The Sleep Saga of Flat-Faced Dogs: Unraveling the Brachycephalic Enigma

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The Sleep Saga of Flat-Faced Dogs

Last Updated on December 15, 2023 by Fumipets

The Sleep Saga of Flat-Faced Dogs: Unraveling the Brachycephalic Enigma

 

Flat-faced dogs, beloved for their endearing looks, have long been associated with respiratory issues due to their unique skull structure. Now, groundbreaking research from Hungary’s Eötvös Loránd University reveals a new layer: these dogs may also be grappling with sleep problems and potential brain deterioration.

The French Bulldog Predicament

French Bulldogs, ranked as the most popular breed in the U.S. according to Forbes Advisor, are at the forefront of this discovery. The adorable charm of their short skulls comes with a downside—a predisposition to brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. This syndrome, affecting short-nosed dogs, is linked not only to respiratory challenges but also to distortions and rounding of the brain.

The Sleep Study Unveiled

In a study published in the journal Brain Structure and Function, researchers delved into the sleep patterns of 92 family dogs, utilizing an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure brain activity. The objective was to investigate whether flat-faced dogs experience different sleep patterns and potentially poorer sleep quality due to respiratory issues.

A Night in the Sleep Lab

The participating dogs underwent testing in a dedicated sleep lab, spending about three hours with their owners. Anna Kis, one of the study’s co-authors, explained, “In the sleep lab, dogs spend about three hours with their owners. As nothing exciting happens, the dogs fall asleep quickly. Meanwhile, we conduct the electrical potential generated by the brain activity with electrodes glued to their scalps.”

Surprising Sleep Patterns Uncovered

Contrary to expectations, flat-faced dogs, during this three-hour window, exhibited more daytime sleep on average. Zsófia Bognár, a study co-author, suggests this could be a compensatory mechanism for potentially insufficient nighttime sleep. Yet, the EEG analysis brought forth more intriguing findings.

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EEG Revelations: Beta Waves and Delta Dreams

The EEG data unveiled that brachycephalic dogs had decreased beta waves and increased delta waves compared to their longer-nosed counterparts. These patterns have previously been linked to poorer learning in dogs and loss of white matter in humans.

Ivaylo Iotchev, the study’s first author, emphasized, “This pattern has previously been associated with poorer learning in dogs and loss of white matter in humans.”

The Infant-Like Sleep Pattern Hypothesis

While the exact reasons for these results remain unclear, Enikő Kubinyi, a study co-author, speculates, “The most interesting of these is that it seems as if the flat-faced dogs have retained the sleep pattern of puppyhood, similarly to newborns who spend more time in REM sleep.”

Kubinyi further suggests that the selection of flat-faced dogs for infant-like traits might have unintentionally infantilized their brain function, an assumption she acknowledges as bold but intriguing.

Breeding for Beauty, Brain Consequences

Kubinyi concludes, “The selection of dogs to be infant-like in appearance may have also infantilized their brain function. What is very likely, however, is that breeding for brachycephalic heads leads to potentially harmful changes in brain function.”

Conclusion

This research opens a new chapter in our understanding of flat-faced dogs, shedding light on the intricate connection between their distinctive appearance, sleep patterns, and potential impact on brain function. Celebrating the charm of these breeds prompts a thoughtful reflection on the broader implications of selective breeding.


Reference: Newsweek – Flat-Faced Dogs Get Worse Sleep Than Those With Longer Heads

 

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