Posted on 2 Comments

Brachycephalic Dogs: What you Should Know

A Brachycephalic dog has a shorter nose and flatter face compared to other breeds. In the UK flat-face dogs have seen a stark rise in puppy ownership. The Kennel Club has seen a 2,747% increase in French Bulldog puppy registrations since 2004!

Yet many owners are simply unaware of the health problems associated with brachycephalic dog breeds. We’re going to tell you the signs to look out for and when you need to seek veterinarian help. 

french mastiff brachycephalic

The Dutch Kennel Club have now banned English Bulldog puppy registrations. This is in response to the government ban on broad skulled dogs due to the health and breathing issues associated. 

Whilst many organisations have championed the move, others are worried this could increase backstreet breeding. Other dogs included in the ban is the French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Pekingese, King Charles Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Brussels Griffon, Affenpinscher, and the Boston Terrier.

What is Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome?

Brachycephalic dogs already have flat faces, but some can suffer abnormalities in their airways. Mastiffs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers have slightly longer noses than Pugs and Bulldogs. So they aren’t as likely to suffer from Brachycephalic related health conditions. 

Flat-faced dogs have a standard amount of tissue in their faces that’s all been squished together. This could cause your dog to suffer from narrow nasal passages, narrow windpipes, elongated soft palates, and even laryngeal collapse. These breathing problems are known as BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome).

The word Brachycephalic derives from Ancient Greek and means ‘short head’. BOAS is a result of selective breeding. Dog enthusiasts wanted to create a canine with a shorter skull, reducing the size of the nose and lower jaw. But this has caused flat faced dogs to have tongues that are too big for their mouths.

In 2020 the UK Kennel Club recorded 39,266 French Bulldog puppy registrations and 11,594 Bulldog puppy registrations. This is a cause for great concern with the Brachycephalic Working Group asking dog enthusiasts to ‘Stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog.’

The Kennel Club has estimated around 70% of Britain’s dogs are unregistered. Puppy farming and irresponsible breeders contribute heavily to the increase of physical exaggerations in Brachycephalic dog breeds.

Symptoms of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Below are the following symptoms of BOAS owners need to be aware of:

  • Loud breathing and snoring
  • Snorting/Snoring when resting or exercising
  • Low exercise tolerance
  • Low tolerance to heat
  • Difficulty breathing during exercise
  • Restlessness during the night
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • High-pitched wheezing
  • Extended recovery time after exercise or being exposed to warm weather
  • Retching or vomiting
  • Collapsing as a result of a lack of air

If you notice your dog experiencing any of the signs above, seek immediate veterinary advice.

english bulldog puppy brachycephalic

Other Health Issues 

Your Flat faced dog may also experience a variety of other health issues. They are as follows:

Mating & Birthing Problems

Research has shown a link between Brachycephalic breeds and dystocia (birthing difficulties). In the UK over 86% of English Bulldog puppies are born via caesarean section. Only slightly higher than French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers at 80%. 

The puppies heads are larger than the mother’s narrow birth canal. Without medical intervention, this can be fatal. Vets refer to this as ‘Dystocia due to foetal-pelvic disproportion.

French Bulldogs also require artificial insemination as they can’t mate naturally. The male genitalia is unable to reach the female’s vulva as it’s much higher within their body. It’s also safer for English Bulldogs to be artificially inseminated.   


Dogs thermoregulate through their noses. For Brachycephalic dogs, it’s harder to keep cool in hotter temperatures. This places them at a much higher risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Older, overweight flat-faced dogs are particularly vulnerable. 

The scrolls of nasal tissue in the passage are known as turbinites. These filter and cool down the warm air entering the nasal passage. Brachycephalic dogs have a short, compact nasal passage, so the turbinites are crowded and will touch one another. These obstructions cause breathing difficulties. 

Flat faced dogs also have narrow windpipes and elongated soft palates. These abnormalities restrict the amount of oxygen inhaled with each breath. Panting is the most effective way for dogs to cool themselves down. So it’s no surprise these dogs are unable to effectively cool down. 

Heart Problems

Laboured breathing reduces the amount of oxygen entering the bloodstream. Over time this will cause a strain on the affected dog’s heart which could result in secondary heart problems. Brachycephalic breeds are more susceptible to heart issues and should be monitored by their vet regularly.

Ear & Skin Problems

An increase in deep facial folds prevents air from reaching the skin. Bacteria trapped between the skin folds will eventually cause yeast infections. Chronic infections and skin irritation are common amongst extreme brachycephalic dogs.

Narrow ear canals are another result of selective breeding. It reduces the airflow entering the passage. Bacteria and debris will build up quicker resulting in ear infections. Regular ear cleaning is needed to reduce the risk of chronic or recurring infections. 

Eye Problems

Prominent eyes are a feature in many brachycephalic breeds. But these can prevent tear film from spreading and efficiently lubricating the eye. Other abnormalities such as imperfect eyelids, nasal folds, and shallow eye sockets can also have an effect.

Corneal ulcers are very common in brachycephalic dogs as a result of the above anatomical changes. As a result of the poor corneal sensitivity, signs of corneal ulcers may not be so apparent. If this goes undetected further complications can arise.

Dental Issues

Brachycephalic dogs have 42 teeth, just like any other breed! However, their smaller skulls, don’t provide enough space for all their teeth leaving them overcrowded. As a result, flat-faced breeds are more prone to dental issues.

Check your dog’s teeth regularly to avoid serious dental problems. Vets recommend teeth are brushed daily. Teeth may grow at an angle, so debris is easily trapped. In some cases, teeth might need to be extracted.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Flat-faced dogs can also face a number of musculoskeletal disorders. These include hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, cruciate disease and spinal deformities. Ingrown tails and corkscrew tails have also been documented in flat faced dogs. 


Surgery is the only treatment that will make a difference to your dog’s breathing. Stenotic nares are corrected by surgically removing the excess tissue within the nostrils. A soft palate resection can be undertaken to reduce the elongated palate to normal size. 

Everted laryngeal saccules that obstruct the larynx can be surgically removed. Surgery should be undertaken as early as possible for the most effective results. Swelling may occur after the operation so keep a close eye on your dog.  

Your dog is also prone to weight gain which will put further strain on their breathing. It’s important to regularly exercise your dog without causing them discomfort. Take multiple short walks during cooler periods of the day and use a harness as opposed to a collar. Applying pressure to their neck can make breathing more difficult. 

french bulldog brachycephalic

List of Brachycephalic Dog Breeds:

There are 24 Brachycephalic dog breeds in the UK, they are as follows:

  • Affenpinscher 
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bull Mastiff
  • Cane Corso
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chiuahaha (apple-headed)
  • Chow Chow 
  • Dogo Argentino 
  • Dogue de Bordeaux 
  • English/American/French Bulldog
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Neopolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Rottweiler
  • Shar Pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Tibetan Spaniel 

2 thoughts on “Brachycephalic Dogs: What you Should Know

  1. […] breathing. Boxers are flat-faced so they’re a Brachycephalic breed which puts them at risk of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. Due to its hunting heritage, they’ve been classed under the Working […]

  2. […] only occurs in Shar-Pei and is estimated to affect 23% of the breed’s population.  Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome: As a Brachycephalic breed the Shar Pei dog may suffer from breathing issues.  Skin Problems: The […]

Leave a Reply