The Challenges of Flat-Faced Dog Breeds
It is easy to understand why Bulldogs, Pugs, and Pekingese are so widely loved. Not many can resist the charms of those cute, smooshy faces and the gregarious grunting that goes along with them. Flat-faced dog breeds are not all adorableness and funny noises, though. Before considering one of these as your next pet, take the time to make yourself aware of the challenges that come with caring for flat-faced dog breeds.
Flat-Faced Dog Breeds Defined
There are a wide range of dogs (and cats) with pushed-in faces. These breeds fall into a group of animals that are defined as “brachycephalic”, with “brachy” meaning short and “cephalic” meaning head.
Whether you have a Shih Tzu, a Boston Terrier, an English Bulldog, or even a Persian, these breeds all have a short head and muzzle. This is an adorable genetic trait that we have selected over time, but those good looks don’t come without a price.
Flat-faced dog breeds come with one particularly detrimental consequence: brachycephalic syndrome. This term is used to describe the group of traits held in common by these critters that result in breathing problems.
Brachycephalic syndrome is the collection of physical alterations that include:
- Stenotic (small) nostrils
- A long soft palate
- A narrow trachea (windpipe)
- Extra tissue in the larynx (voice box), called everted laryngeal saccules
These physical issues can make it very difficult for a pet to take a deep breath. They are also responsible for the characteristic grunts, snorts, and gags associated with these types of dogs. These issues may be worsened by weight gain.
Brachycephalic syndrome means that flat-faced dog breeds need special precautions when it comes to anesthesia. Because dogs rely on panting to cool themselves, brachycephalic breeds are also at a higher risk of overheating.
Sometimes, if severe enough, pets with brachycephalic syndrome need to have their issues surgically corrected, where possible.
It’s All in the Eyes
Brachycephalic pets are at higher risk for problems with the eyes due to their unique anatomy. Flat-faced dog breeds can experience issues, such as:
- Rolling in or out of the eyelid
- Abnormal protrusion of the eyeball
- Rubbing of the nasal fur on the eye
- Abnormally located eyelashes (distichiasis)
- Decreased tear production
- Prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid (“cherry eye”)
The thing about brachycephalic breeds is that they have all the same teeth as any other dog, they are just jammed into a tiny place. Flat-faced dog breeds often have abnormally located teeth, overcrowding, and misaligned bites. These tendencies make them very prone to periodontal disease, among other things. Good dental care is essential to keeping your little smoosh face healthy.
Flat-faced dog breeds can be an adorable addition to your home, but anyone looking to add a brachycephalic breed to his or her family should certainly do the homework ahead of time. At Schertz Animal Hospital, we love our flat-faced friends!
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Schertz Animal Hospital
Since 1976, Schertz Animal Hospital has offered the greater San Antonio area outstanding pet care. Our state-of-the-art animal hospital in Schertz, TX compliments our stress-free handling and experienced veterinary staff. Make an appointment online or give us a call at (210) 659-0345 today!