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Brachycephalic: Protecting Your Short-Nosed Pet
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Brachycephalic: Protecting Your Short-Nosed Pet

Life As A Pet Parent

Is your pet brachycephalic? The term is fancy way of referring to breeds of cat and dog with short (“brachy”) heads (“cephalic”) and “pushed in” or squashed noses. These types of animals have enjoyed great popularity for many years, as their distinctive faces and docile personalities have charmed thousands across the UK. Unfortunately, the downside to the demand for these pets is that some are bred without consideration for their quality of life – noses that are too short or positioned awkwardly can cause severe health problems that any prospective owner of these breeds should be aware of. Read this article for more information on short nosed cats and dogs.

Which breeds are brachycephalic?

Here are the some of the most popular brachycephalic dogs breeds:

And cats:

Any breed with a nose at least 80% as wide as it is long fits the criteria to be classes as brachycephalic, however within this category there is considerable variation in nose and jaw size. Some distinguish the animals with the shortest noses by deeming them to be “extremely brachycephalic” – this category includes Pugs, English Bulldogs, and Persian cats amongst others. Individual pets of these breeds can have deformed lower jaws and faces that are nearly as flat as human’s.

How can being brachycephalic or short-nosed affect the health of my pet?

  • Due to the shape of their skull and its consequential impact on the respiratory system, all brachycephalic animals are vulnerable to overheating. Compound this with the fact that cats and dogs have limited sweat glands and furry bodies, and you have the recipe for extremely limited heat tolerance. It is very important that brachycephalic pets not be left in poorly ventilated, confined spaces, such as cars or crates for long periods. Never leave a brachycephalic animal in direct sunlight with no means of cooling or shading itself. On extra hot days, avoid long walks with your pet and try to keep him indoors from midday into the evening.
  • Brachycephalic respiratory syndrome is a broad term that refers to the various physical abnormalities suffered by brachycephalic pets. Narrowed nasal passages and an elongated soft palate inhibit the efficiency of the respiratory system in animals with flat faces. Not every short-nosed animal will experience all the symptoms, but it is important that you know what is “normal” for your pet and are prepared to visit the vet if you suspect something may be amiss. Laboured breathing during exercise, snoring sounds when your pet is awake, and even choking are signs that your cat or dog is struggling to take in enough oxygen. These symptoms can worsen over time, leading to further problems and potential collapse.
  • Surgery may be required for animals suffering from severe forms of brachycephalic respiratory syndrome, often at a young age. Unfortunately, brachycephalic pets are more likely to experience problems under sedation or general anaesthetic due to their restricted breathing.
  • Brachycephalic cats and dogs are also prone to eye, skin and dental problems and may require frequent veterinary attention throughout their lives. It is important that you research your chosen breed thoroughly before buying, and set yourself a reasonable budget to cover their medical needs. It goes without saying that you will also have to spend time each day grooming and caring for their mouths, eyes, and coat, so make sure you will be able to commit before you purchase a new kitten or puppy.

What are the signs of a healthy short-nosed pet and how can I keep him that way?

In general, the longer your pet’s snout and the further away his nose is from his eyes, the less likely you are to encounter the worst problems associated with a brachycephalic bone structure. Unfortunately, some pedigree breeding standards dictate that animals should be bred for looks and not health, so take care when purchasing puppies bred to compete in dog shows. Unobstructed breathing, clear eyes and a bright, happy demeanor are great signs regarding the health of your pet. An appropriate weight is also very important, as a pet that’s too thin may be having problems eating, whilst a pet that’s too heavy may be experiencing difficulties whilst exerting itself. Overweight brachycephalic animals are also extra prone to overheating. Runny eyes and skin folds should be regularly attended to with gentle cleaning so that bacteria is not allowed to build up, and health checks should be scheduled at least once per year to keep your pet healthy.As far as determining whether a brachycephalic puppy or kitten will have health problems down the line, the best way to ensure you are buying a healthy animal is to carefully research his lineage and only consider dealing with breeders that are willing to address your concerns directly.

Are brachycephalic pets ethical?

There has been much debate concerning the ethics of breeding brachycephalic pets, which has been linked with the controversy on purebred standards in general. For one, brachycephalic breeds are more likely to have difficulty whelping and may require a caesarian to deliver their puppies. This is often cited as an illustration of how “unnatural” extreme brachycephalic breeds have become, and is one of the reasons why campaigners seek to impose restrictions on breed traits that are linked to illness and deformity. In addition, opponents of brachycephalic breeding argue that many pets are so widely deformed owners no longer recognise that their respiratory problems are not normal.Owners of bracycephalic breeds are often quick to point out that all purebreds suffer from genetic problems, and that it is possible for brachycephalic pets to be bred responsibly. However there are major problems posed by those seeking to exploit the popularity of Pugs, French Bulldogs, Persians, and other animals by breeding recklessly for profit. It is up to those that love these breeds to avoid buying pets without fully researching their origins. Taking care to find the best breeders will save owners future heartache and will also help preserve the quality of life for brachycephalic pets.

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