4 Health Care Considerations for Flat-Faced Dogs

Jennifer Coates, DVM
By Jennifer Coates, DVM on Mar. 7, 2019

Flat-faced dogs, like the French Bulldog, Pug, Boston Terrier and English Bulldog, are among some of the most easily recognizable dog breeds. Many of the most famous dogs on social media fall into these breeds.

While flat-faced dogs are undeniably cute, the physical attributes that make them so unique are what cause them to require special care considerations.

So before taking the leap and adding a flat-faced dog to your family, it is important to do some research into brachycephalic dog breeds to learn about the specific health issues and care requirements they have.

Health Considerations With Flat-Faced Dogs

Flat-faced dogs come with some unique health considerations. Not every individual will suffer from all of these conditions, but owners of brachycephalic dog breeds should be observant for their potential symptoms.

  • Respiratory Issues Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, also known as brachycephalic syndrome, is the name for the respiratory distress dogs with flat faces can experience. These dogs often have small nostrils, an elongated soft palate, extra tissue in the larynx and a narrower-than-average windpipe, all of which can lead to breathing difficulties. Symptoms of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome include:

    • Difficulty breathing/wheezing

    • Excessive snoring, panting, coughing or gagging

    • Heat and/or exercise intolerance

    • Discoloration of the gums or tongue due to lack of blood oxygenation

    • Difficulty sleeping (especially when dogs lie on their sides)

    • Difficulty swallowing

  • Eye Problems – Since flat-faced dogs tend to have shallow eye sockets, their eyes protrude further than other breeds. This makes their eyes vulnerable to dryness, injury, infection and proptosis (displacement from the socket). Facial skin folds may also result in fur rubbing on the eye’s surface.

  • Dental Issues – Because of their relatively small jaw structure, dental problems, like overcrowded and overlapping teeth and an underbite, are common in brachycephalic dogs.

  • Skin Conditions Deep skin folds can trap dirt and moisture, making these dogs susceptible to yeast infections and other skin problems.

Caring for Flat-Faced Breeds

Awareness of the conditions that can afflict flat-faced dogs is important because there are things you can do to make their lives easier. For example, keeping these dogs slim is vital to their overall health. Monitor their diet and weight closely.

Exercise is also essential, but you need to take special precautions to prevent overheating and/or a worsening of breathing problems. Avoid walking or playing with your dog when it’s particularly hot or humid outside, and always watch for signs that it’s time to take a break.

Image via iStock.com/xiao zhou

Jennifer Coates, DVM


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary...

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