Brachycephalic dog health issues

Boston terrier sitting down with a paw in the air

What is a brachycephalic dog?

Brachycephalic dogs have short muzzles and flattened faces caused by genetic mutations that change the way the bones in the skull grow, resulting in a shorter, wider skull shape.

The brachycephalic spectrum

Brachycephaly occurs across a spectrum, from breeds with almost entirely flat faces (sometimes termed ‘extreme brachycephaly’), such as the Pug and Japanese Chin, through to less exaggerated brachycephalic breeds such as the Boxer and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Which commonly known breeds are brachycephalic?

The term brachycephalic is used to describe a variety of breeds that vary in muzzle length, with muzzle length varying even amongst the same breed, including:

Brachycephaly is not restricted to pedigree dogs, and crosses that include these breeds can also exhibit this face shape.

Is there a link between head shape and health issues?

Many people are attracted to this face shape, with baby-like features including large, round, wide-set eyes and flat, rounded faces. Brachycephalic dogs are increasingly popular pets worldwide, particularly breeds such as the Pug and French Bulldog. Despite their popularity, many brachycephalic dogs are affected by health problems that are linked with their body shape.

The health problems detailed below may affect some brachycephalic dogs more than others depending on body shape and structure.

Buying a dog? Do your research before you buy

Because of this, all potential puppy buyers of brachycephalic dogs should be aware of these health issues before purchasing a puppy, and all current owners of brachycephalic dogs should be vigilant for signs of ill health, so they can seek prompt veterinary advice.

The health problems detailed below may affect some brachycephalic dogs more than others depending on body shape and structure.

Find more information on our buying a flat-faced puppy advice page

What is brachycephalic obstruction airway syndrome?

In the film below, BOAS experts Drs. Sargan, Liu and Ladlow from the University of Cambridge will ensure viewers are provided with information as to what Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome is, how it affects brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed dogs e.g. Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs) and the signs and symptoms owners/potential owners should be aware of.

Further resources and information

The Academy: Brachycephalic breeds health and research learning resources

A range of free and insightful resources, including films, focusing on research with experts from different fields of canine health and welfare, with an in-depth look at canine diseases, genetics and conformation-related health concerns.

View the Academy's Brachycephalic breeds health and research learning.

Current research: Cambridge BOAS research group

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust is funding groundbreaking research into Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) at Cambridge University. The aim is to improve the health of dogs which are already affected by BOAS and to create breeding tools that will help breeders make informed choices and ultimately breed healthier puppies.

View the Cambridge BOAS research group's current research.

Specialist clinic for short muzzled dogs

The RVC has the only specialist clinic in UK for brachycephalic dog breeds, also known as short-muzzled or short-nosed dogs. Brachycephalic dogs can suffer from long-term health problems that affect their breathing, eyes, bones and gait, heart, skin and ears.

Find out more about the specialist clinic for short-muzzled dogs.

Article author

This article was written by Dr. Rowena Packer from the Royal Veterinary College who has given The Kennel Club kind permission to replicate this article. Dr. Rowena Packer is a Research Fellow at the Royal Veterinary College. Her research interests include many areas of canine inherited disease including brachycephalic health and canine epilepsy.

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!

We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice. If you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.

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