Special Care for Flat-Faced Dogs


Flat-faced or brachycephalic dogs are not only cute, roly-poly and extra huggable, but they also require special care.

In case you didn’t know, brachycephalic dogs are those with short snouts including Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese, and more.

There are a number of health concerns that you should consider when owning a flat-faced dog breed.

Issues with the respiratory system:

  • Stenotic Nares: A dog with stenotic nares has very small nostril openings which may cause breathing difficulties. In extreme cases, it requires surgical correction. Narrow windpipes can cause problems with anesthesia.
  • Elongated Soft Palate: If the soft palate, which is the flap inside the throat that separates the nasal passage from the oral cavity and causes snorting. If the dog is excessively barking or panting, it may cause swelling and lead to severe breathing issues.

Issues with the shape of the head:

  • Eyes: Brachycephalic dogs have shallower eye sockets which results in a “bulging” appearance of the eyes. A hard yank on a neck collar or physical trauma to the head can cause the eyes to actually pop out.
  • Eyelids: Because some dogs’ eyes bulge out so far, they may not have the ability to completely close their eyelids which causes dry eyes. This can lead to further complications down the road such as Entropion. In this case the eyelashes scratch the cornea causing further eye problems. In severe cases of the eyelid not closing completely, surgery is necessary.
  • Teeth: Flat-faced dogs have the normal amount of 42 teeth, but a smaller head in which to fit them which may result in crowded teeth and dental problems.
  • Cooling down: A long-muzzled dog cools down by panting as water gradually evaporates off the tongue. When brachycephalic dogs pant, water evaporates more quickly because of the shape of the mouth which means that the dog’s body does not cool down efficiently.

Listen to the normal breathing sounds of your dog in order to make a comparison if changes occur.

Keep your dog at the proper weight as obesity and overeating can cause further problems for the brachycephalic dog. Try to keep stress at a minimum. Brachys who become too excited may have breathing difficulties.

Hot weather tips:

  • Walk your dog in the cool of the early morning or late evening and not during midday when the temperatures are the highest.
  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight– extra fat adds more insulation for heat.
  • Limit strenuous exercise and play. Try to keep exercise to a slower pace.
  • Try to stick to shady areas when walking on hot days.
  • Consider walking your dog through a grassy (or dirt or gravel) park rather than the hot asphalt on the really hot days. We don’t always remember, because we’re wearing shoes, but hot asphalt can burn poor pups’ paw pads.
  • Provide a cool, shady spot for your dog to spend the hot hours of the day.
  • Be sure your dog has plenty of cool, fresh water throughout the day.
  • Never leave your dog in the car; even on a 70° day, temperatures inside the car can reach over 100°.

By breeding dogs with short nasal passages and pushed-in faces, we have the responsibility to fix them. There are surgeries that widen a dog’s nostrils and/or remove any extra tissue from the soft palate and the larynx. These treatments will greatly improve any problems for a brachycephalic breed and offer the dog a good quality of life.

You never know when your dog may need emergency veterinary care. To protect your pet from the unexpected, consider pet insurance for your dog.

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