Brachycephalic dogs are dogs with a smushed face, i.e. the face is pulled in. These dog breeds are popular and include the Bulldog, Pug, Boxer, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu among others. While these dogs have an unusually squeezed face, they are loved by many pet owners all over the world. Unfortunately, the physiology of their face predisposes brachycephalic dog breeds to certain health conditions. In this piece, we’ll cover some special needs of these adorable pups so you can help them have as comfortable a life as possible.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS)
BAS is the most common health condition in brachy dogs. The condition is not a single health problem, but can manifest in different forms including:
- Labored breathing
- Loud snoring
- Inability to exercise for a sustained period due to reduced oxygen intake
- Tendency to suffer from heat stroke because of their inability to pant efficiently
Brachycephalic dogs suffer from all these conditions because of the shape of their head. These dogs have an elongated soft palate which obstructs the windpipe which is very narrow in brachy dogs, cutting off air supply from the outside. The nostrils are miniature and narrow, severely curtailing the dog’s respiration. The shape and morphology of brachycephalic dog’s throat increases the risk of choking. Therefore, you need a specially designed health harness for such dogs. A regular harness will worsen the dog’s respiratory problems, reducing its comfort and also causing distress for you as a responsible pet owner.
Again, because of the smushed face problem of brachy dogs, their eyes have limited socket space. Brachycephalic dogs’ eyes don’t fit their eye socket. Further, the overly exposed eyes of brachycephalic dogs make their eyes to get dry and irritated frequently. Any trauma to the head or neck region can cause the dog’s eyes to pop out of the socket, leading to an emergency. This is one reason it’s careless and dangerous to use neck collars to pull a brachy dog. A quality health harness is the ideal gear to restrain your brachycephalic pooch during your walks.
Problems with Anesthesia
Due to their compromised airways, brachys face a higher risk of complication due to anesthesia compared to dogs with normal facial physiology. The reason is the dog cannot get enough oxygen during the anesthetic and while trying to wake up from the procedure. Many vets feel jittery to perform surgeries on brachys due to the increased risk of something going wrong during and after the operation. If you own a brachy which needs surgery, make sure the veterinary doctor informs you of the risk involved in the procedure and take necessary precautions.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat because they lack sweat glands. The only way dogs release excess body heat is panting. However, brachycephalic dogs have a smaller mouth and inefficient airway, making it difficult for them to dissipate heat. This weakness makes them susceptible to heat stroke. It is important to know heat stroke can lead to death in brachys, which is why such dogs must never be allowed to become overweight. An overweight brachy dog has more fat that traps in heat, increasing the chances of heat stroke.
Whether you own a French Bulldog, or Lhasa Apso, it is vital to keep your brachy in top shape by exercising the dog regularly, providing healthy and nutritious meals and be on the lookout for any sudden changes in the animal’s sounds. And use a health harness always.