Flat-nosed dog.

Dogs with flat noses are commonly referred to as brachycephalic dogs. The term “cephalic” refers to the head, while the term “brachy” means short. Brachycephalic dogs have shorter skull bones, which give their face and nose a pushed-in appearance.

The anatomy of the face and nose, as well as its relationship to other soft tissue structures, are altered as a result of the shorter face and nose bones. Some of these changes may result in physical issues for these types of dogs.

Common brachycephalic breeds are pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, and Lhasa Apsos. Boston terriers, and boxers.

Flat-nosed dogs don’t necessarily have breathing problems. In fact, many dogs with this type of muzzle have no issues at all when it comes to their respiratory system. However, there are some health concerns that can affect flat-nosed dogs in general.

Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital has information and tips about caring for brachycephalic dogs that are sure to help them thrive. 

Breathing Problems in Brachycephalic Dogs 

Brachycephalic syndrome is a group of breathing problems that occur in dogs with short noses. This syndrome can be caused by other anatomical abnormalities in addition to their facial structure, such as narrow nostrils and larynx (voice box). The severity of brachycephalic syndrome depends on the extent of the respiratory problems caused by these abnormalities.

Symptoms include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Excessive drooling due to mouth breathing (called drooling)
  • Difficulty breathing when excited or exercised (called exercise intolerance)

The ASPCA reports that these breeds are more likely to suffer from:

  • Heatstroke: Dogs with short muzzles have trouble panting, so they can overheat quickly in warm weather.
  • Bladder stones: Bladder stones are caused when urine becomes concentrated because a dog isn’t able to urinate frequently enough or pass large amounts of urine at a time. Bladder stones can prevent a dog from urinating altogether and may require surgery.
  • Allergies: Dogs with short noses often have smaller nostrils and less airflow through their noses than longer-nosed dogs, which may cause them to develop allergies over time.

There can also be other health issues related to the shape of their skull—such as eye problems or skin folds that may cause discomfort or irritation. Check with your vet if you notice any unusual symptoms in your dog.

Keeping Your Brachycephalic Dog Healthy

There are plenty of things you can do to help your dog breathe better.

The most common brachycephalic health condition is stenotic nares, which is when the nostrils restrict airflow through the nose. The narrower the nostrils, the harder it is for air to pass through them. This condition can cause difficulty breathing, respiratory distress, and an increased risk of heat stroke.

If your dog has stenotic nares, take special care when exercising them in hot weather or humid conditions. Keep your dog indoors during extreme weather events and use fans to increase airflow around the house if necessary.

Stenotic nares can become blocked by mucus or swelling tissue in the nasal passages. This can lead to difficulty breathing and exercise intolerance, which can be dangerous. To reduce this problem, keep your dog’s face clean. Use a damp cloth to wipe away excess moisture from around the nostrils after each meal or drink of water, then dry with a soft towel.

Diagnosing Breathing Problems in Brachycephalic Dogs 

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is a respiratory disorder that affects the upper airways (nose, mouth, and throat) of flat-nosed dogs.

When a brachycephalic dog is suspected of having BOAS, an ultrasound examination of the upper respiratory tract can evaluate the severity of the condition. Once you know if your dog has this syndrome and how severe it is, you can take steps to treat it.

Ultrasound images can help detect breathing problems in brachycephalic dogs because they provide a clear view of their airways. This type of imaging may also be helpful for monitoring the effectiveness of treatment for these dogs.

Treating Breathing Problems in Brachycephalic Dogs 

Breathing problems in brachycephalic dogs range from mild to severe, and there are treatment options for each. Mild to moderate breathing problems can often be managed by medications that open the airway. Surgery may be recommended in certain cases. Your veterinarian can help you determine the appropriate course of treatment for your dog. Supporting your pet’s health is something we take seriously at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, and our staff looks forward to serving you. Call or text us at (732) 531-1212 to schedule an appointment.