Six-year project targets creation of a bespoke classification system to help vets better assess disease prevalence, and tailor health and welfare advice to individual animals.

The creation of the world’s first dog skull classification system could see vets assess health and welfare needs based on face shape alone.

Animal welfare and management lecturer Claire Mitchell is measuring hundreds of dogs’ skulls to find out more about the correlation between head shape and health.

It is anticipated the system will consist of at least five categories, including brachycephalic and dolichocephalic breeds, and consider skull and rostrum height. Such categorisation could help clinicians identify dogs that may be more prone to certain diseases.

Tailored treatment

Miss Mitchell, who is undertaking the study as part of her PhD at the University of Northampton, said: “Clearer, more logical categories that fit better with individual dogs will help tailor veterinary treatment and public information to particular categories, as well as come up with designs for hygiene products tailored to each category.

“If vets knew the likely prevalence of disease for a particular category, they could advise owners based on that knowledge. This would allow them to look for particular signs when health checking those dogs.”

Targets

Miss Mitchell said she hopes, by the end of the six-year project, to have created a bespoke classification system and contributed to an overhaul of canine dental health hygiene products.

She said: “There isn’t a dental hygiene product that takes into account a dog’s head shape; there are just three categories based on weight.

“In other species, the height of the skull is related to how strong the bite force is and how the animal manipulates food. So, this research may find dogs need a different format of diet based on skull shape, for example.”

 

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