Brachycephalic Breeds: What You Need To Know
October 05, 2021 | 3 min read
Updated October 05, 2021
By Sarah Milton
Published: October 5, 2021
Updated: August 8, 2022
Summary: In this blog, we learn all about flat-faced dog breeds. We’ll discover what flat-faced (brachycephalic) means, what flat-faced dog breeds that term includes, and what flat nose dog owners need to know…
Flat-faced dog breeds are becoming increasingly popular with pet parents because they make super fun, characterful companions. But, unfortunately, flat nose dogs do come with a higher risk of developing respiratory and other health issues. Here’s what you need to know if you have (or are thinking of becoming) a flat nose dog owner…
First things first, the scientific, proper term for flat-faced dog breeds is brachycephalic. But, how do you say it? The brachycephalic pronunciation is: “brah - kuh - suh - fa - lick”.
What Is A Brachycephalic Breed?
Brachycephalic basically means “short-nosed”, “flat-faced” or “flat nose” dog. The word is formed from two Greek words which translate to “short” and “head”.
Any dog that looks like they have a squashed, flat muzzle is considered brachycephalic. The bottom jaw is noticeably longer than their upper jaw causing a prominent looking under bite. They also tend to have big, bulging eyes...
Brachycephalic Dog Breed List
Common brachycephalic dog breeds include:
- Boston Terriers
- Shih Tzus
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- English Bulldogs
- French Bulldogs
- Lhasa Apsos
- Bull Mastiffs
It is theorized that despite the health problems that can come from over breeding brachycephalic dog breeds, they resemble the human infant the most which is why people keep buying them and are drawn to them.
In addition, it is thought that once upon a time it was believed that the shorter the jaw, the stronger the jaw so the dog would be a better fighter and hunter, which is why selective breeding of dog types like the English bulldog used to take place when dog fighting was considered a sport.
There are campaigns taking place all over the world to stop over and interbreeding of many of these flat-faced dog breeds though, because of the health problems it can cause them.
Not all brachycephalic dog breeds will suffer health complications but so many do. The primary health concern for flat-faced dog breeds is their breathing, due to the structure of their snout and airways.
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is common because of several reasons. Brachycephalic dogs tend to have deformed, narrow windpipes which restrict their airflow. They are also commonly being born with narrowed nostrils too which also makes breathing more of a challenge. Brachycephalic dog breeds also have short muzzles, but they typically have the same amount of soft tissue in their mouths, nose, and throat as longer snouted pups which can then block the already small airways.
In addition, because dogs cannot sweat and so reduce their temperature via panting, this act is much harder to in short-nosed, flat-faced dog breeds and thus leaves them at a heightened risk of overheating too.
If you have any inkling that your flat nose dog is struggling to breathe, you must call a vet straight away.
Other health problems that brachycephalic dog breeds are more susceptible to include:
Heart problems; smaller airways mean less oxygen traveling to major organs and can put extra strain on the heart.
Eye problems; because most of these breed’s eyes bulge, their tear film doesn’t spread evenly and this can mean ulcers develop more easily. Because the eyes are so prominent in these breeds, this also makes them more vulnerable to injury too.
Brain problems; because their heads are compressed, brain issues can occur like Syringomyelia.
Tooth problems; these breeds may have shorter jaws, but they still need to fit 42 adult teeth through their gums. Therefore the teeth end up overlapping due to lack of room which increases their risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
Skin and ear problems; their head shape means flat-faced dog breeds tend to have more skin folds around their ears and smaller ear canals.
Maternity problems; female flat face dog breeds typically come into birth complications more so than long-snouted breeds. The puppies tend to have too larger heads for the mother’s birth canal and therefore need veterinarian support during birth, often resulting in a cesarean which is a major operation made riskier by the compromised breathing circumstance of these breeds.
How To Buy A Brachycephalic Dog Breed
Quite frankly, a very high percentage of brachycephalic dog breeds cannot live a healthy life without the intervention of veterinary care and pet parents to flat nose dogs may need to provide more care to their short-snouted pooch than perhaps first anticipated.
Before you adopt one of these breeds make sure you’re prepared to insure them and can afford to properly care and support them. You need to commit to keeping them at an appropriate weight (to help maintain the efficiency of their airways, blood flow, and organ health) and make sure they stay at a good temperature so they don’t overheat.
A dog that shows any sign of BOAS should not be bred from as it is highly likely that this condition will be inherited by the majority of the litter.
However, if you’re looking to buy a flat-faced dog breed puppy:
- Make sure you can meet the mother and father of the litter. You should also be able to obtain the breeder’s vet contact details so you can verify any information you need about their health from their vet. If the breeder is unwilling to adhere to these requests, this is a red flag.
- A good, legitimate, and ethical breeder should be able to also provide genuine genetic health certificates for both parents of the litter. If they don’t or are reluctant, this is suspicious behavior.
- If the mother has to give birth via cesarean section; this is a red flag for the long-term health of your pup. If the breeder won’t tell you how the mother gave birth; this is also a red flag.
Rehoming a flat-faced dog breed from a reputable, ethical shelter is always more advisable. This also reduces the demand for breeding these already overbred brachycephalic dog breeds.
"Things To Think About Before Buying A Flat-Faced (Brachycephalic) Dog" Blue Cross, Jan 25. 2022 https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/things-to-think-about-before-buying-a-flat-faced-brachycephalic-dog
Author Bauhaus, Jean Marie "All About Brachycephalic Dogs" Hills Pet, May 21. 2018 https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/behavior-appearance/brachycephalic-dogs
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!