Do you have a brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog?
What’s a brachycephalic dog?
The word ‘brachycephalic’ means quite literally “short head”. Some common brachycephalic breeds include bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Chow Chows, Boston Terriers and Boxers.
Why are brachycephalic dogs different from other dogs?
Brachycephalic dogs have gained popularity in recent years because of their cute, wrinkly look. However, over the years, these breeds have been bred for shorter and shorter faces, to achieve the extreme version of this flat-faced appearance. You can see from this picture how the English bulldog has evolved in the last 50 years:
What health problems do flat-faced dogs experience?
Unfortunately, the selection for flatter and flatter faces in these breeds has been associated with a number of health issues.
- Breathing problems are probably the most significant of all. Dogs with flat faces often have stenotic nares (very narrow nostrils), elongated soft palates (the roof of the mouth is too long thereby covering airway openings), and narrow tracheas (narrow windpipes). These anatomical conditions make it hard for the dog to move air in and out. This is why it’s common for bulldogs or pugs to make noisy breathing sounds and snore loudly.
- Because dogs can’t sweat anywhere except on their paws, they rely on panting when they’re hot. The conformation of the brachycephalic dogs’ faces mean that these dogs have poor tolerance for heat or exercise, because they can’t move air through their airway well.
I remember well seeing a young healthy Bulldog coming into the Veterinary Hospital having suffered a heat stroke. He had been playing outside for only a short period of time on a warm day. It was absolutely devastating to watch her sadly pass away.
What can you do to help my Brachychephalic Dog?
- Avoid leaving them outside on a hot day. Walk them first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening.
- Use a harness instead of a neck collar. Neck collars place more pressure around their neck, which can obstruct their airway even further.
Some brachycephalic dogs can benefit from surgeries to correct their nostril size or length of their palate. These procedures broaden their airway and make it a lot easier for them to breathe.
More questions? Call 416-231-9293 or visit www.ryah.ca
Dr. Lilla Yan