Five questions to ask the breeder if you’re considering buying a brachycephalic or flat-faced puppy

Five questions to ask the breeder if you’re considering buying a brachycephalic or flat-faced puppy

Health & Safety

Not all dog lovers have heard of the term brachycephalic, but there is a reasonable chance that brachycephalic dogs might be some of your favourite breeds nonetheless. Brachycephalic dogs are those dogs with short, flat faces, like the French bulldog, Pug, English bulldog and Shih Tzu, all four of which are in the top 10 most popular dog breeds in the UK.

This means that every year in the UK, thousands of new prospective dog owners start shopping around for a brachycephalic puppy of their own, but not everyone knows that being brachycephalic can come accompanied by health issues that can have an acute impact on the health and wellness of the dogs in question.

Whilst many brachycephalic dogs are moderate in conformation and healthy and fit for life, dogs with very flat faces suffer from a range of respiratory problems as a result of this unnatural conformation, and learning how to spot pups with exaggerated faces and avoid choosing them in favour of healthier specimens is very important when you’re buying a brachycephalic puppy.

You should also be as conscientious as possible about doing everything you can to choose a healthy pup that will be able to breathe comfortably, and that won’t suffer due to other health issues that can accompany a flat face, and part of this means choosing the right breeder.

A great many breeders of brachycephalic dogs are very conscientious and responsible about breeding for health and improvement, and take pains to ensure that each litter they produce is as healthy as possible. However, a significant number of other breeders breed largely for profit, and don’t pay much mind to the health of their dogs – even in some cases deliberately producing dogs with very flat faces and so, accompanying health issues, because there is sadly a great demand for them amongst uninformed buyers.

This means that talking in depth to the breeder of any pup you might be considering buying from about the health, wellness and improvement of their breed lines is a vital part of making a responsible choice of puppy, and reducing the risk of buying one with health issues.

This article will tell you five questions you should ask the breeder of any brachycephalic puppy you might be considering buying, in order to help you to make a healthy choice. Read on to learn more.

1. Are your parent dogs health tested?

First of all, for more or less every dog breed you can think of there are one or more hereditary health issues that occur more often within the breed in question than most others, with a high enough incidence rate to be considered of concern to the breed.

These conditions can of course have a significant impact on the dogs that inherit them; but many can be tested for in parent dogs prior to mating, so that dogs that might pass on such conditions can be removed from breeding schemes.

Find out what hereditary health issues are found within the brachycephalic breed you’re considering, find out if pre-breeding tests are available for them, and ask the breeders you contact if they had said tests performed. Keep shopping around until you find one that undertakes health tests – and ask to see the results before committing to a purchase.

2. Are your parent dogs assessed under any brachycephalic health schemes?

There are a number of both breed-specific and collective health schemes and scoring systems in place for brachycephalic dogs to help to diagnose conditions such as BOAS, determine how freely the dog in question can breathe, and generally provide an easy to understand reference score to their health as it relates to their conformation.

Find out which such schemes are available for your breed of choice, learn the basics of scoring, and again, look for a breeder whose parents dogs have been scored and that achieved a good result.

3. Have the parents or any close relatives of the litter been diagnosed with BOAS, and to what degree?

BOAS or brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome is the name given to a collection of respiratory system problems that can occur in dogs with flat faces. Dogs with moderate faces tend to be barely if at all affected by such issues, but the flatter a dog’s face, the more acute such respiratory problems will be.

Ask the breeder if either parent dog has been diagnosed with BOAS and to what degree, or if any other close relatives of the litter have either. A diagnosis of acute BOAS in a close relative increases the chances of the pups in question having a similar conformation and so, potentially similar risk.

4. Have either of the parent dogs or any other close relatives of the litter had a corrective surgery due to their conformation?

In serious cases of BOAS that make the affected dog’s quality of life unviable or if a dog’s conformation is otherwise abnormal and causing them problems, a number of corrective surgeries may be recommended to ease the problem and enhance the dog’s quality of life. Whilst this will never result in perfect health, it can make a huge difference to the life of the individual dog in question.

However, said dog can still pass on the original conformation traits to their litter after surgery, of course – and once more, a close relative of a litter other than a parent having required such surgery also means that the risks for the pups are higher.

Ask the breeder if any of the litter’s close relatives have had a BOAS surgery or other corrective surgery due to their conformation.

5. What sort of ages have dogs in your breed line reached, and what were their causes of death?

Choosing a dog from a well-established brachycephalic breeder means you can check out their track record, reputation, and the history of their breed lines, which all helps to contribute to the information you need to make an informed purchase. Someone who has only recently begun breeding dogs or that is just breeding a couple of litters from their pet is more of a wildcard, in terms of being able to see their track record and learn about the health of their breed line and the litter’s ancestors.

Try to choose a breeder that has been established in good standing for several years, and ask them what sort of ages the relatives and ancestors of the litter lived to, and what the respective causes of death of past dogs in the breed line were.

Asking these five questions won’t guarantee you choose a healthy puppy, and aren’t enough on their own to ensure your purchase is a good choice – but they are all essential questions to factor into your decision making process.



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