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Brachycephalic - 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 brachycephalic.

It comes the from the Greek "brachy" meaning short and "cephalic" meaning head (bracky-suh-phalic).

Not every 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 need surgery.

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 breathing.

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.

Teeth problems. 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.

For a brachycephalic dog, much extra work is required to move the same amount of air which causes airways to become inflamed and swollen.

Fortunately, 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 Yorkie.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Avoid extreme temperatures, especially extreme heat. These dogs need to live in air-conditioned homes.
  3. Keep his weight in check. Overweight places additional stress on his body and breathing and increases his risk of respiratory problems.
  4. Use a body harness to walk him rather than a leash attached to his collar.
  5. Severe problems may require surgery and typically, the earlier in a dog's lifespan it is done, the better.
  6. 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.

Article written by:
Louise Louis
Louise is a certified canine specialist, dog owner and all-round dog person.
http://www.toybreeds.com/Bone-Mot.htm



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