Things to Know Before Buying a Brachycephalic Dog
Pugs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are more popular than ever – and with good reason. They are cute-looking breeds with great personality! But what do they all have in common? They are all called “brachycephalic” breeds of dog. This means that they have been selectively bred over generations to shorten the facial skeleton, creating that flat-faced look that characterises them.
Why does brachycephaly matter?
Some breeders have been so determined to create the squash-faced look that they have sacrificed animal health and wellbeing. Brachycephalic breeds have multiple health problems associated with their conformation. While publicity about these health concerns is growing, the popularity of these breeds is also growing. It’s important that you are aware of consequences of brachycephaly, and the potential costs associated, before taking on one of these breeds.
Shortening of the face leads to crowding and compression of the upper airways. Brachycephalic breeds must work harder to get air into the windpipe and lungs. This syndrome is technically known as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). Symptoms range from snoring and breathing difficulty to sleep apnea and collapse. This is particularly important on hot days, when the dogs become prone to heat stress. Keep your dog indoors in a cool environment and minimise exertion on warmer days, and seek veterinary care urgently if you are concerned. Surgery can be performed to improve your dog’s breathing, but it will not entirely fix the problem.
Consider using a strong harness instead of a collar to minimise pressure on the throat area. See some of our favourites below:
Brachycephalic breeds have all kinds of unusual abnormalities of the vertebral column (spine). They are at increased risk of disc disease, which can be life threatening. While there is not much you can do to minimise the chance of this happening, it is important to be on the lookout for any signs of pain, wobbliness or limping.
Many of these dogs have overbites/underbites, crowding of teeth and misalignment of teeth. This might be associated with difficulty chewing, premature tooth loss and injury of the mouth cavity. Sometimes, food, hair and plaque become trapped in the abundant tissues that crowd the mouth cavity. Dental procedures and dental X-rays are likely needed if any of these factors are causing problems in your pup. As an owner, oral hygiene is really important.
See our article on how to keep your dog’s teeth clean!
Hernias, reflux, vomiting and regurgitation and more common in brachycephalic breeds than many other breeds. While we don’t fully understand why, it is likely related to the breathing abnormalities mentioned in point (1). This presents a risk for anaesthesia – ensure your vet discusses this with you before your pup undergoes any procedures.
Brachycephalic breeds have bulging eyes that predispose them to injuries and infections. They also have reduced tear production, and tears are what help protect the eyes. Some dogs have “entropion”, where the eyelids have too much skin and roll inwards, rubbing up against the surface of the eye. These issues can be challenging to resolve, but don’t hesitate to contact your vet if you notice any signs of discomfort.
We are certainly not trying to discourage you from taking on a brachycephalic dog. They are lovely-natured, fun and quirky dogs. However, it is important to be aware of the above issues before making one a member of your family. And, as always, we absolutely recommend pet insurance to help cover the cost of any procedures that might need doing.
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