Brachycephalic dog: sounds scary, right? Actually, it is the term for the group of dogs we fondly call short-nosed dogs. This means that these dogs have pushed-in faces and short snouts that result in some unique problems specific to them. Several breeds fall into the short-nose category, and these include:
- Boston Terriers
- English Bulldogs
- French Bulldogs
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Shar Pei
- English Mastiff
- Shih Tzu
If you consider one of these breeds, you need to be aware of their potential issues and how to handle them. The first is to understand what makes them what they are.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
These dogs have what’s called brachycephalic airway syndrome, which categorizes their unique physiological characteristics. These include:
- Stenotic nares: Tiny, narrow nostrils that make it difficult for the dog to breathe through his nose.
- Elongated soft palate: The soft palate is the tissue on the roof of the mouth, and with these dogs, it extends too long into the throat, therefore causing some obstructions to the trachea and compromising airflow into the lungs.
- Hypoplastic trachea: This means that their trachea is narrower than dogs of other breeds.
- Laryngeal sacs: These sacs are located inside the larynx and can turn outwards from the previous breathing issues. If this occurs, the airway would be blocked even more.
It’s no surprise that these short-nosed dogs require special care. If you decide to get one, you can expect some exciting sound effects and physical manifestations, including:
- Snorting, snoring, and loud breathing
- Reverse sneezing
- Spitting up
- Inability to engage in challenging exercise
How to Care for Your Short-Nosed Dog
It’s also no surprise that there are special ways to care for these dogs to keep them healthy for the long haul. The main watchwords for the care of the brachycephalic pup are stress and heat – to avoid them! This is easier said than done because these dogs love to play and romp like any other dog breed. If you allow your short-nose to do this on a hot, humid day, you are asking for a visit to the animal ER.
Avoid Excessive Heat
If you love going for walks with your dog, you need to shorten the walk considerably as the weather gets warmer. Instead of going around the block, opt for a walk to the quickest corner and back. And when it gets really hot, altogether avoid taking your dog for a walk.
Stress for dogs comes in different forms. Some stressors include loud noises (thunder), separation anxiety, fights with another dog, moving, bringing home a new dog, among other things. Besides trouble breathing for the short-nose, other signs of stress in dogs include pacing, having accidents, becoming destructive or aggressive, and barking excessively. When a brachycephalic dog becomes particularly stressed physically, their gums and tongue can turn blue.
Use a Harness
In other words, avoid using a collar on your short-nose dog. When you attach a leash to a collar and take your dog for a walk, it puts a strain on his already constricted throat and trachea, whereas a harness does not.
Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
It is indisputable that these pushed-in nose babies are adorable. As such, there is great temptation to give them lots of treats, daily table scraps, and too-big portions of their regular dog food. An overweight brachycephalic dog has more difficulty breathing than one who is kept at their ideal weight.
Keep Face Folds Clean
With all those folds on their face, inflammation and infection can easily occur. You can use unscented baby wipes for daily cleaning of the area. Also, be sure to keep the folds dry to prevent germs and bacteria from being attracted to the area.
Decide on Caesarian for Birthing
Although some short-noses can birth normally, the safest option for these dogs is a C-section.
Eye problems are another common ailment with many brachycephalic pups. Some of these issues include:
- Cherry Eye: this disorder occurs when the third eyelid gland becomes displaced from its normal position. This gland is important because it produces the eye’s tear film. The usual remedy is surgery, but with a short-nose dog, that decision needs to be made carefully, if at all.
- Ectropion/entropion: this disorder occurs when the lower eyelid droops away from and then towards the eye. Eyedrops are often used to ease the irritation this disorder can cause.
- Abnormal protrusion of the eye: this requires careful consideration by a vet to determine whether it is normal for the dog or whether it is extreme and needs surgical intervention. A dog’s eye can protrude due to injury, and this needs immediate care by a vet. It can also be “normal” for a particular dog. Brachycephalic dogs typically have eyes that bulge a bit, making them more susceptible to a serious protrusion.
- Dry eye: many brachycephalic dogs suffer from a condition called dry eye caused by low tear production. Their lack of tears causes irritation and the buildup of debris in the eye. Both oral medication and eye drops may be prescribed to treat this condition.
In addition to their health problems, there are a few other things to consider. For obvious reasons, most airlines will not permit brachycephalic dogs to travel in the baggage hold during the warmer months. In addition, some inbreeding has exacerbated some of their already inherent health problems because of their wild popularity. Likewise, beware of short-nose dogs that have been born in a puppy mill environment.
So why choose a brachycephalic dog? First, they are adorable. Those smooshed faces can be hard to resist. Second, most of them are quirky. The Pug believes her place in the household is atop the kitchen table, and the Boston Terrier, who sashays her way into the heart of all the neighbors she passes on her walks. By researching and understanding the unique needs of these dogs and giving them the special care they need, you will cherish many happy years with your funny, quirky, and loveable brachycephalic pup.