Cute Faces, Major Health Problems
If you own a Brussels
Griffon, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Pekingese, Pug,
Shih Tzu, or Yorkshire Terrier, you should understand the term
It comes the from the
Greek "brachy" meaning short and "cephalic" meaning head
brachycephalic dog will develop respiratory problems but truth be told,
most will to some degree or the other. In a mild case, you may not
notice any problems beyond loud snoring. In major cases, your dog may
These dogs are
bred to have the rounded head, flat, squashed-in faces and prominent
eyes and compact bodies that are so appealing in appearance.
The breeding decisions
we've made over the years have resulted in dogs with these problems:
Very small nasal openings
(stenotic nares) that limit breathing and cause wheezing or mouth
Long soft palate. The
dog's short face has trouble housing the soft palate which separates
the nasal passage from the oral cavity. The airway may be obstructed
and cause snorting sounds.
Very narrow windpipe
(trachea), which is one of the reasons why anesthesia is so dangerous
for Toy breeds.
Vulnerable eyes. With
their prominent eyes, they have such shallow eye sockets that a sharp
blow to the back of the head can cause an eye to pop out of the socket.
Eyelid problems. Some eyes
are so prominent, the dog can't close his lid all the way which causes
dry eyes. Eye and eyelid problems require medical treatment to avoid
turning into a serious condition.
Brachycephalic dogs have the normal 42 teeth but in a much smaller
mouth than a full-size dog. Teeth can be crowded and grow at odd angles
which results in dental problems.
Heat stress and heat
stroke because these dogs are not efficient panters, the only way dogs
have to cool themselves.
Labs, for instance, are
able to pass air quickly over their tongue through panting which causes
the saliva on the tongue to evaporate. The blood in the tongue is
cooled and circulated back to cool the rest of the body.
brachycephalic dog, much extra work is required to move the same amount
of air which causes airways to become inflamed and swollen.
these dogs learn to cope. That's why you may see a Pug holding his head
a certain way - to make it easier to breathe. Even dogs with moderate
symptoms still live a normal lifespan - they just struggle to breathe.
All this is
only intended to educate you, not prevent you from getting a Pug or
You do need to
have realistic expectations for your dog and not push him beyond the
limits of his physique.
To keep your
brachycelphalic dog healthy:
- Keep him fit with moderate exercise - no frenzied
activity, please. These are not the dogs to accompany you on jogs. A
pleasant, short walk will do.
- Avoid extreme temperatures, especially extreme heat.
These dogs need to live in air-conditioned homes.
- Keep his weight in check. Overweight places additional
stress on his body and breathing and increases his risk of respiratory
- Use a body harness to walk him rather than a leash
attached to his collar.
- Severe problems may require surgery and typically, the
earlier in a dog's lifespan it is done, the better.
- Tread carefully on airplanes. For example, British
Airways will no longer carry Bulldogs, Pekingese or Pugs because of
possible respiratory problems while in the air.
Most importantly, bad
breathers should not be bred.
Louise is a certified canine specialist, dog owner and all-round dog