Brachycephalic Dog Owners Should Be Prepared to Handle Their Canine's Health Problems
Sat, April 10, 2021

Brachycephalic Dog Owners Should Be Prepared to Handle Their Canine's Health Problems


You might think of brachycephalic dogs as those that have a certain type of canine disorder, said Jean Marie Bauhaus of Hill’s Pet, a website dedicated to pets’ nutritional needs. While it is something you would want to avoid, the term “brachycephalic” applies to some of the most popular dog breeds.

The word “brachycephalic” comes from two Greek words, which mean “short” and “head,” explained Blue Cross, an animal charity in the UK. Brachycephalic dogs are known for their shortened snouts, making them appear flat-faced.  Some examples are French and English bulldogs, bull mastiffs, Boston terriers, shih tzus, pugs, boxers, Pekingese, and Lhasa apsos. However, this term can also be applied to mixed breed dogs that have inherited this trait.

Survey Illuminates the Truth About the Dog-Owner Relationship Among Brachycephalic Dog Owners (2019)

Rowena M.A. Packer and colleagues of Plos One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal, received a total of 2,168 responses from owners of Pugs (789), French Bulldogs (741), and Bulldogs (638). The participants were from the UK (72%), USA (13.9%), and Canada (2.4%). The most common veterinary diagnoses were allergies (27%), corneal ulcers (15.4%), skin fold infections (15%), and BOAS (Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome) (11.8%).  

Allergies (33.7%) and skin fold infections (22.4%) were more prevalent in Bulldogs. Other common disorders for Bulldogs were entropion and/or ectropion (19.1), corneal ulcer (14.6%), and BOAS (11.4%). For French Bulldogs, the most common disorders were allergies (28.9%), skin fold infection (14.2%), and BOAS (14%). For Pugs, corneal ulcer (22.9%), allergies (19.8%), and BOAS (10%) were the most prevalent disorders.

Overall, surgeries mostly involve the widening of the nostrils (8.2%), the eyelids (8%), soft palate resection (7.6%), and corneal surgery (4.2%). The most common surgeries performed on Bulldogs were eyelid surgery (18%), soft palate resection (6.4%), and nostrils widening (5.5%). French Bulldogs underwent nostrils widening surgery (10.7%), soft palate resection (9.3%), and laryngeal saccule resection (3.6%). For Pugs, surgeries involve nostrils widening (8.1%), soft palate resection (7%), and corneal surgery (6.1%).

60.7% of 275 brachycephalic bitches free whelped, while 9.8% had cesarean section— elective or emergency (one litter). Only 6.6% needed veterinary assistance with medication (one litter) (6.6%). Bulldogs were commonly free whelped (all litters), underwent cesarean section— elective or emergency (one litter) (27.6%) and more than one litter (14.9%). All litters of French Bulldogs free whelped or underwent cesarean section— elective or emergency (one litter) (31.6%) and more than one litter (11.4%). Likewise, all litters of Pugs were free whelped, though the bitches underwent cesarean section— elective or emergency (one litter) (10.1%) or had veterinary assistance with medication (one litter).



Overall, 65.4% of owners answered “met expectations” for the variable “veterinary costs” while 21.7% and 13% said they more than or less than expected the cost of veterinary care, respectively. 66% said that expectations surrounding exercise levels were met, whereas a smaller proportion of respondents answered “less than expected” (9.9%) and “more than expected” (24.1%).  Expectations surrounding maintenance levels were met (82.2%), though some respondents said that maintenance levels answered “less than expected” (8.4%) and “more than expected” (9.4%).

The authors concluded the need for a greater understanding of the biological aspects of strong owner-dog relationships in brachycephalic breeds, as well as a more detailed understanding the advantages of these breeds as companion animals to enhance emotional well-being. According to the researchers, these factors may make brachycephalic breeds more popular across the globe.

Do Brachycephalic Dogs Suffer From Health Problems?

Not all short-nosed canines will suffer from breed-related health issues, but many will do. One example is difficulty in breathing. BOAS— which is prevalent in flat-faced dogs— impairs your pet’s ability to breathe. BOAS may occur because flat-faced dogs have shorter muzzles bones in their skulls than those that have retained their longer snouts.



The size of soft issues surrounding the mouth, nose, and throat has not decreased, which means there is more skin and other soft areas around these parts. The airway then becomes narrowed or partially blocked, squeezing the tissue into a smaller space. Due to shortened and narrowed airways, brachycephalic dogs are also susceptible to heart problems.

Due to a lack of oxygen in the bloodstreams, it strains the dog’s heat and makes them more at risk of developing secondary heart problems. Brachycephalic dogs are also susceptible to dental problems. For generations, dogs have been selectively bred to meet certain characteristics. Canines bred to have a shortened upper jaw have the same number of teeth as dogs with longer snouts. Since the teeth are forced to grow into a smaller area, they can overlap and increases a dog’s risk of decay and gum disease.

Further, the shapes of the heads of brachycephalic dogs often result in deep skin folds around their eyes and narrowed ear canals. With that, they are susceptible to yeast infections, causing these areas to become sore. Brachycephalic dogs are also more likely to develop ulcers on the eye and if left untreated, it can result in loss of an eye.   

Are There Any Problems In the Reproductive System of Brachycephalic Dogs?

Many of them struggle to give birth naturally. For instance, English and French bulldogs need cesarean sections when they are about to give birth, as selective breeding had led to a mismatch between the pups’ large heads and the mother’s birth canal. If bulldogs are not assisted by veterinarians, they would likely die in pain during labor, and their puppies would also not likely survive.



Are You Ready to Deal With Your Dog’s Health Challenges?

Before adopting or purchasing a brachycephalic dog, you have to realize that its health problems is a small price you have to pay for companionship. It is recommended to consult a veterinarian beforehand to find out how you can ensure your pet’s longevity and how to take care of it. With proper care and regular check-ups, brachycephalic dogs grow up to live long, happy, and healthy lives. Dogs make great companions, but it is your responsibility to exercise diligence in making them healthy and happy.


Brachycephalic dogs look cute but they are also prone to a number of health complications like breathing and dental problems. It is not advisable to get one unless the owner is willing to bring their dog to the veterinarian for regular check-ups.