Dogmovers Policy regarding the Transport of Brachycephalic Dogs and Cats
Updated October 2023
The following is Dogmovers policy regarding the transport of Brachycephalic dogs & cats. This policy may differ from those of other Pet Transporters or airlines and applies to all animals in the listed breeds below. Clients booking their brachycephalic animals for transport will need to complete a Brachycephalic Pet Information and Consent form acknowledging the following policy and accepting our Terms & Conditions.
For more complete information about brachycephalic breeds and the BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome) please visit our more detailed information pages here.
Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and why it is a risk during Transport.
BOAS is the No. 1 cause of veterinary intervention and fatalities during transport.
BOAS is an umbrella term for a group of hereditary abnormalities in short nosed animals leading to obstruction and narrowing of the airways and characterized by narrow nasal openings, elongated soft palate, thick, fleshy tongue, larynx (voice box) abnormalities and narrowed windpipe compared to normal animals of a similar size.
Whilst severely affected animals are obvious, many who may seem normal will struggle to properly oxygenate and regulate their temperature when they become stressed. This can quickly lead to hospitalization or death and is exacerbated if it is warm, or the animal is aged or overweight.
Many owners believe their Pet is normal or will be fine as long as it is transported in Air Conditioning. For many, this is not true. Most negative events we experience are when the temperatures are lower, or the animals are in Air-Conditioned vehicles and the problem occurs because the animal becomes stressed often due to separation anxiety or because they are not used to being in a cage.
Please note that all major transporters within Australia and Internationally have some form of limitation regarding the transport of Brachycephalic breeds and if your pet is severely affected even private transport by car may not be recommended. We suggest that you consult your veterinarian for further advice.
Some Brachycephalic animals cannot be safely transported by any means.
Further information about this condition, the affected breeds and our full Terms & Conditions may be found at the links below and on our Website.
Dogmovers Classification of High, Medium & Low Risk Brachyephalic breeds
Dogmovers recognises that not all Brachycephalic Breeds carry the same risk so our Policy specifies varying levels of information, planning and risk mitigation for each group.
While a Fit to Fly assessment is required for all brachycephalic breeds for Air Travel we do not require this for lower risk breeds. We will require this, or an acceptable alternative for the 6 highest risk breeds or those with chronic health issues or other risk factors. Additionally, while we will restrict these on our most basic services, we do have more specialised services available and will offer alternative options where it is safe to do so.
The 6 High Risk Brachycephalic Breeds:
- Aussie Bulldog
- English Bulldogs
- French Bulldogs
- Shih Tzu
High Risk breeds are the breeds in which the majority of individuals are affected by BOAS. It is common for owners of these breeds to believe their Pet is normal and to underestimate the risk of transport. In these Breeds corrective surgery is commonly required for the animals’ long-term health.
BOAS is an extreme risk which can cause problems even in the absence of heat if the animals become stressed. These animals are at an increased risk if they are aged, overweight or suffer from anxiety.
If over 4 months of age these animals will not be permitted on our Express Services unless the owner is able to show us that they are aware of the issue and provide us evidence that the animal has been assessed recently for BOAS and is suitable for transport. This may be by way of proof of recent BOAS improvement surgery, a recent RFG Grading of 0-1 or a Fit to fly / fit to Travel test by a vet just as is required by the airlines.
We may accept a letter or certificate from a vet as long as it specifies how long the vet has been treating the animal, the length (in days) of the trip and the expected or normal range of temperature and humidity in the zone of travel to ensure the vet fully understands the risks. (see more detail of the requirements below)
The owners will also be required to complete a detailed questionnaire regarding the dogs’ condition and acknowledge that they have read and accept this policy and our Terms & Conditions. Our customer service consultants will consider the details provided and may seek further information before making a decision to accept a booking for these animals on our Express runs, recommend a premium service or refuse transport.
For clarity, it should be expected at the outset that any animal that has a heart condition, suffers from seizures, or has noisy/laboured breathing at rest would be unlikely to pass the required tests and that these animals would not be accepted for transport on our more basic Express services.
