Health issues in brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs

A squished-up face, flat nose and snoring that is much more charming than in humans are all things that make flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs appeal to many a dog lover. And while their unusual conformation makes them irresistible, unfortunately it can also lead to health problems.

Make an informed decision

As with all potential pets, you have to do your homework before deciding on welcoming a brachycephalic dog into your home. These dogs all have their own unique qualities that make them great family pets, but you need to be certain that they fit into your lifestyle, and that you are in a position to care for their specific needs. If you do decide to get one of these dogs, you have the option to either adopt one of the many abandoned animals waiting for a special home, or to acquire your puppy from a reputable breeder. A reputable, responsible breeder will be happy to discuss their breed and properly caring for the breed in detail with you. They will also be willing to explain to you how they go about breeding the healthiest puppies possible.

The things you need to know

As responsible pet owners, we all want our dogs to be happy and healthy, and this is indeed possible with a brachycephalic dog, even though there might be some stumbling blocks along the way. These are a few health issues you need to be aware of in order to best care for flat-faced Fido:

Breathing problems In many brachycephalic dogs, the tissue between the mouth and nose cavities is longer than what is normal, leading to the throat being covered more than it should be. This leads to snoring, but in some cases surgery is needed to correct it. Another problem that can occur is narrowed or collapsed nostrils, which makes it hard for the dog to breathe through his nose. This leads to the dog having to breathe through his mouth. Some pups might outgrow this, but in other cases surgery might be needed to open the nostrils. Some dogs also have a dangerously narrow trachea.

Poor heat tolerance The above-mentioned factors can make it difficult for these dogs to pant, which is how dogs cool themselves down. Therefore these dogs struggle in warm conditions, as they cannot draw in enough air to cool themselves down.

Skin infections With a shorter and flatter skull, these dogs end up with excessive skin covering the underlying bones, leading to that distinctive wrinkly face. These folds in the skin create a warm and moist environment – perfect for the growth of bacteria that can eventually lead to infections.

Eyes at risk Many brachycephalic breeds have protruding eyeballs, as the flat skull leads to shallower eye sockets. This means that the outer surface of the eye is more exposed to the elements, causing the eyes to become dry. They are also more exposed to possible direct trauma.

Too many teeth! Actually these dogs have the same number of teeth that other dogs do, but they have less space to fit them in. This puts them at risk of dental problems.

How to help your brachycephalic dog

Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to help your dog live the best possible life.

  • Don’t overdo it with the exercise. While exercise is good for all dogs, you should not over-exercise him, especially in warm weather. Rather keep him cool and indoors on a hot day.
  • When you do go for a walk, rather use a harness than a collar. A collar puts strain on your dog’s neck, which will make it even more difficult for him to breathe.
  • Do not allow your dog to become overweight, as this can worsen any symptoms he already has.
  • Know your dog, and know what is normal for him when it comes to snorting and grunting. If he makes noises that leave you ill at ease, it’s time for a trip to the vet.
  • Sterilise your dog. These dogs struggle to give birth and breeding is best left to the responsible professionals. There is no good reason to breed with your pet.

As the owner of a flat-faced breed, the very best thing you can do for your dog is committing to a working relationship with your veterinarian. These breeds are extremely popular, but the fact stands that we created them the way they are – therefore it is our responsibility to make sure that they endure no suffering. Your vet will assist you in every aspect of caring for your dog’s health – and your love will do the rest.

What is a brachycephalic dog?

The tongue-twister ‘brachycephalic’ refers to an animal with a flat and wide skull shape, which almost makes it look like the skull has been squeezed in from front to back. These dogs have been bred to look this way, and the skull being formed this way gives these dogs their distinctive flat face and short nose. And if you want to impress your friends but don’t know how to pronounce this word, it’s ‘brackee – cefalic’.

Most common brachycephalic breeds

  • French Bulldog
  • Boston Terrier
  • English Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Pekingese



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