pug dog at oakhurst, nj

Dogs and cats come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are all wonderful in their own way. We want to do the best that we can when it comes to caring for them, and that includes understanding any unique needs or issues that they may have. 

If you are a smooshed-face lover, you may know that these animals are called brachycephalic. Brachycephalic breeds are adorable, but they do have some special considerations when it comes to their care. Not to worry, though, Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is always here to help. 

All About Being Brachycephalic

A wide variety of dog and cat breeds fall into the brachycephalic category. The word brachy means short, while cephalic refers to the head. These guys are literally defined by their short head. 

You might be more familiar with brachycephalic breeds than you think. In fact many popular breeds like Boston Terriers, Bulldogs of all varieties, Shi Tzus, Pekingnese, Pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Persians are considered brachycephalic.

Brachycephaly is actually a genetic trait that humans have selected for because, well, it’s cute. All that cuteness does not come without trade offs, though. Many of these pets suffer from some degree of brachycephalic syndrome, which affects the airways and breathing. Characteristics of brachycephalic syndrome include:

  • Small nostrils (stenotic nares)
  • A long soft palate
  • A narrow windpipe (hypoplastic trachea)
  • Excess tissue in the throat (everted laryngeal saccules)

These characteristics may just cause some extra snuffles and snorts, but in some situations they can affect day to day breathing and may need surgically addressed. 

The unique anatomy of brachycephalic breeds may also cause other issues like skin fold infections, increased risk of dental disease due to crowding, or eye issues. 

Special Considerations for Brachycephalic Breeds

That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a happy, healthy brachycephalic pet, though. Owning and caring for these breeds just requires a little extra effort. Special attention should be paid to:

Respiratory health – Helping your pet breathe well is important. Animals who cannot adequately exchange oxygen may not be able to exercise well. They are also increased anesthetic risks and prone to suffering from heat stroke. Where possible select a brachycephalic pet from a breeder who is conscious of breeding for good respiratory health. If you already have a pet who suffers from brachycephalic syndrome, consider surgery where possible to help fix the issue. 

Healthy body weight – It is important for all pets to stay at a healthy body weight, but even more so for brachycephalic breeds. Excess body weight can exacerbate other issues such as respiratory problems and joint strain. 

Dental care – Brachycephalic breeds are prone to crowding of the teeth, bite misalignments, and other dental issues. Proactive examinations and cleanings are important. 

Joint health – Many brachycephalic breeds also have joints that are not completely normal. Maintaining an ideal body condition is helpful to prevent undue strain. We may also recommend a joint supplement for your pet. 

Wellness visits – Because brachycephalic breeds are prone to a unique set of issues, it is even more important that we see them often. We want to examine all pets on at least an annual basis to monitor for early signs of trouble and discuss questions and concerns. Contact us to set up a wellness visit for your pet if you don’t already have one scheduled.

Brachycephalic breeds are the best, but they do need a little help from us to be at their best. Thankfully, we know that you are just as dedicated to these squishy-faced snort machines as we are.  Together we can help make sure that these funny and friendly companions are able to thrive.