The 16 Medium Risk Brachycephalic Dog & Cat Breeds:
- American Bulldog
- Boston Terriers
- Dogue De Bordeaux (French Mastiff)
- Griffon Brussells
- Japanese Chin
- King Charles Spaniel
- Lhasa Apso
- Pocket Bully
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Tibetan Spaniel
- Exotic Short Haired
Medium Risk breeds are typically breeds in which the Brachycephalic head is a definite feature of the breed but while BOAS is common it is not expected to affect the majority of individuals or to regularly cause severe outcomes. For many of these breeds, such as the Boxer, there is a wide variation between barely noticeable and serious BOAS. In other breeds, such as the Staffy, the majority of individuals may not show any sign of BOAS but they have an increased risk specifically due to other common breed issues such as a propensity towards obesity, anxiety or excitement which are all exacerbating risk factors.
While these animals will not require a veterinary certificate, if over 6 months of age the owners will be required to complete a questionnaire detailing the pets’ condition and issues and acknowledge that they have read and accept this policy and our Terms & Conditions. Our customer service staff will consider the details provided, discuss your pets condition with you and may need to seek further information before making a decision to accept a booking for these animals.
It should be expected that some of these animals which have a higher risk profile due to their age or physical condition will not be able to travel on our more basic Express services and we would encourage you to consider our Premium service for these Pets especially if they are advanced in years, extra-large dogs, overweight, suffer from anxiety or have other chronic health conditions.
20 Lower Risk Brachycephalic Dog & Cat Breeds:
- American Bully
- Boerboel – African Mastiff
- Bull Mastiff
- Cane Corso Mastiff
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Chihuahua (Apple Headed)
- Chow Chow
- Mastiff (English)
- Neopolitan Mastiff
- Shar Pei
- St Bernard
- Tibetan Mastiff
- British Short Haired
- Scottish Fold
- Scottish Shorthair
The Low Risk breeds are typically breeds that are borderline Brachycephalic or where only a small number of individuals, typically poorly bred ones, would be expected to be affected by BOAS. Some breeds, such as the Newfoundland are often not categorized as Brachycephalic but are included here due to other common health risks such as their size, a propensity to be less heat resistant, common chronic issues in the breed or where their shorter noses may have a worsening effect if they are affected during transport by age, obesity, stress or illness.
While these animals are less likely to experience BOAS related issues, they have an overall increased risk especially when stressed and so if over 6 months of age owners will be expected to complete a simple questionnaire and acknowledge that they have read and accept this policy and our Terms & Conditions. Our Customer Service consultants will have a brief discussion with you regarding their pets’ condition before we finalise the booking.
It should be expected that some of these animals which have a higher risk profile due to their age or physical condition may not be able to travel on our more basic Express services and we would encourage you to consider our premium service for these Pets especially if they are advanced in years, extra-large dogs or have other chronic health conditions.
Dogmovers Brachycephalic Transport Policy
Pre booking Assessment
Dogmovers will collect additional information from you regarding your Brachycephalic animals, discuss the risks with you and advise you as to whether, in our opinion, it is safe, or under what conditions your pet may be transported by us if at all.
For all Bracycephalic breeds, if your pet is over 6 months of age, you will be required to complete a Brachycephalic breed questionnaire and consent form acknowledging this policy and our Terms & Conditions of transport.
For the 6 High risk breeds and any animals that we believe have a higher risk due to Age, Obesity or chronic health conditions we will also require evidence that your pet has been assessed and is fit to travel.
Where there is additional risk, we may advise that your Pet can only be transported on our Premium service or that we will not transport them at all. This will more commonly affect animals in the high-risk Breeds which are English, French & Aussie Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu.
Dogmovers Brachycephalic Breed Questionnaires and consent forms.
Not all brachycephalic animals are affected by BOAS. But it is commonplace for owners of brachycephalic pets to be unaware of the risks or to view the problems their pet may be having (such as noisy breathing) as normal for the breed or normal for their Pet rather than recognising it as the serious health issue that it is.
All Brachycephalic Pet owners wishing to book Transport with Dogmovers will have to complete a short Questionnaire about their Pet/s, confirm they have read our Brachycephalic Policy and that they accept our Terms & Conditions of Transport.
