CVS’ clinical improvement project to improve BOAS via new holistic health assessment tool

3rd May, 2024

  • Research

CVS has launched a new clinical improvement project in 25 of its first opinion small animal practices to improve the diagnosis of obstructive airway syndrome in Brachycephalic dogs by thoroughly assessing the overall health of each animal.

Brachycephalic dogs have become popular over the last decade. According to the latest annual data on dog breed registrations[1], French Bulldogs and Bulldogs are in the 10 most popular dog breeds in Britain[2]. The breeds are well known to suffer from a range of health issues, including obstructive airway syndrome, skin and spinal problems, and birthing difficulties[3].

The new CVS’ clinical improvement programme aims to identify any clinical signs of obstructive airway syndrome by conducting a full health assessment and systematic physical examination of each Brachycephalic patient.

To do this, CVS has developed a new Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) clinical assessment tool, which can be used by a vet or nurse in practice to make a thorough diagnosis. This takes a holistic approach to assessing the animal, rather than just focusing in on its respiratory issues. The new assessment includes taking a history of the animal, conducting a full physical examination, undertaking an exercise test, and examining the dog’s nostrils. The results of the assessment are then discussed with the owner to agree on a course of treatment.

During each consultation, vets and nurses will also look to talk sensitively with clients about breeding, buying and owning Brachycephalic dog breeds. They will offer welfare advice on how to manage a dog’s lifestyle, including issues such as keeping their weight low and looking after them in hot weather. It is hoped that this education will increase a general level of welfare awareness within the Brachycephalic owner group.

To upskill its vets and nurses in the new BOAS Assessment tool, a collection of resources has been created, including new clinical frameworks and veterinary guidelines. CVS’ regional clinical leads have been available to provide face to face training in each participating practice, online courses and webinars have been held, and a new CVS Brachycephalic CPD day is being held for colleagues this May at the Kennel Club. In addition, a dedicated BOAS Assessment area has been created on CVS’ unique Knowledge Hub learning and development platform to house all materials and offer an online forum for participants.

To support client conversations within the consultation room, CVS has also pooled a bank of helpful resources, including practice reception TV videos – showing clients the physiology of the Brachycephalic breed, and consultation room posters – to help vets and nurses to have these challenging conversations. 

Regional Clinical Lead Charlotte Bray, who designed and is leading the CVS Brachycephalic breed clinical improvement project, said:

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“We have a booming population of Brachycephalic dogs. They come with a range of health issues, including respiratory conditions. On occasion, clients may not be able to recognise when their pet has an issue. So our aim is to identify those affected dogs, make a thorough assessment and signpost clients to the best course of action for their animal – so that they can get the best treatment. Our project is also intended to help to improve the quality of life, welfare and life span of these pets.”   

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The CVS Brachycephalic clinical improvement project is voluntary for practices to enrol on. Launched in July 2023, to date the 25 participating practices have conducted nearly 900 Brachycephalic assessments. CVS aims to have at least 5% of Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs undergoing assessment across the small animal division by 2028, equivalent to nearly 5,000 dogs over a 12-month period.

CVS Group operates across small animal, farm animal, equine, laboratories and crematoria, with over 500 veterinary practices and referral centres in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands and Australia. In the last five years the company has invested nearly £80 million in its sites, facilities and equipment, in addition to industry leading training and support, to give the best possible care to animals.

[1] UK: top 20 dog breeds by registered number 2022 | Statista

[2] Though Kennel Club data covering the first three quarters of 2023 shows a slump in Brachycephalic, the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) still warn that work needs to be done: Brachycephalic dog registration slump ‘encouraging’, but ‘more work still needed’ | Vet Times

[3] Brachycephalic health issues | Health | Kennel Club (