Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

Advice on Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

Written by: Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Popular Dog breeds that are classed as Brachycephalic, some of which include:  

  • Boxers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • French Bulldogs 
  • Boston Terriers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Chow Chows 
  • Pekingese
  • Bull Mastiffs

Brachycephalic Dog Breeds are increasing in popularity, although they can be seen as ‘cute’, their short noses can cause concerning progressive breathing problems. Owners, new owners or prospective owners should be aware of these and other health problems that they can be prone to and also be aware that they can be a challenge to care for.

Brachycephalic means ‘shortened head’, ‘Brachy’ meaning short and ‘Cephalic’ meaning head, and refers to dog breeds with a flat and wide skull shape. They also have a compressed upper jaw the skull is compressed from front to back and they generally have flat faces and short noses.

This head conformation can predispose these breeds to a lot of medical problems. 

Brachycephalic dogs can have narrowed nostrils, an elongated, thickened soft palate,  can experience collapse of the larynx and have everted laryngeal saccules, they can have a narrowed trachea (windpipe), recurrent respiratory infections, aspiration pneumonia and also they are a higher risk case for any required anaesthesia and they can be very prone to heat stress as they cannot pant efficiently to allow them to cool down, so they can rapidly succumb to heat stroke in warm, humid conditions or if they are feverish. 

These breeds also can have problems with their eyes as their eye sockets tend to be shallow and the nasal bones are compacted so their eyes tend to protrude out of their skull and bulge and this means that they can be very prone to eye injuries, eyelid problems and glaucoma. 

They are also very prone to Dental disease, the Brachycephalic breed of dog like all dogs has 42 teeth, but they have a lot less space to fit them in, and as a result, particularly with the upper jaw the teeth will be overcrowded and they can grow in at odd angles, which means food debris can be trapped easily between teeth and cause eventually periodontal disease which may lead to teeth extractions being required . Do check your pets' teeth regularly and the earlier you use home care Dental hygiene products the better, so start dental care and brushing daily from puppyhood onwards. 

Skin infections are also very common in these breeds around facial skin folds, in skin folds between their toes, the skin under their limbs and over the abdomen and around the tail- head area. 

They are also prone to a number of musculoskeletal disorders: e.g. Patellar luxation, cruciate disease, spinal deformities and Hip dysplasia.  

Also, regarding their reproduction, these breeds have big heads which are not in proportion to the size of their pelvic opening, so difficulties during labour are very common and caesarean section is common. 

In summary, Brachycephalic breeds have a typical set of common health problems which they are very prone to and any prospective owners should be made well aware of these.  Do purchase good life long health pet insurance cover for your dog from early puppyhood onwards to allow good health insurance cover for any illness or any required surgery.

Symptoms to be always aware of and watch for are:

  • Eye discomfort and discharge 
  • Inflamed gums /excessive tartar on teeth
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Noisy, laboured breathing
  • High pitched Wheezing
  • Continued open mouthed breathing
  • Extending of head and neck to keep airway open
  • Sitting up or keeping chin elevated when sleeping
  • Blueish/Purple discolouration of gums
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Stress and Heat intolerance
  • Excessive snoring, gagging, choking 
  • Regurgitation/Vomiting
  • Collapse

If you have any concerns or questions about your Brachycephalic dog, please do not hesitate to contact with us for good professional advice on their care particular to the breed.