What You Need to Know About Brachycephalic Dogs

brachycephalic dog health problems

French bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs have a few things in common, they are growing in popularity and they are all considered brachycephalic dog breeds.

What does brachycephalic mean?

disabled pug wheelchair

A brachycephalic dog is a dog breed with a flat face, short or a snub nose. Brachycephalic dog breeds have a shorter muzzle that appears to be squished, popular examples are French bulldogs and pugs.

Popular brachycephalic dog breeds include:

  • Pug
  • French Bulldog
  • Pekingese 
  • Boston Terrier
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • English Bulldog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Boxer

Not only do brachycephalic dogs have a similar face structure, they are also at an increased risk of serious health complications and breathing problems due to their smooshed face.

Are flat-faced dogs healthy?

Although flat-faced dogs are increasingly popular among pet parents, there are some very serious health concerns with flat-faced dogs. A study by the Royal Veterinary College has found that brachycephalic dog breeds are significantly less healthy than other dogs. In fact, flat-faced dogs are considered high risk for the following health conditions:

  • Neurological conditions and spinal disorders 
  • Corneal Ulceration
  • Heart murmur
  • Hernia
  • Foot infection
  • Syringomyelia – a condition where cysts form in the spinal cord
  • Patellar luxation
  • Ear Infection
  • Anal sac impaction

Breathing problems in flat-faced dogs

French bulldog wheelchair

Flat-faced dogs are also known for having breathing problems. Because brachycephalic dog breeds have a shorter nose combined with a narrow windpipe, it is much harder for them to breath enough air into their lungs. Due to the narrow windpipe, getting the proper airflow is a real challenge for flat-faced dogs like French bulldogs leading to difficulty panting and cooling themselves off. All of which makes exercise difficult for these breeds.

A narrow windpipe also means that every breath takes more effort for a French bulldog than other non-brachycephalic dog breeds. When they inhale Frenchies put a lot of strain on their windpipe which forces them to work a lot harder for every breath. In turn flat-faced dogs typically take a more shallow breath than other dogs so that the end up having less oxygen in their blood. Over time can lead to eventual heart failure. Additionally, brachycephalic dogs are also at risk for heartburn and more frequent vomiting. As the dog ages their breathing problems worsen which means they exercise less and gain weight more quickly. 

Brachycephalic dogs may be cute and have great personalities, but their facial structure leads to serious health problems.

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