Flat-Faced Dog Health Problems

Flat-faced pups are growing in popularity due to their adorable appearance and goofy personality. While these dogs make wonderful canine companions, they do come with their own set of unique risks due to their facial structure. So what health concerns come along with having a brachycephalic dog?

In this article we will discuss the details of flat-faced dogs, and help you better understand how you can keep them healthy going forward!

What Is Considered A Brachycephalic Dog?

Brachycephalic is the term used to describe dogs with flat faces and short muzzles. Brachycephalic dogs have a genetic mutation that alters the bone structure of their face, resulting in a short snout and wide skull.

Brachycephalic breeds can have a variety of facial features, ranging from minor changes in structure to severe abnormalities that cause health complications. These features are often exaggerated by specific breeding, as the flat-faced appearance is currently trending in the pet world.

Most Common Flat Faced Breeds

Flat-faced pups are some of the most beloved breeds among dog owners these days. French Bulldogs were listed as the second most popular breed of 2020, proving just how many homes contain a flat-faced dog. Though Frenchies have become the poster children of brachycephalic dogs, there are multiple other breeds that fit the brachycephalic description.

Some of the most common flat-faced breeds include:

  • French Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Boxers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Pekingese
  • Bulldogs
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Bull Mastiffs

Flat-Faced Dog Health Risks

Flat Faced Dog Health Problems

Brachycephalic breeds face multiple health risks due to their short snouts and flat facial structure. These complications are often referred to as Brachycephalic Syndrome or Brachycephalic Obstructive Airways Syndrome, as most symptoms impact their breathing ability. To help you better understand the potential health risks that these pups face, let’s discuss the most common complications below.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic syndrome refers to breathing complications as a result of the abnormal facial structure in flat-faced dogs. Airflow is often impacted due to narrowed nostrils and nasal passages, causing a dog to pant and wheeze when participating in physical activity. Not only are the airways narrowed in most brachycephalic dogs, but many have an elongated soft palate as well. This makes it difficult for a dog to take a proper breath, making physical activity more challenging.

Not only are the narrow passageways an issue in itself, but so is the inflammation that occurs as a result of increased panting and wheezing. This can lead to even more respiratory distress, causing hyperventilation and collapse in severe cases. Cases this serious can often warrant surgical intervention, which involves shortening the soft palate or widening the nostrils.

Some of the most common signs of brachycephalic syndrome includes:

  • Loud breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Excessive panting
  • Becoming winded easily
  • Loud snoring
  • Snorting
  • Licking their lips frequently
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Inability to sleep soundly
  • Weakness after activity
  • Collapse after activity

If your pup is displaying any of the above symptoms, it’s best to have them examined by your veterinarian.


Brachycephalic dogs are much more prone to heat stroke than other dogs. Due to flat-faced dogs having shorter snouts than others, they can not move air as easily through their nasal passages or mouth. Panting is usually an effective cooling method in dogs with normal sized muzzles, but this is not the case for brachycephalic breeds. These pups will pant and pant without relief, eventually causing them to overheat.

If a dog is unable to cool themselves off, their body temperature will continue to rise. This is extremely dangerous in warm climates, as a flat-faced dog can quickly reach the point of heat stroke. This is why it is so important to limit outdoor activities in brachycephalic pups, and bring them into a cool climate once they begin to pant.

Dental Disease

Brachycephalic dogs are more prone to dental disease than other dogs. Due to having the same amount of teeth in a much smaller mouth, these pups can experience many forms of dental complications. The potential of teeth overlapping causes an increased chance of tartar buildup, dental infections, and more. Flat-faced dogs often require frequent dental checkups, and the potential of having teeth removed for their comfort.

Cardiac Disease

Flat-faced dog breeds are more at risk of developing cardiac disease later in their life. Due to impeded airflow as a result of their facial structure, this causes an extra strain on the heart. While this complication is not as common as the others we’ve mentioned in this article, it is something to be aware of. The best way to monitor for any cardiac complications is by keeping up with yearly vet visits.

Skin Infections

While a brachycephalic dog may have a shorter snout than usual, they don’t have any less skin. This means the skin they do have around their muzzle is often folded, increasing the likelihood of infection between these folds. Not only do they tend to have facial wrinkles, but their ear canals can also be more narrow than other breeds. Both of these factors are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, causing frequent skin infections for some.

Eye Injuries

Many flat-faced dogs not only have short muzzles, but their eyes tend to protrude more than other breeds. While this may give their breed a signature look, the large protruding eyes come with their own risks. This type of eye structure often leads to dry eyes in many furry friends, as they are unable to distribute tears normally.

Not only are they more at risk of developing this chronic eye condition, but they are more prone to an eye injury called proptosis. This is a condition that refers to the displacement of the eye, often as a result of some type of trauma or force. While this can happen in any type of dog, it is much more prevalent in brachycephalic breeds.

How To Help Your Flat Faced Dog Stay Healthy

Flat-faced dogs may come with a few extra health risks, but they are still wonderful additions to any family. There are many ways to improve your pup’s quality of life going forward, no matter how short their muzzle may be.

To help you best accommodate your brachycephalic friend, let’s discuss some of the best ways to keep your pup happy and healthy.

  1. The best way to determine what is best for your pup is by having them examined by your veterinarian. Your vet is the only one that can determine if surgical intervention is needed, and can offer you specific advice to improve their quality of life. 
  2. Try your best to keep your pup in a healthy weight range for their breed and size. Extra weight will only make it more challenging for flat-faced dogs to breathe, making it essential to keep them slim and trim.
  3. Always monitor your dog for any sign of distress when they are engaging in physical activity. These breeds become winded more easily than others, meaning you may have to step in and call a timeout from time to time. 
  4. Monitor your pup closely when they are in a warm climate. Brachycephalic dogs are more at risk of heat stroke, and will need to keep their outdoor play time at a minimum in hot climates. 
  5. Keep up with yearly exams and recommended diagnostics. These pups are more prone to developing cardiac disease later in life, making it important to have your vet examine them yearly for any changes. 
  6. Implement a regular skin cleaning routine if your dog has any skin folds. This can be as simple as wiping in between their wrinkles with a warm wash cloth a few times a week.

Every flat-faced dog is different, meaning they may require specialized care. These are general rules that can help to improve their lives, but will benefit from the addition of your vet’s guidance.

Final Thoughts

Brachycephalic dogs tend to require a bit more care than other furry friends. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can have the tools you need to care for your flat-faced pup!

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