Our Customer Service consultants will review the information provided regarding your Pet/s and have a conversation with you to ensure that you are aware of the risks and to advise you as best we can if we feel that the risk for your Pet is too high to safely undergo the trip.
Proving that your Pet is Fit to Travel.
All High-Risk Brachycephalic breed pets will require further evidence that they are fit to travel. Not all Med & Low Risks breed animals will require this, but they will if they are considered to be at risk due to other chronic or specific health conditions, advanced age, stress, or obesity. Acceptable forms of proof include:
- Evidence of previous BOAS corrective surgery
- Evidence of a recently completed RFG test with a grading of 0 or 1
- (Gradings of 2-3 will not be acceptable)
- A completed Fit to Travel certificate by a qualified Vet.
- An alternative certificate or letter by your Vet
- Provided it complies with the requirements below.
BOAS Corrective Surgery
BOAS Corrective surgery addresses up to 5 different problems. Not all issues are corrected by every vet or in every Surgery. Additionally because BOAS is a progressive issue, it is possible for your Pet to become worse again after the surgery. Typically the condition should be at its worst by about 4 years of age but will continue to have a greater impact on affected pets as it exacerbates other age related issues.
The fact that your pet may have had surgery in the past does not mean it is entirely healthy or without risk now but we believe that for owners that have gone through the process of corrective surgery there is a greater understanding about the condition of their Pet and they are likely to be better placed to understand and evaluate the risks involved in Transport.
RFG (Respiratory function grading)
The RFG assessment, developed in the UK is a system used primarily for assessing which animals are suitable for breeding from and is being quickly adopted in Australia. This is an effective assessment of BOAS but should not be considered as useful as a veterinary Fit to travel assessment in gauging the risk to an animal on transport because it does not investigate any other chronic issues the animal may have such as heart conditions, or the stress profile of the Pet.
However, as with Pets that have had surgery, we believe owners that have had the RFG done have a greater understanding about the condition of their Pet and they are likely to be better placed to understand and evaluate the risks involved in Transport.
Fit to Fly / Fit to Travel Assessment.
The IPATA Fit to Fly assessment is the best known pre travel check because it is widely adopted by the airlines. But not all vets are approved to complete the IPATA Fit to Fly certificate. If your Vet is approved, they will have the form available, and we will accept that assessment.
We have available our own version of the form, the Dogmovers Fit to Travel Assessment which you, or your Vet can view online, download or print from this link.
Please note that a Brachycephalic Fit to Fly / Fit to Travel Assessment is not the same as a standard Veterinary health check. You will be required to present your Pet to undergo a thorough clinical examination, the Vet will assess your pets’ respiratory function both before and after exercise and look for other risk factors such as obesity, temperament, cage anxiety and any pre-existing significant medical conditions.
Non-specific Fit to Travel Certificate or letters:
If your Vet does not wish to complete these forms but is willing to give you an alternative letter or certificate their report will need to include the following.
- How long your Vet has treated the Pet
- (if this is the first time the vet has seen your Pet, we may not accept it)
- The length (in days) of the planned transport
- The expected or Average Temperature for the planned Route
- We can provide you with this information.
- A statement that your pet does not have any Heart Condition or other chronic condition or suffer from any form of Seizures.
- A Grading of your pets Nares/Nostrils (see diagram below of Nasal Stenosis Grading)
- A Grading of your pets Body Condition score (BCS)
- A Grading of your Pets Respiratory Pattern & noise after exercise.
- degree of Inspiratory effort: Normal/Effort/Dyspnoea
- Stertor/Stridor: Inaudible/Mild/Moderate/Severe
Dogmovers will evaluate the information provided by the client and or the clients Vet, advise our clients about the risks as they pertain to their Pet and make transport recommendations and decisions based on that information.
However it is the owners sole responsibility to ascertain the suitability of transport in all regards for their pet/s. We cannot and will not accept responsibility for injury, cost or death that may occur with these breeds due to BOAS or any other pre-existing, hereditary or common condition that they may have or suffer from.
