a Staffordshire bull terrier and also a Yorkshire terrier. All of which have quite different skull shapes and hence chances of developing problems.

“But even then, not all pugs will develop breathing problems, and not all greyhounds will get gum disease. The truth is, the current system is too simplistic and we just don’t have any way of screening at-risk dogs.”


How you can help in a scientific study in how the shape of a d…

Calling all dog owners – how the shape of your hound's head could be vital to helping their health. You can can do your bit by measuring your pooch for a scientific study. More details of how you can help on the ITV Anglia website http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2017-12-19/dogs-of-all-shapes-sizes-wanted-for-university-study/

Posted by ITV Anglia on Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Claire is appealing for dog owners from twenty target breeds to snap photos of their dogs’ faces from the side and from above, with a tape measure placed on the dog’s head for scale.

She will then use image manipulation software on these photos to measure various dimensions of the skulls.

Her aim is to develop a better classification system that would allow at risk dogs to be identified and potentially screened for disease risk.

Outside of the widely recognised breathing problems, conditions of the spine and teeth are also likely linked to head size and shape.

Breeds wanted for the study include Labradors, Pugs, Staffordshire bull terriers, Greyhounds and West Highland Whites.

If you want your dog to take part in Claire’s study, click here for more details.

Photo credit: ITV Anglia

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