Whether or not you are a fan of brachycephalic dogs, there is no denying that these breeds have become increasingly popular pets. Brachycephalic literally means “short-headed,” but most people refer to these dogs as having a “smushed face.” Examples include the English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Boston terrier, Pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Pet parents of these breeds become acclimated to their snoring and snorting sounds; some even find this trait endearing. The exaggerated breathing sounds of brachycephalic dogs are due to anatomical abnormalities such as an elongated soft palate, stenotic (narrowed) nostrils, everted laryngeal saccules (tissue in the throat which obstructs airflow), and a narrowed trachea (windpipe). All of these physical characteristics result in respiratory difficulty. Unfortunately, the breeding of these dogs to achieve a flatter nose has hampered their ability to dissipate heat, predisposing them to heat stroke.
In addition to breathing problems, the conformation of brachycephalic dogs also predisposes them to dental issues, skin issues and eye problems. Potential pet parents of these breeds should be aware that these dogs often need extensive maintenance care at home and in the veterinary office, possible corrective surgery for breathing difficulty and extra precautions in hot and humid weather.
Dog breeders have an ethical responsibility to produce healthy pets and to educate their customers about the potential medical issues related to the breed which they propagate. With the advent of many genetic tests (genotypic evaluations), breeders should screen their dogs to determine if they are carriers of established genetic diseases. Potential breeding dogs should also be assessed for behavioral characteristics and physical features, such as hip conformation. Organizations such as the OFA have created databases to help track hereditary diseases in order to prevent unnecessary animal suffering and pet parent’s emotional distress.
Cuious about your dog's breed? Learn more about DNA testing in dogs.