Assessment at pick up and during the transport
Our drivers or staff may also assess your Pet on collection, and should your Pet be found to be in a condition other than as described they may refuse to accept your Pet for transport. Specific risk factors that may lead our drivers to make such a decision are listed below.
- Noisy or unusual breathing (even if normalised for the individual animal)
- Nasal congestion, Narrow or closed nostrils.
- Shortness of breath.
- Signs of over excitement, anxiety, or stress
It should be noted that the above risk factors are all included on the questionnaire you will complete and in the case of the high-risk breeds would have been discussed or may cause your Pet to fail any fit to travel check at the pre booking stage. We should not be seeing these risk factors unexpectedly at the point of collection. In the event we do not accept a pet for transport due to health issues we were not told about we are not obligated to give you a refund.
To clarify, your pets breathing should be effortless and inaudible at rest. When a pet has noisy breathing it is common for us to be told “its fine, he always does that” but this is not normal. If our driver can hear ANY breathing noise or see respiratory effort associated with BOAS it will be considered a risk factor and may result in your animal being turned away by the driver.
For extreme examples of the type of noises we will be looking for see the video examples on this page
If our driver or other staff believe that your pet needs veterinary care during the journey, we will take the pet to a vet. We will always attempt to contact you first but if we cannot Dogmovers will make decisions as necessary based on the veterinary advice received and Dogmovers duty of care to the animal. This may include decisions regarding any treatments at your cost or if required, euthanasia.
We cannot always get quickly to a vet due to geography or the time of day. The combination of these factors means that we cannot guarantee that we may be able to get your pet to a vet in time to save it if it suffers from stress, is unable to breath or overheats as a result of its condition.
In the event we take your animal to a vet for issues arising due to BOAS it is likely that the animal will be required to stay at the vets for an extended period of time. Dogmovers may not be able to wait for treatment to be finalised due to the other pets on board and this may result in additional costs to the owner for extended care, boarding or alternative transport needed to complete the journey.
Postponement of bookings due to Excessively high Temperatures
During Summer many of our services travel regularly through areas where the temperature is in the mid to high 30’s. e.g., on most days in summer Emerald in QLD is expected to reach 38° and Dubbo in NSW would be expected to reach 36°.
We do not cancel trips in these situations because these are normal temperatures and do not cause problems for normal, healthy animals under normal transport conditions.
If your pet is in the high-risk breeds this will be discussed with you prior to finalising your booking and we may refuse to move your pet on those routes during summer or recommend an alternative option. Air Conditioning does not guarantee the safety of your Pet.
For all at risk animals where there are unexpectedly hot conditions forecast, such as a heat wave, we may contact you in the days prior to postpone your booking for your pets safety.
It is in all cases the owners’ responsibility to ensure we are provided with all relevant information about your pet whether we ask for it or not and to make the final decision regarding suitability of transport for your pet.
Our acceptance of your Pet for transport, either following the pre booking assessment or at collection does not guarantee your animals safety and does not mean we will be liable should an adverse event occur. The risk of an adverse event, especially in summer is never 0%. Whilst we have laid out the risks in this document and may advise you directly, you cannot hold Dogmovers responsible for any costs, loss or death suffered as a result of BOAS or any other common pre-existing health problem that Brachycephalic Pets have, whether you are aware of it or not.
It is important to note that Air Conditioning cannot be guaranteed during Road Transport and should never be solely relied upon. In the event that the vehicle, the power supply, or the AC unit breaks down, Air Conditioning will be unavailable putting any animals that are relying on the AC at immediate risk on hot days and in the case of vehicle breakdown will limit the transporters’ ability to get to a vet. This is especially a problem when transporting animals in modern vans which may heat up quickly and have no passive airflow. Whilst less popular, Pet Transport trailers are safer due to their insulation and design which promotes airflow.
Air Conditioning also causes an issue when overused or set at too low a temperature. Brachycephalic animals being transported on hot days may be unable to adjust quickly or regulate their temperature when being taken from an Air-Conditioned vehicle for toilet breaks. Sudden changes from the low humidity environment of the vehicle to the high humidity environments experienced in Australia’s Northern states is a major risk factor for both Road & Air Transport.
