skip to content

Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School

Title:  Facial expression of BOAS dogs

Supervisors:  Dr Krista McLennan, University of Chester

Dr Jane Ladlow, University of Cambridge

Project description for website:

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is a severe welfare problem of short faced dogs where shortening of the skull is not mirrored by the soft tissues of the head. This results in a multi-level obstructive airway syndrome that varies in severity within breeds. BOAS is often not recognised by owners and under-diagnosed by veterinarians. Facial expression has been used in a number of species, including sheep, horses, rodents and cats to assess affective states. This project offers an exciting prospect to develop and validate a facial grading system for assessing the effects of BOAS on brachycephalic dogs, which has not been done before.

The successful applicant should be prepared to travel to the University of Cambridge to visit the BOAS team, should this be required. Candidates should have good communication skills and be good at noticing small details. This is primarily a desk-based study that will involve looking at images and video footage already collected by the BOAS team at the University of Cambridge. You will be using BORIS and Fiji (ImageJ) software for behavioural and facial analysis and should be prepared to use/learn R for statistical analysis.  

McLennan, K.M., Miller, A. L., Dalla Costa, E., Stucke, D., Corke, M.J., Broom, D.M., and Leach, M.C. (2019) Conceptual and methodological issues relating to pain assessment in mammals: the development and utilisation of pain facial expression scales. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 217, 1-15,

McLennan, K.M., and Mahmoud, M. (2019) Development of an automated pain facial expression detection system for sheep (Ovis aries). Animals, 9, 196

McLennan, K.M., Rebelo, C.J.R., Corke, M.J, Holmes, M.A., Leach, M.C., and Constantino-Casas, F., (2016) Development of a facial expression scale using footrot and mastitis as models of pain in sheep. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 176, 19-25 DOI:


Contingency plan:

Main risks: Access to on-going data. This should not be a problem as I have already received most of the data from the group already as part of an undergraduate project, which is currently stored on a hard drive. If this is not possible, then sheep facial expression can be used.

Additional costs: No additional costs required.

For further details please contact