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You want to get a…. what?  All About the Brachycephalic Breeds of Dogs and Cats

What do French Bulldogs, Boxers, and Persian Cats all have in common besides being incredibly adorable? They are all considered Brachycephalic breeds!  When describing a brachycephalic breed, you often hear the impression “so ugly they’re cute” or “so adorable!” It could really go either way!  Brachycephalic breeds are becoming more and more popular with pet owners, and who can resist the grunts, snorts, and big personalities that come with them? Some people run out and get one of these cuties without doing the prior research about the work that comes with owning this type of breed of dog or cat. This breed comes with some quirks and unique traits, however the perks and joy of being owned by a brachycephalic breed of dog or cat outweigh their special needs. Let’s learn more about this unique breed and what special care is needed for them.

Please Note: This post is purely informational and is not meant to be considered medical advice. If you have any health concerns about your pet, please consult a professional veterinarian.

What are they?

So you may be wondering, what is a brachycephalic dog or cat? It’s basically a big word to describe a flat-faced dog or cat. I like to refer to them as “smooshy faces”.  These types of flat-faced breeds have shorter noses (almost no defined muzzle) and flatter faces/foreheads. Who knows how they came into existence, but they sure are cute!

What to watch out for?

The flatter structure of the nose and face can lead to some health challenges such as breathing difficulties and poor conformation of the head and mouth, which could lead to some more specific problems. Let’s hear more about them:

Eyes

Due to the different structure of the eyes and nose, flat-faced breeds tend to experience some special problems. Their eyes, for example, appear to “stick out” more than a standard dog or cat, giving them that adorable pleading look all the time.  In fact, with a flat-faced breed, they do not have very rounded eye sockets and therefore their eyes do stick out further than a standard dog or cat. This could lead to eye injuries and if they ever suffer any head trauma, their eyes could pop out of their sockets!   A more common health issue is that when they blink or close their eyes, often they do not close their eyes all the way, and therefore their eyes dry out faster and could get ulcers or get infected.  Their tear ducts also can be obstructed, causing the tears to not drain correctly and spill out over the face and wrinkles, causing skin issues (to be discussed in a bit).  In some instances, the pet’s third eyelid (which helps with tear production) may stick out of the eye and cause discomfort and drying out, leading to eye infections.

Nose and Throat

Flat-faced breeds also tend to have some confirmation abnormalities in their noses, their face is so much flatter than a standard breed that sometimes their nostrils are very narrow, causing them to not be able to breathe out of their nose very well. Think of the nasal openings more like slits rather than beautiful round openings that a standard breed has.  Most of the time you will hear frequent snorting, coughing, or gagging for this reason.  Hence the first challenge for the breathing problems.

In addition to narrow noses, these breeds can also have elongated soft palates, which then can make the breathing airway narrower and more restricted than a standard dog or cat. This also contributes to the snorting, coughing, and gagging sounds these breeds tend to make.

Challenges caused by breathing issues

As discussed earlier, due to partial obstruction of the nose and throat openings, some flat-faced breeds will really have a hard time breathing on a regular basis. If these confirmation problems are caught early enough, a veterinarian might be able to surgically correct some of the issues with the nose or throat, but it really depends on each individual pet and their condition.  Due to the pet not being able to normally breathe, they are not getting full oxygen to their organs in their body and this could cause further health problems down the road.  Some include:

Wrinkles

Who can resist the adorable wrinkles all over the face! The wrinkles sure do add personality to their faces!  These wrinkles will need some daily upkeep from the pet owner as the folds can become infected due to junk getting caught in there, as well as wet moist things like their tears and water when they drink.  The wrinkles need to be wiped out daily, so they are as clean and dry as possible to avoid any skin infections from happening.

Dental Problems

Even though their face is so much narrower, flat-faced breeds still have the same number of teeth that other breeds have! Therefore, they typically have a lot of misaligned teeth that are crowding their mouth, which can lead to a lot of tartar buildup and tooth decay.  Owners may have to pay extra special attention to the teeth, tartar control, and potentially get more regular professional dental cleanings.

Neurological Problems

Flat-faced breeds can also suffer some neurological (brain and nerve) problems due to their compressed skull and smaller space for the brain. This is not extremely common; however, it is more common than with a pet that has a normal shaped skull.

Thinking of breeding your smooshy-face? Leave it to the professionals.

Flat-faced females tend to have a much more intense time giving birth than a normal breed due to the head shape of the babies. The heads tend to be so much rounder and have a hard time passing through the narrow birth canal. A lot of these breeds will usually have to have emergency C-sections rather than giving birth naturally, which can be stressful on mom and the babies, sometimes leading to the death of the mom or babies if not addressed early enough in the birthing process.  Special care is needed from experienced breeders in selecting proper mates. 

A little bit of special attention- and a lot of love to give (and receive)!

Overall, brachycephalic breeds of dogs and cats do need to have a little more special care and attention than a standard breed.  Not all Brachycephalic breeds experience health concerns like the ones listed above, good breeders will select pets to breed that have good confirmation characteristics to hopefully pass on to their babies.

Furthermore, don’t be fooled, like brachycephalic breeds standard breeds also can come with a whole list of special needs as well!  With proper attention and care, brachycephalic breeds can live a long happy life just like a standard breed of dog or cat.  The best advice I can give is to do your research on the breed you choose, talk to a veterinarian or professional breeder about potential health conditions in that breed, and select your baby with education and knowledge behind your decision.  Most breeders will even let you take the pet to the veterinarian before you decide to take them home, to ensure you know what special needs you may be facing. Once you bring your baby home, make sure to take them to the veterinarian regularly to get them started on a healthy journey to a long happy life!

Special thanks to the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Cat Fanciers Association websites for providing breed information. If you want to learn more about a specific breed or characteristic of pet, check them out!

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