Pugs. Old English Bulldogs. Boston terriers. Precious! There are many names for flat-faced or smashed-faced breeds. The technical term for all these dogs with a compressed snout is a “Brachycephalic”. At TCAP, we would like to discuss the unique anatomy of smash-faced breeds and how you should approach caring for these especially precious and loving breeds.
This term derives from the Greek words ‘Brachy’ which means “short” and ‘cephalic’ which means “head”. Whether or not you have heard the term before, you will certainly have heard of many of the common brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, Boston terriers, boxers, bulldogs, Pekingese and Shi Tzus. Himalayans and Persians are examples of brachycephalic cat breeds. These dogs and cats are intentionally bred to look this way, with a normal lower jaw but a compressed upper jaw. Due to this altered facial construction, all these dogs have what is called Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome to varying degrees.
Old English Bulldogs
Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome starts with a brachy pet’s nostrils, which are often really small. The nostrils are scrolled really tight and are so narrow it can be hard for the animal to move air in through them. Often the windpipe in these pets is very narrow in places, which leads to a condition called tracheal stenosis, or narrowing of the trachea. This problem can predispose the animal to tracheal collapse, as well as cause problems with anesthesia.
Most of the breeds mentioned before do fine in their normal, day to day activities, but one breed in particular, Old English Bulldogs, tend to have really significant respiratory problems. For this reason, TCAP’s veterinarians do not provide spays and neuters for English Bulldogs. We recommend taking English Bulldogs or English Bulldog mixes to a full service vet to have their spay, neuter or dental cleaning performed. A full service hospital will have the specialized monitoring and diagnostic equipment necessary to serve the individual needs of this breed.
Because of the upper airway challenges of brachy dogs, they often don’t pant efficiently. As discussed in a previous blog, dogs cool through panting (Hyperlink Panting Blog). This makes brachys prime candidates for heat strokes (Hyperlink Heat Stroke Blog). You should familiarize yourself with the normal sounds your brachy pet makes, because normal for her isn’t the same as it is for non-brachycephalic dogs and cats. If you notice an increase, amplification or some other change in your pet’s respiratory sounds, it’s important to take note of it. Brachycephalic respiratory syndrome can be a progressive condition, so your brachy pet can develop problems with the trachea or larynx over time. It’s important to get such issues addressed as soon as they appear rather than waiting until a pet develops significant respiratory distress.
For this reason, we recommend using caution when considering bringing your Brachy breed our weekend vaccines clinic during the hot summer months. TCAP largely operates outdoors at these events and due to the wait time and the increased risk of heat stroke in Brachy breeds, we recommend making time to bring them during a business day to a main TCAP facility (Denton, Fort Worth, Burleson, Hurst, Allen, and Weatherford).