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Short-nosed dogs, also known as brachycephalic dogs, are those that lack the elongated snout found on most dogs. Instead, they have “smushed” or flat faces.
While there are many out there who love the look of these dogs, these facial features can actually increase the risk for severe health issues. Here’s what pet parents of brachycephalic breeds need to know.
In many cases, health issues in dogs with short snouts result from breeding. Breeders select them to exhibit specific characteristics, including shortened muzzles and skull bones. These features predispose the dog to obstructed airways, breathing issues, and other physical issues, such as joint problems.
The abnormal head formation of short-nosed dogs often leads to Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). BOAS is a general term that refers to issues related to breathing and other medical problems these dogs can face. The dog could have an elongated palate that blocks the throat or narrow nostrils that could collapse.
All short-nosed dogs have BAOS, but some experience more severe issues than others. Even if a dog doesn’t exhibit signs of breathing problems or other health issues, pet parents with these types of dogs should be aware of the potential complications.
Brachycephalic dogs are prone to numerous health complications, many of which are respiratory-related. These issues include:
Narrow or small breathing passages due to shortened noses
Airway obstructions from shortened facial bones or an elongated soft palate
Abnormally shaped nostrils, which can collapse when the dog inhales
Abnormal saccules near the vocal cords that can cause obstructions of the trachea
Collapse or paralysis of the larynx
While breathing issues tend to be the most common issue for short-nosed dogs, these breeds can face other issues as well. Other health concerns for brachycephalic dogs include:
Dental issues (such as teeth crowding), which occur as a result of a compressed upper jaw
Eye issues (including the eyes popping out of their sockets as a result of trauma) due to shallow eye sockets
An increased risk of infections
Greater risk of overheating and suffering heat stroke
Bone and joint abnormalities that can lead to pain
People can easily recognize brachycephalic dogs by their facial features. Instead of a long muzzle, their faces appear flat or squished. Breeds that fall into this category include:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Pet parents with these dogs should be aware of the health issues they could face. While their dog might not exhibit any symptoms or develop any severe complications, they should work with their local vet or consult with an online vet. Fuzzy offers 24/7 live vet chat where pet parents can get a consultation to discuss measures they can take to protect their pet’s short and long-term health.
Many symptoms of health issues in short-nosed dogs go unnoticed or ignored, as they’re seen as normal for the breed. Unfortunately, these problems can worsen over time, putting these dogs at risk for severe, life-long complications. They may even begin to affect other areas of the body, including the digestive system and heart.
Common symptoms include:
Trouble breathing during walks
Blue gums or tongue
Coughing or gagging
Difficulty walking (which can result from joint issues)
Collapsing or fainting
Irritation or infection of facial folds
If pet parents suspect their brachycephalic dog has a health problem, a thorough exam can uncover physical issues that might predispose a dog to health complications. In some cases, a vet may need to perform additional tests, such as X-rays and other scans to assess the internal structures.
A vet can recommend an appropriate treatment plan based on the findings of an exam. Depending on the issue, a dog may need surgery to shorten the palate or remove saccules. The goal of these (and similar procedures) is to widen the airways.
Young dogs may undergo a dog rhinoplasty to widen the airways and prevent more severe issues later in life. Surgery may also help with other concerns, such as curling eyelids. A vet may also recommend oxygen therapy, corticosteroids, or anti-inflammatory medications.
Pet parents can also help manage or prevent health issues at home. They can work with a vet to create a dog care plan that includes weight loss (if recommended), regular teeth brushing, cleaning facial folds, eye drops, and joint supplements for dogs.
Dog breathing issues are common in brachycephalic breeds. Anyone with a short-nosed dog should be aware of the health problems they could face and seek dog health advice from their primary vet or an online vet at the first sign of complications. With the right care and treatment, pet parents can ensure that their beloved short-nosed dog lives a long, happy, and healthy life.
For immediate access to qualified vets 24/7, pet parents can use Fuzzy’s Live Vet Chat. Become a Fuzzy member today to get started.