Furry but Fragile - Loveable Flat Faced Dogs
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
One of the many wonderful things about dogs is that they come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Each breed has their own characteristics and personalities. There is one class of dogs that people need to know more about and that is short nosed (flat faced) or brachycephalic breeds. These animals can be wonderful pets, but they can have potentially serious health conditions that need to be monitored during their lives. In this blog, we will cover the types of dogs considered to short nosed breeds, their health conditions and what you can do as an owner to help them live happy, healthy lives.
Types of Flat Faced Dogs or Brachycephalic Dogs
Flat faced dogs, also known as short nosed dogs or brachycephalic dogs, are characterized as having a short muzzle, narrow nostrils, elongated soft palate, narrow windpipes, broad heads and sometimes squashed faces. There are a number breeds that are considered to be short nosed dogs. Here is a list of the more popular ones.
- • Boston Terrier
- • Boxer
- • Bull Dog
- • French Bull Dog
- • Pug
- • Shih Tzu
Because of the many common physical characteristics of short nosed dogs, they can all suffer from a condition called brachycephalic syndrome. This potentially life threatening medical condition involves difficulty in breathing due to an animal’s having narrow nostrils/windpipe, as well as an elongated soft palate. Because of these air restricting physical characteristics, these dogs sometimes are unable to breathe deeply, catch their breath when exerted, or exhale the proper amount of carbon dioxide from their lungs. In addition, they are at high risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Symptoms Associated with Brachycephalic Syndrome
If you are a loving pet owner of a flat faced dog, it’s very important to be on the lookout for any signs of distress or symptoms that your pup might be having. Here are some common indications of problems:
- • Deep, abdominal effort to breathe
- • Discolored gums/tongue/lips
- • Snoring
- • Noisy breathing when inhaling
- • Frequent panting
- • Gagging/vomiting
- • Inability to exercise in hot, humid weather
- • Inability to walk straight/falling over
- • Respiratory infections
- • Allergies
If you suspect that your dog is having problems with brachycephalic syndrome, be sure to see your vet immediately. Should the animal be in distress upon arriving at the vet’s office, they will at once commence cooling measures, in addition to placing an IV catheter in order to help the circulatory system. Oxygen supplementation would be administered as well.
In the spirit of being proactive, if you want to know ahead of time if your dog is susceptible to brachycephalic syndrome, the vet can do a quick x-ray of the windpipe and a physical exam in order to determine the possibility of breathing issues down the road.
Ways to Help Prevent Breathing Problems
Because a dog’s physical attributes are assigned at birth, completely eliminating potential breathing issues in short nosed dogs is not possible. However, there are a number of ways to help your beloved dog avoid these potentially dangerous symptoms from occurring:
- • Avoid stressful situations where the dog could react with labored breathing.
- • Limit over exertion or activity in hot, humid or uncomfortable weather.
- • Be sure not to overfeed your dog.
- • Prevent obesity and extra physical pressure, by keeping the dog at an ideal weight.
- • Choose harnesses instead of collars to relieve pressure on the throat.
Treatment of Brachycephalic Syndrome
Brachycephalic Syndrome treatment can be accomplished by a combination of both medical and surgical methods. Your vet can prescribe medication that will help your dog’s coughing and also relax the muscles around the respiratory tract. In some cases, surgery can also be a great help by opening up the animal’s nostrils and reducing the soft palate. Dog owners should be aware however that the soft palate can re-elongate, so the results of that particular surgery may not be permanent.
Skin Issues in Short Nosed Dogs
Because brachycephalic dogs are more prone to allergies, they can also develop skin problems as a result. It’s important to keep your dog’s skin clean, dry and in good condition. Be sure to pay special attention to skin folds, since they can get infected too. Work with your vet to see what treatments are available to keep the dog’s skin clear and healthy.
Dogs are special animals and we want to do all we can as pet owners to ensure that they live happy, long and healthy lives. Many people love Short Nosed breeds and they can make wonderful pets. Take the time to ensure that breathing/skin problems don’t arise in your four legged buddy. They will thank you for it with lots of love!