Brachycephalic dogs – What you need to know before buying

Brachycephalic Dogs- The Health Problems that Occur

snorty, burpy, sneezy cute bundles of fluff, with their squidgy little faces and rolls of excess skin what is their not to like about these flat-faced breeds of dogs? over the years these breeds of dog are becoming more and more popular, however not is all it seems when it comes to these breeds of dogs, they can have many of health problems and most people don’t even recognise the signs here we’ll go through everything you need to know before buying a brachycephalic dog and the problems that can occur.

Flat-faced dogs

Brachycephalic is a bit of a mouthful trying to say each time so most people like to refer to these dogs breeds as flat-faced dogs or short-nosed dogs. But first, let’s go over what brachycephalic actually means – The origin of the word is from two Greek words meaning ‘short’ and ‘head’ these type of dogs have a shorter muzzle than most dogs and almost looks like it’s been squashed in, in some cases their bottom lip is not in proportion to their top so can give an appearance that it sticks out and giving them the much-loved look in these breeds of an underbite. As most of us, can’t even say brachycephalic we’ll leave that to the professionals, we’ll just refer to them as squidgy cuteness.

Brachycephalic dog breeds

Now we know what this means let’s go through the types of dog that are categories it this category:

  • Pugs
  • French Bulldogs
  • English Bulldogs
  • Boston terriers
  • Pekingese
  • Bullmastiffs
  • Chow chow
  • Shih Tzus
  • Lhasa apso
  • Boxers

I’m sure we missed some but you now get an idea of the type of dogs they are.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome

you might think it’s cute your dog, snore, snort, sneezing and its tongue hanging out and heavily breathing but all brachycephalic breeds are actually suffering from some sort of airway syndrome, some are so bad that require surgery, which can be dangerous with it being their airways making them vulnerable. they can get worse over time and cause permanent damage to your dog.

heat stroke – These types of dogs can suffer from heatstroke much quicker than other dogs this is because they struggle to cool down in hot weather, dogs pant to help then cool down, and short faced dogs struggle to do this in the weather and unable to keep the heat down this is due to not being able to to get enough cool air to their body quick enough.

  • glazed eyes
  • vomiting
  • seizure

these could all be signs of your doing having a heat stroke, contact your veterinarian if you think your dog is suffering from a heat stroke.

Elongated soft palate – this is found in most brachycephalic breeds, its when dogs have an extra-long soft palate, which covers the throat more than it should, this is due to tissue between the nose cavities and mouth. in some cases it can be that bad your dog will need surgery to shorten the palate but some dogs just suffer from difficult panting in hot weather and snore.

Stenotic nares – This is where the nostrils are narrow or have collapsed, which again makes it difficult for these breeds of dogs to breathe, some dogs will require surgery to fix the problem.

Tracheal stenosis- some dogs have very narrow windpipes or tracheas, which can be very dangerous, especially when it comes to using anesthesia. these breeds of dogs can find it difficult panting due to the narrowness of the windpipe of the trachea.

Everted Laryngeal saccules- when dogs struggle to breathe it can inflame the saccules which are pouches in the larynx and evert them (turned outwards) it can lead to obstruction of the dog’s airways, this is usually due to one of the above reasons such as narrow nostrils, small airways, etc. Severe cases surgery is needed to remove the saccules to make breathing easier for the dog but until surgery sometimes your veterinarian may advise oxygen therapy until the procedure.

Reverse sneezing in dogs 

This can be quite a scary experience to see the first time this happens to your dog, most stand but some do lay down when this occurs –  they extend they necks,  pull back their lips and inhale repeatedly and strongly through their nose. there is a distinctive snotry noise they make each time they inhale, usually, it is all over fairly quickly and your back goes back to normal. The reason for this is when something is irritating the nasopharynx, its nothing to worry about if this happens occasionally with your dog but if they start getting more frequent take notice and get them checked with your veterinarian as whatever is irritating them isn’t getting expelled.


Brachycephalic dogs

okay so we’ve now gone through their airways but there are also many other problems with brachycephalic dogs that they can suffer from:

  • Heart problems – because brachycephalic breeds have a narrower and shortened airways, they find it more difficult to breathe, this results in lack of oxygen to the bloodstream, as you can imagine this can put a strain on the heart, making these breeds more prone to secondary heart problems
  • Teeth problems – As these dogs have a shorter upper jaw they still have to fit all 42 teeth into a much smaller mouth space, this can lead to teeth overlapping, increase gum disease and decay as well as creating underbites.
  • Eye problems- as their eye ‘bulge’ they are more likely to cause trauma to them, they are prone to eye ulcers and if left untreated can cause eye loss.
  • Skin and ear- because if the shape of their heads tends to have much smaller ear canals and deep skin folds allowing them to become infected.
  • Giving birth – some brachycephalic breeds are not able to give natural births, this is due to the shape of the dog’s head and mother birth canal, some need help assisting birth such a cesarean, without this it can be very dangerous and can cause death to the mother and puppies. the operation is also a risk due to the mother needing anesthetic and with them having smaller windpipe and trachea can be a dangerous operation.
  • Neurologic problems- These breeds, unfortunately, can suffer from brain problems, again this is due to their compressed skull shapes, the most common is Syringomyelia is the most common, it when cysts and cavities form on the spinal cord.

Looking after Brachycephalic dogs

there are many ways you can help with your brachycephalic dog to help with their problems and breathing:

  • Keep their weight down
  • Don’t let them overheat
  • Use a harness – Take the pressure of the larynx as a collar pulls on the neck
  • Neuter or Spay  – If your dog has had any problems with its breathing which has resulted in surgery its best to avoid breeding in the future as puppies can suffer from the problems.

Now we’ve gone through all the possible health problems that can occur with brachycephalic dogs we hope this helps before buying one of these breeds, were not trying to put you off buying these breeds but we want to show how important it is to know everything about a breed before buying one and the problems you can occur, remember a dog is a lifetime commitment not just for Christmas.