A brachycephalic dog is one that has a flat-looking face. This trait is instantly identifiable in breeds like the Boxer and Pug, but the degree to which the face looks flat can be really variable, and is so moderate in some breeds like the Staffordshire bull terrier that not even all Staffy owners realise that such dogs are brachycephalic at all.
The trait of being brachycephalic does more than giving such dogs flat faces, however; it changes their anatomy from the healthy, natural norm of the canine species and with this comes health and care challenges for those whose facial flatness is very pronounced.
In fact, a high degree of flatness of the face gives the dogs that have it such an evolutionary disadvantage that they would not survive in the wild at all; and even as pets, such dogs need special care and have a range of specific care requirements that can be time consuming and sometimes challenging for their owners.
Not all flat-faced dogs share all of these additional care requirements, but the more extremely flat the dog’s face is, the more challenges that are likely to accompany it.
If you’re thinking of buying a brachycephalic dog or want to learn more about this trait in general, we’ll cover the potential additional care requirements that many particularly flat-faced brachycephalic dogs have compared to other dogs in this article. Read on to learn more.
Dogs that have extremely flat faces might struggle to breathe through even light exertion, particularly if they have very narrow nostrils too, which is common among some flat-faced dog breeds.
This means that monitoring their breathing, keeping them comfortable and avoiding problems is vital for some types of flat-faced dogs.
Flat-faced dogs don’t cope with the heat as well as most dogs, because dogs rely on panting as their main method of staying cool, and many brachycephalic dogs struggle to get enough air.
Keeping brachycephalic dogs cool in hot weather and ensuring they don’t overheat, which can happen very quickly, is important for all dogs of this type but can be a very sensitive issue for some.
Being overweight isn’t good for any dog, and can cause or exacerbate a wide range of health problems and result in secondary complications too. This is particularly true for brachycephalic dogs, who already have shortened airways and a lower tolerance for heat and that sometimes struggle to breathe anyway, and so flat-faced dogs need to have their weight monitored and managed very carefully.
Keeping flat-faced dogs at a heathy weight and providing for all of their needs means providing enough exercise, but this is a delicate balancing act to avoid overexertion and overheating in dogs that might have laboured respiration or breathing problems as standard. This can be a great challenge for dogs with very flat faces.
A shorter than normal muzzle can lead to dental overcrowding and unusual or problematic dentition in flat-faced dogs, and even result in their tongues hanging out of their mouths as there’s just not enough room for them.
This means dental problems can be rife among some dogs with unusual dentition due to their flat faces, which might require veterinary treatment and additional care.
Flat-faced dogs have wrinkled skin on their faces, which can trap dirt, moisture and bacteria and result in rubbing, irritation and infections. Cleaning and providing proper care for a flat-faced dog’s facial skin folds is an everyday part of looking after a dog of this type.
Some flat-faced dog breeds have significant wrinkling across their whole bodies and not just their faces, as is the case for the English bulldog. These wrinkles will also need cleaning and special care too!
Most flat-faced dogs have prominent or even protruding eyes as a result of their short muzzles and shallow eye sockets. This makes them more prone to damage like scratches and the entry of foreign bodies, and also means they’re more likely to suffer from a number of conformation-related eye problems too.
For some dogs, a sharp knock to the skull can actually literally make an eye pop out of the socket, and so protecting such dogs from bumps and protecting their eyes from damage is important.
Finally, after starting from the face we’ll end with the back end; flat-faced dogs often have other conformation issues nowhere near their faces, like a coiled tail tucked into a tail pocket. This is very common for some brachycephalic breeds. These need to be cleaned and cared for to prevent sore and infections developing, which is not the most pleasant job!