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All About Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

All About Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

Flatter faced dogs used to be known as brachycephalics and more commonly known in recent years as “Brachys”

These breeds of dogs have become increasingly popular with owners throughout the western world and figures quoted by the Kennel Club Of Great Britain have quoted a rise of over 2700% registered in the UK since 2004.

That is quite a rise and sadly, there is also a downside to this.

As these kinds of dogs may well have a designer feel to them, the intensive breeding has also seen that around 58% of owners understood little about the breathing difficulties these dogs would suffer from and from a survey conducted by the Royal Veterinary College discovered that this figure of owners were unaware of the signs that their dog was having problems getting air into their lungs.

The important signs that you need to be aware of can improve the standard of your dog’s life and, most importantly, the things to look out for that a vet may need to intervene to help your per.

What Is A Brachycephalic Dog?

It’s a good question to ask and easily answered. Brachycephalic dogs are breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and Boston Terriers.

Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

Essentially, they have been bred to have flatter faces and appeal widely to dog lovers across the globe.
They appeal greatly because of their sweet faces and huge eyes and this has caused many celebs to have these kinds of dogs as “designer dogs” and generally this causes a copy cat trend.

They are usually very good fun to own and also as they are generally small in size, they can be transported and homed easily and this also appeals to potential new owners.

Sadly though, they do tend to suffer from breathing difficulties more than breeds that have longer snouts.

What Is Brachycelaphic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) In Dogs?

BOAS is a combination of upper airway problems seen in dogs that are bred to have shorter noses and higher domed foreheads.
This kind of breeding causes an excess of soft tissues in the upper airways that can obstruct airflow and forces the animal to rely solely upon open mouth breathing and even then, this can cause problems as the dog can continue to struggle to get enough air in.

What Parts Of The Dog Are Affected?

The opening of the dog’s nostrils may be very narrow or completely closed.
The soft palate at the back of its mouth may be overlong and get dragged into the larynx (voice box).
This accounts for the noises you sometimes hear from one of these dogs when they breathe.
Their tonsils can become enlarged and swollen and also the larynx can also swell and may bulge to block the airway, somewhat and all of this contributes to airway obstruction.

What Are The Symptoms Of Brachycelaphic Syndrome?

Dogs that are affected by BOAS may have one or all of these areas affected and this causes obstruction to the upper airway.
This may mean the dog snoring loudly when asleep and they may also snore when awake too and are resting.

These types of dogs can pant a lot when going on walks as they are having difficulty getting enough air into their lungs whilst exercising, this can also be particularly difficult for them when the weather is warmer, also.

Why Do Brachycelaphic Dogs Overheat?

They can often pant for a long time after exercise as it is very difficult for them to cool down once the exercise has finished.
They simply can’t get enough oxygen into their lungs in order to cool.
Some of these dogs can actually collapse after exercise or indeed pass out when they get over-excited as they may become so deprived of oxygen.

The medical term for this is “Hypoxia” and the dog’s tongue will become purplish-blue in color.
The real concern with these dogs is that they can actually lose consciousness and in some cases, die.

Dogs need to pant to lose heat and these types of breeds are more prone to heatstroke and which can also cause them to pass out and this can also cause death.

How Is Brachycelaphic Syndrome Treated?

In cases where a dog has to be examined for this by a surgeon, advice will be given to the owner about the best course of action based on the actual condition of the dog. Age and weight are considerations along with the severity of the condition too.

The most common course of action is usually surgery which involves a general anesthetic and a procedure to widen to nostril passages and often shorten or thin down the soft palate.
Additionally, Tonsil removal is often done as a necessity.

Many rescue centers in the UK and the US are seeing a steady rise in these wonderful dogs being “given up” by owners who are simply not prepared to pay the costs of operation like this!

brachycephalic dog breeds

How Sad Is That?

This puts a huge financial burden on organizations rescuing these dogs and in fact, in the UK, The Battersea Dogs Home reported that in 2015 they paid for 7 surgeries on Brachy Dogs and this rose to 62 in 2018!

What If I Do Not Want My Dog To Have Surgery Like This?

All Brachycelaphic dogs are affected to a lesser or greater degree by breathing difficulties. The syndrome is real but can be controlled by owners being aware and enlightened by the condition.

Maintaining your dog’s weight is very important and making sure they can keep cool in warmer weather is an absolute must.

Try to exercise your dog when the weather is cooler, so especially in warmer climates try to exercise early morning or later at night when generally the air is cooler.

If this is not possible, try to make sure your home is cooler in warmer months..a portable air con unit can be relatively cheap and it can make all the difference for your dog in terms of breathing cooler air.


Sadly, our dogs do get old and you may well notice this condition becoming more prevalent as they near old age.
If you love your dog you want the best for them, avoiding medical help can really diminish their quality of life.

What Other Problems Are Associated With BOAS?

Many dogs that suffer from BOAS also have associated problems with eating and swallowing. We use a lot of oxygen when we eat and dogs are no different in this aspect.
The dog will have issues when eating and drinking and as a result, around 30% of these dogs can also suffer from regurgitating their food too.
This can be helped by surgery and many dogs will benefit from this kind of surgery.

This kind of feed bowl can actually help flatter faced dogs

How You Can Help Your Brachycelaphic Dog?

  • Be aware of the signs outlined in this article and get yourself involved and learn as much about the condition of BOAS.
  • Look out for any early indicators that your dog may be suffering from this condition.
  • Exercise your dog wisely. Never over-exercise your dog and exercise them when it is cooler (early morning-late evening)
  • Avoid stressing out your dog- separation anxiety for a Brachy could be fatal.
  • Don’t let your dog get overweight. Keep an eye on their diet and go easy on weight gaining treats…(this applies to all dogs!)
  • If you are considering buying a breed like this then use a kennel Club Registered or approved breeder or indeed going to your local rehoming center first.
  • If you ever have any concerns, doubts or if you think something is not quite right with your Brach, please get them checked by a vet as quickly as possible.

Not being able to breathe very well is a condition that approximately 5.4 million people who suffer from Asthma live with every day in the UK.
We as humans can usually get some kind of help and we can ask for it.

Our dogs and especially our Brachycelaphic dogs simply can’t ask for help, so we need to be their voice and help them have the best life that they can.

Eusoh Cool
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