Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

black and white boston terrier being petted while resting on a walk

Among the list of the most popular dogs in the U.S., many of them have something in common—they are brachycephalic. These smooshed-faced pups are undeniably adorable, and they can make entertaining sounds like snorts, but there’s much to learn about these scrunchy-nosed dogs and their special health needs before adopting one.

What Is a Brachycephalic Dog?

The term “brachycephalic” literally means “short-headed”. These dogs have been bred to have relatively short muzzles and noses, which, though deemed "cute" by many, can result in several specific health conditions.

Breathing Issues

Brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS) in dogs can be a serious health issue. Any dog parent with a brachycephalic dog must take the necessary steps to keep their pup healthy and safe.

Some common brachycephalic dog health problems can include pinched or narrowed nostrils, an elongated soft palate, reduced trachea size, and a shorter muzzle in comparison to body size. Together, these can lead to your dog having difficulty breathing. Other common symptoms include heavy or noisy breathing, wheezing, snoring, open-mouthed breathing, and extending their head and neck while sitting or sleeping to keep their airway open.

Eye Problems

Since brachycephalic dogs have shorter noses and shallow eye sockets, they naturally have more bulging eyes. For some breeds, this can result in eye proptosis—a condition where the eyeball becomes displaced from the eye socket. While there isn’t much that can be done to prevent this issue, it’s crucial that if it ever does occur, you immediately take your dog to the veterinarian or emergency clinic.

In most instances, if medical help is quickly sought after, the eye can be corrected through surgery. However, in some cases, the best option will be to remove the eye entirely. Canines are incredibly resilient, though, and can continue to live a normal, happy, and healthy life after the procedure.

Brachycephalic Dog Breeds List

Generally, most dogs with a short, scrunched nose or flat face are brachycephalic—you can probably already picture multiple breeds. Some of the most common include:

Among others, a majority of these breeds are smaller in size. However, some larger breeds, such as Newfoundland, can still be affected by BAS. Mixed breeds that have a parent with BAS may also be affected.

Many of the common symptoms of BAS overlap with the signs of asthma. Learn more about asthma in dogs, what causes it and how it can be treated.

Brachycephalic Dogs and Their Weight

Weight gain and obesity can affect any dog breed, and they can both be the leading cause of many other health issues. Brachycephalic dogs, in particular, are more prone to gaining some unwanted pounds since dogs with this condition often don’t receive as much exercise as they should (since it can be difficult for them to breathe and pant).

However, dogs that are overweight are more likely to show symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome, which then decreases how much exercise they’ll regularly be receiving. In other words, this isn’t the easiest cycle to get out of, so prevention is a much better option.

One of the best ways to keep your dog’s weight in a healthy range is to provide them with a nutritious meal plan. Talk with your veterinarian about recommended food brands, specific nutrients your pup needs, and how much your pal should be eating per meal. You’ll also want to keep an eye on any extra treats your pal receives throughout the day. This can include any additional human food scraps.

On top of providing your dog with a healthy diet, it’s also crucial that they receive plenty of exercise, specifically physical activities that are still safe for your short-nosed pal. Even playing fetch indoors with the air conditioning on can still be beneficial.

Many short-nosed dog breeds also happen to be wrinkly as well. Learn more about wrinkly dog care.

Brachycephalic Dogs in Hot Weather

With any dog breed, care should be taken during the hotter months or when your pup will be outside in high temperatures. While the same guidelines should be followed for your short-nosed dog, there are some additional precautions to note.

When dogs become too hot, they pant to cool themselves off, but short-muzzled canines already have breathing difficulties. Panting is often not an efficient means because they still can’t get as much air as they need.

Heatstroke in brachycephalic dogs is a major concern. This can occur when dogs aren’t able to cool themselves down properly. Symptoms of heatstroke can include excessive panting, drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of coordination. In extreme cases, your dog could even collapse or lose consciousness.

If you believe your dog is suffering from heatstroke, it’s vital that you remove your dog from the hot environment; offer them plenty of fresh, cool water; and immediately take them to their veterinarian.

When responsible for a dog that is more prone to getting heatstroke, it can be beneficial to avoid this issue entirely. Mainly, keep an eye on temperatures. During hotter months and specifically during peak temperature times during the day, your dog should not be outside for longer than necessary. When your pup is outdoors, make sure they have access to fresh water and shade.

Of course, just because it is hot out doesn’t mean you can completely stop your dog’s exercise routine. Instead, you will want to only take your dog for walks either early in the morning or late into the evening, when temperatures are lowest, there’s more shade, and the sun isn’t in full force. Even then, depending upon where you live, humidity levels may still be high no matter the time of day. In this case, just make sure your walks are kept shorter and with a slower pace.

man cuddling english bulldog

Flying with Brachycephalic Dogs

If you are flying with your dog, there are many steps you first need to take to prepare yourself and your dog for the flight. With a brachycephalic dog, though, extra precautions will need to be taken to ensure they have safe travels.

First off, it is recommended to look into other transportation options for you and your pup besides flying, particularly if you will be flying with a larger breed that will need to be kept down in the cargo area.

Flying with a smaller pup that can fit with you in the cabin is typically a safer route. Before booking your tickets, you will first want to check the airline’s policy for flying with dogs—some airlines have specific rules just for brachycephalic breeds. If the airline does allow you to fly with your dog—as some airlines won’t allow brachycephalic dogs at all—and they are small enough to fit in a carrier under the seat, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Whether you plan on flying with a big or small dog, it’ll be beneficial to read as many pet air travel tips as possible. As a general rule of being a pet parent, it’s better to be prepared, or rather, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

At the end of the day, there are still many wonderful qualities to brachycephalic breeds—they just have a few unique health care needs.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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