During summer months it is common for vets in QLD country towns to treat the pets of travellers who have stopped to walk their dogs which have quickly become heat stressed when taken out of their air-conditioned vehicles.
The Air conditioning in our vehicles and floats is used and set at 27°. Our policies regarding use of AC are based on best practice for the needs of the wide range of breeds that we will be transporting and cannot be altered to suit specific animals at the expense of others which may be negatively affected by the overuse of AC. If you believe your pet requires a specific or a lower temperature, please discuss alternative options with us. In all cases, we cannot stress enough that the use of AC does not guarantee the safety of your Brachycephalic pet.
Our Express, Premium & Priority Services
Our Express services are our regular Weekly, Fortnightly or Monthly scheduled runs with set timetables. These more economical services utilise Vans, Buses and specially constructed Pet Transport floats and cover all the main towns and cities on the primary East Coast routes between Cairns and Adelaide. Our clients meet us at central points in most towns and the cost of each trip is spread between many customers, with up to 20 pets on board to keep the cost down. Our drivers are with your pets the whole way, including overnight, and schedules allow for regular comfort stops. These services cater for all pets including small puppies and kittens, cats, poultry, and other small animals right through to large dogs with a limited number of spaces for Extra Large dogs. You can view upcoming service dates on our Interstate run calendar.
These Services are suitable for all healthy well socialised companion animals including Puppies & Kittens. For any pet that is less well socially adapted, displays separation anxiety, is advanced in age, is obese or has any other chronic health condition, including BOAS we would recommend you consider our Premium service instead.
These are more Specialty Door to Door services designed to cater for Senior Pets, Extra Large Breed Dogs, BOAS Affected Brachycephalic animals, Pets with special needs or simply for clients who would prefer a greater degree of attention or feedback during the trip. These services are more loosely scheduled but have greater flexibility. We utilise fully Air-Conditioned Vans only with smaller numbers of animals on board, typically 3 or 4 with a Maximum of 8 pets. This ensures our drivers can spend additional social or care time with each pet and provide a greater level of feedback to our clients. The cost of each trip is spread between several customers and the prices are calculated using a per km charge which increases for pets travelling to more remote areas. Common regions are likely to be serviced at least fortnightly with more remote regions being roughly monthly.
These services are suitable for a wider range of Brachycephalic breeds including those needing additional attention, regular medications etc.
Our Priority Service is a fully Individualized trip catering specifically to only your own Pet Family’s needs whether you have 1 animal or 30. We will fully customise a trip to suit your own needs and time frame, typically direct from A to B as we will not be collecting or delivering other peoples’ pets along the way. This service can cater to extreme or special needs, specific times and dates and can travel anywhere utilising any combination from our fleet of SUV’s, Vans, Floats and Pet Transport Buses. This is our most flexible option and can work out very economically if you have a large number or variety of pets to relocate. The cost of each trip is calculated using a daily rate for the complete round trip.
Further Information about Brachycephalic Dogs & Cats and BOAS
Brachycephalic Breeds are affected by a number of serious Health Conditions. All of which are hereditary and most of which are related to recent specific breeding practises.
Specific Health issues to note:
- BOAS (seriously affects over 50% of dogs in the high-risk breeds)
- Hemivertebrae (English and French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers, associated with a Corkscrew tail)
- Eye problems (Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome)
- Skin problems (Skin Fold Dermatitis)
- Higher incidence of Allergies
- High Incidence of Inability to birth naturally.
BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway syndrome)
BOAS is caused by the Brachycephalic animals compressed and shortened skull and is a syndrome comprised of various airway abnormalities including narrowed nostrils, elongated soft palate, enlarged tongue, and reduced size of the windpipe. Animals suffering from BOAS usually have more than one abnormality.
In affected animals a restricted airflow lowers the animals ability to oxygenate and to cool by panting. These animals therefore have a lowered heat resistance and while heat is not the cause of the problem, hot conditions or any situation causing the animal to be stressed, including anxiety or excitement can quickly become dangerous due to reduced oxygenation and increased body temperature. Stress alone can cause this to occur in a cool, even Air-Conditioned environment and lead to hospitalisation or death in a short time frame.
