You can’t help but notice that there is a “trend” in dog breeds at the moment. Well there are actually a few dog trends, but the one I am discussing is the one about dogs with short faces, sometimes called “flat faces” or “squashed faces”.
They include the real trendy (and expensive) breeds like French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers, then there is the everlasting Pug, the English and Australian Bulldogs and then there’s Boxers. There are also a few hairy breeds as well, ones like the Pekingese and Shi Tzus …. and a few others, including giant breeds, but you’ve got the idea.
These breeds and others like them are referred to as Brachycephalic, which comes from the Greek “brachy” meaning short and “cephalic” meaning head. And as these breeds of dogs with short faces are increasing in popularity, more representatives of these very trendy breeds are bred so they will come down in price and up in numbers … and they will probably make Vets around the World even richer than they are now. Why? Because they are a walking health issue. Yes, the “dogs with short faces” syndrome presents quite a number of health issues and generally they are more prone than other breeds.
I’m not here to try to convince someone who has fallen in love with one of these breeds to think again about getting one. I personally think a number of these breeds are just SO appealing that I just have a big grin of adoration every time I see one. But I just want to make sure that the health issues of these breeds come into the picture when you are looking for that perfect breed for yourself and your family, as it could be a huge burden on you in the future, both financially and emotionally.
Most people are aware that dogs with short faces typically have noisy breathing and will often snore. (This is caused by a number of anatomical abnormalities related to the shortened face). Sure … we humans have a shortened face, so do other primates. But that is how we naturally evolved. (And YES … we snore don’t we!) Not so with your short faced dogs. Over several generations (or more) they have been selectively bred by breeders who have actually bred for these “deformities” to accentuate them more and more with each generation. (Yes I’m afraid it is so; these breeds of dogs with short faces are actually grossly deformed; have you thought about them from this angle?)
And by the way, not ALL dogs pant. Many of the “natural” breeds very rarely pant; only when it is extremely hot and then it is a cooling mechanism as dogs do not perspire like humans. (Panting is air-conditioning to a dog). I have one of these “natural” breeds with a long nose, a Saluki, and she is only seen to pant after a super fast run around or when it is extremely hot, and I mean extremely hot! There are a number of other long faced breeds who do not pant or snore, as well as some that only do occasionally.
This short face health issue is often termed “Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome”. Dogs with this condition often have an elongated soft palate, the “thing” that separates the nasal cavity from the oral cavity; just like in we humans! Obviously if this palate is enlarged it takes up more room and “flaps” which is why these dogs snore and snort.
But that’s not all! Often these dogs also have stenotic nares. You don’t know what that is?? Come on; everybody knows what that is! Oh well maybe not but I just researched it so I DO know what it is. It refers to the dog also having narrow nostrils; the smaller the nostrils the more the dog (breed) has to breathe through its mouth and pant.
But that’s not all! Often these poor animals also have macroglossa, which is an enlarged tongue that even further contributes to airway obstruction. Think about it. These brilliant breeders of the past shortened the face; but it didn’t necessarily shorten the tongue. So now these “poor puppies” are often seen wandering around with tongue hanging out and panting.
But that’s not all! Yes there is yet another issue with these cute dogs with short faces and their breathing. They have a narrow trachea (windpipe) which can also be weak and prone to collapsing. Mouth to mouth resuscitation with your pooch anyone? Many owners / doggy lovers have … and I know I couldn’t stand by and watch a poor doggy in that sort of distress without doing something.
Sorry; but that’s not all! There are other problems NOT associated with breathing also. They have shallow eye sockets and eyelid abnormalities. The eyeballs can actually “pop out”! Skin folds can also infect the eye when the hair from the nasal folds rub directly against the eye. Eyelids often don’t totally close so they can have dryness and irritation as well as developing blinding pigmentation.
Is there any good news about dogs with short faces?
I have just described the worst possible scenarios on the basis that “it is better to know than to be totally unaware”.
Most of these dog breeds will and do cope on a daily basis.
But things like excessive excitement or activity, or excited barking and panting could cause throat tissues to swell, and as panting is one of the main ways a dog cools itself it is important to keep these breeds as cool as possible in hot weather. Because their bodies work harder this panting increases the chance of inflammation and swelling, commonly seen as heat stress, and heat stress can be fatal. So the good news is that if you learn to micro-manage your dog for these conditions / situations you could definitely reduce the problems; it is all about knowing your breed, and that is what this article is about.
No doubt, if this is the type of breed you want you now understand that there could be some additional considerations you have to accept to keep your dog in good health. Some dogs with short faces may even require surgical intervention to correct or repair some of these abnormalities, so it is probably a good bet that there will be more than the usual number of trips to the Vet than one might expect with other breeds.
In fact it is imperative you do so for regular check-ups so as to reduce the chance of a tragic situation occurring with your dog.
Knowing what the health issues these breeds of dogs with short faces are likely to encounter can help with early recognition, intervention and management as well as possibly preventing life threatening complications.