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Common issues with short-nosed and squashed faced dog breeds.

May 21, 2023

Duncan Houston

Short-nosed, or brachycephalic, dog breeds are popular due to their unique physical characteristics. These breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Boston Terriers, among others, have been selectively bred over generations to emphasize their distinctive, flattened faces and compact skull structures.

However, the same physical traits that make these breeds so endearing can also lead to a host of health problems. Here are some of the most common issues:

1. Brachycephalic Syndrome: This condition comprises several upper airway problems: stenotic nares (narrowed nostrils), elongated soft palate, hypoplastic trachea (undersized windpipe), and everted laryngeal saccules. These issues can make breathing difficult, leading to heat intolerance, exercise intolerance, and sleep apnea. Dogs with this syndrome often snort, snore, and gag. Surgical intervention includes widening the nostrils, shortening the elongated soft palate, and removing the everted saccules.

2. Eye Conditions: Due to their shallow eye sockets, brachycephalic breeds are prone to eye problems such as corneal ulcers, dry eye, and proptosis (displacement of the eye). Treatments can include medication for milder cases or surgical correction in severe instances.

3. Dental Issues: Brachycephalic dogs typically have the same number of teeth as other dogs but in a much smaller mouth, which can lead to dental disease. Regular dental cleanings and, in some cases, tooth extractions, may be needed.

4. Dermatological Conditions: These breeds often have deep skin folds, especially around their face, which can lead to skin infections (intertrigo). Regular cleaning of these folds and sometimes surgery to remove excessive skin is required.

5. Orthopedic Issues: Breeds like the Bulldog and Pug often suffer from hip dysplasia. Treatments range from pain management to surgery.

6. Obesity: Due to their physical structure and potential breathing difficulties, these breeds can be prone to obesity, which can exacerbate other health issues. A controlled diet and regular, gentle exercise are often recommended.

Selective breeding for specific aesthetic traits, like a flattened face and smaller skull, has led to these health issues. Over generations, breeders have chosen dogs with the most exaggerated traits to reproduce, creating a population of dogs where these traits, and their associated health problems, are common.

Despite the adorable, often friendly, and loving personalities of these breeds, potential pet owners must consider these health implications. Owning a brachycephalic breed can involve significant veterinary expenses and the potential for ongoing care needs. Moreover, there are ethical considerations related to supporting breeding practices that promote physical traits associated with poor health.

Finally, it's worth noting that not all individuals of these breeds will develop the above issues. However, the risk is considerably higher, and prospective owners should be prepared for the potential for these conditions to arise. It's always recommended to research and consider adopting from a reputable breeder or better yet, a rescue organization, where the emphasis is on health and temperament over physical appearance.