These conditions are all hereditary and will typically progress throughout the animals life. While early corrective surgery is recommended in seriously affected individuals and can help considerably it is necessary to continue to monitor because even corrected animals may need further intervention later in life.
BOAS can affect otherwise healthy animals and it is not uncommon for owners who have left their pets to play outside unsupervised to find that they have passed away suddenly with no other apparent risk factors present. Autopsies will generally indicate heat stress as a factor even when external temperatures were not considered to be an issue, or the animal was in air conditioning because the animal could not oxygenate or regulate its body temperature.
Affected animals that may be fine at home may be affected differently during transport due to stress caused by being Caged, Separation Anxiety, Sociability issues (other animals, new people), Travel sickness, new environments, or climatic conditions (such as humidity). All these and other forms of stress may cause heavier or restricted breathing.
More detailed information is available here. What is BOAS
Symptoms or Signs associated with BOAS in these Breeds:
- Narrow Nostrils (Nares)
- Noisy breathing
- Snoring / Coughing / Reverse sneezing
- Nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
- High blood pressure
- Low oxygen concentration in blood
- Fainting or collapsing
- Exercise and Heat Intolerance
Symptoms of this condition are not commonly a risk for young puppies, but some can be seen by the time the puppy leaves the breeder and in high-risk breeds it is common for serious issues to be apparent in the first 4-5 months and for surgery to be required from 8-12 months.
Nasal stenosis grading in Brachecephalic Dogs:
BCS – Body Condition Scoring Chart for dogs & cats
Specific additional risk factors for these animals include:
- Hot conditions
- Obesity or any other Chronic health condition.
- Over excitement or Stress (including Separation Anxiety)
- Previous incidences of respiratory issues or heat stress
Other Conditions that are commonly associated with Brachycephalic breeds that may contribute to additional risks during transport.
- Hemivertebrae/Degenerative Disc disease and other spinal disorders (Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers, associated with a Corkscrew Tail)
- Heart Problems (common in all BOAS affected dogs)
- Eye problems (Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome, Cherry Eye, Entropion, Conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, Distichiasis, dry eye and higher risk of physical eye injuries (common in most Brachycephalic breeds)
- Skin problems (Skin Fold Dermatitis, specifically looser skinned breeds)
- Higher incidence of Allergies (Skin Allergies, Food Allergies)
- Hip Displaysia and/or Luxating Patella
- Blood clotting (Von Willibrand’s Disease in French Bulldogs)
- Bladder & Kidney stones (French bulldogs)
- Seizures/Epilepsy (Pugs, Boxers)
- Pug Dog Encephalitis (Pugs)
- Peripheral Nerve & Muscle disorders (more common in Chow Chow, Staffy)
Additional Information regarding Transport of Brachycephalic Breeds:
Collars / Harnesses
Dogs with BOAS should be fitted with a harness that does not tug at the neck area. It is not advisable to use a regular neck collar or choker chain for these dogs, since the collar can put undue pressure on the already compromised airways. We ask that owners provide an appropriate harness that fits the dog properly and that the dog is used to wearing. In the event that our drivers/handlers feel that your dog is pulling insistently and that this may be affecting your animals breathing they will limit the animals walks as much as is practical under the circumstances.
Dogmovers insurance policy is a Business liability cover and does not cover veterinary bills, death or loss associated with BOAS or any other pre-existing physical condition that an animal may have or illness or injury that is not caused by negligence on the part of the transporter. It is strongly recommended that clients have or obtain their own private Pet Insurance to cover these costs and it is widely recommended that all Brachycephalic pet owners obtain Private Pet insurance prior to obtaining their pet. However please note that not all insurance providers will cover BOAS treatment as it may be considered a Pre-Existing condition.
Does BOAS affect all Brachycephalic animals?
As previously stated not all Brachycephalic breeds are affected to the same degree and not all pets within a breed are affected. It is a progressive condition that does not typically affect puppies or kittens but will worsen as they age and can be serious from 4-5 months of age in the high-risk breeds. In lower risk breeds it may only become evident or a risk due to other aspects of the pets health or temperament.
Further information about BOAS and specific Brachycephalic Breeds is available on our website via these links.