Dogs With Barrel Chests vs. Deep-Chested Dog Breeds

In this blog, we look at what a barrel chest dog is and what a deep-chested dog breed is. Learn how you can tell if a dog is barrel-chested or deep-chested and what this means for pet parents of these dog breeds…

Oct 19, 2023·4 min read
Dogs With Barrel Chests vs. Deep-Chested Dog Breeds

Most dogs are round-chested. Typical round-chested breeds include Corgis, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers. These dogs look like their chest is round and in the shape of a circle when looked at from the front. However, some dogs are barrel-chested or deep-chested. But, how can you tell, and what does this mean…?

Barrel-Chested Dog

First things first; what is a barrel-chested dog? The term barrel-chested refers to a canine’s very round chest that resembles the body of a barrel. The rib cage on a barrel-chested dog is very deep, wide, and round and they are visually chest-heavy. The top and bottom of the dog’s chest is reasonably straight and even, and this is then paired with wider, rounded shoulders on the sides. The bottom of the chest is usually above or in line with their front elbows.

However, a barrel chest dog is not to be confused with deep-chested dog breeds. Deep chested dog categorization is based on the length of the chest from the back to the bottom of it, and these breeds typically have a proportionately narrower chest. The shape is more egg-like and elliptical from the front view. Deep-chested dogs also tend to have a chest that extends to below their elbows, which isn’t seen in a barrel-chested dog. 

With the barrel chest, some breeds are naturally barrel-chested, whereas some breed lines have developed a barrel-chested appearance over time and it may not be completely desirable in their breed when it comes to official regulations. So, even if your dog typically is considered a round-chested breed, they may have developed a barrel-chest because of their genetic bloodline. For example, Labrador Retriever’s traditionally, according to the American Kennel Club, are not desired to have a barrel chest, but some breeding lines have evolved with one.

Mixed breed dogs could inherit the chest of any breed in their bloodline, which is where a dog DNA test can be really useful when determining the genetic implications of a dog, particularly as the deep-chested dog breeds do come with further health implications…

A red and white Boxer dog looks into the camera through a large wooden fence.

Dogs With Barrel Chests

Barrel chest dog breeds usually include;

Deep Chested Dog Breeds

Deep-chested dog breeds usually include;

  • Dachshunds
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • Basset Hounds
  • St Bernards
  • Bloodhounds
  • Newfoundlands
  • Weimaraners
  • Akitas
  • Irish Wolfhounds
  • Dobermans
  • Standard Poodles
  • Irish Setters
  • Gordon Setters
  • Old English Sheepdogs
A white Akita, wearing a large black collar, stands amongst long, auburn grass in the middle of a meadow.

Health Implications For Deep-Chested Dogs

Deep-chested dog breeds are at a much higher risk of bloating (or GDV – Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) than barrel or round chested dog breeds (although it can still occur in these breeds). Bloating occurs when air has become trapped in your dog’s stomach, and isn’t able to be relieved via farting or burping. If there’s enough air trapped, it can put a lot of pressure on the diaphragm and vital organs. The stomach can end up twisting which can kill a dog as the stomach expansion can cause internal bleeding, stomach rupture, and put the body into shock. This is a higher risk in deep-chested dog breeds because the chest space gives the stomach more room and opportunity to move, and thus twist.

If your dog has burped but remains/seems bloated, you need to get them to a vet as a matter of emergency too – time is absolutely critical.

Signs of bloating include anxious, agitated behavior (attempting to be sick or pacing), difficulty breathing, dribbling, and/or a distended (large) stomach. Bloating in a dog can often prove fatal, so pet parents must act fast and get them seen by a vet pronto. 

Ways of preventing bloat in a deep-chested dog are to avoid strenuous exercise before and after they eat, feed them smaller amounts more frequently rather than one or two large meals a day, and if your dog eats very quickly, attempt to slow them down by using specially-designed feeders so they can’t swallow lots of air with their food. If you own multiple pets, feed your deep-chested pup separately from other animals so perceived competition doesn’t make them gobble down their meal as this can trigger bloating. 

Sarah MiltonS

Sarah Milton

Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!

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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
*In Amazon Pet Health Category in 2022
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