A sleepy looking blonde french bulldog laying on white bedding

Brachycephalic Buddies

A black and white Boston terrier looking sheepishly through the wooden slats of a handrailing

Brachycephalic (or "short-headed") breeds include bulldogs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, Brussels Griffons, Pekingnese, and any other breed with a shortened snout. Unfortunately, many of the same traits we find so appealing in these breeds can cause them to struggle through their daily lives with a condition called brachycephalic airway syndrome. Those snores and snorts may seem cute, but they can indicate a larger problem. Signs that your buddy may be suffering include:

  1. dyspnea (breathing difficulty)
  2. noisy/labored breathing
  3. stridor (high pitched wheezing)
  4. continued open-mouth breathing
  5. extending of head and neck to keep airway open
  6. sitting up or keeping chin in an elevated position when sleeping
  7. sleeping with toy between teeth to keep mouth open
  8. cyanosis (blue/purple discoloration of the skin, due to poor blood oxygenation)
  9. sleep apnea
  10. exercise, stress and heat intolerance
  11. snoring/gagging/choking/regurgitation/vomiting
  12. collapse

Symptoms progress with age and typically become severe when your pet reaches 1 year. Luckily, there are lots of ways to help your buddy! One of the most important things you can do for your pet (brachycephalic or not!) is help them maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can add pressure to an already strained airway.

One of the major causes of airway obstruction in brachycephalic breeds is stenotic nares (or narrow nostrils), which can be corrected surgically. Our veterinarians can advise you on whether your buddy is a good candidate for this procedure.

Stenotic Nares

A drawing of a sad pug with tightly closed nares and a happy pug with post operative opened nares.

Stenotic nares is an extremely common congenital narrowing of the nostrils. Imagine trying to breathe through a pinched nose and you'll get an idea of how a dog with stenotic nares feels with every breath! The good news is the correction of stenotic nares is simple and minimally invasive. It can be done at the same time as another surgery such as spay and neuter or it may be recommended on it's own. The wings on either side of the nostril are snipped to widen the opening and ease breathing. Most brachycephalic breeds have some degree of stenosis and could benefit from evaluation for this procedure.

Other Common Conditions

Brachycephalic airway syndrome is one commonly seen health issue in brachycephalic breeds, but it's certainly not the only one. These special dogs tend to have many special needs!


That cute squishy face (and skull!) can mean trouble for your buddy's eyes. The bulging eyes of brachcephalic breeds can be prone a variety of different ailments. Dry eye, cherry eye (or third eyelid prolapse), entropion (the folding in of an outer eyelid that results in eyelashes damaging the cornea), and even proptosis ("popping out" of the socket) are all seen more commonly among brachycephalic breeds than others. Treatment of eye maladies can be as simple as daily eye drops or as complex as eye removal or blindness.


Those adorable skin folds that we all love in flat-faced breeds can cause issues for their skin. They can trap moisture and debris and can be a hot spot for infections if not regularly kept clean. Many brachycephalic breeds also suffer from allergies, making their skin issues all the more complicated. Read more about allergies and their treatment : Pet Allergies A sweet looking white and brown English bulldog with an underbite and crooked and missing teeth.

Dental Health

Short snouted dogs have the same number of teeth as other dogs (42!), which makes for some serious crowding! Crooked, overlapping teeth are common and can make periodontal disease more likely. Proper tooth brushing at home and regular dental care at the vet is a must to keep your buddy's mouth clean and pain-free!

Luxating Patella

Medial luxating patella is a condition in which the patella, or knee cap, dislocates from its normal position. Patellar luxation can cause pain and lameness and the most severe cases do require surgery.

Corkscrew Tail

Corkscrew tail is a genetic condition most common in bulldogs. Due to a malformation of vertebrae in the tail, it can cause chronic discomfort and infection of the area around the anus, as well as partially blocking bowel movements and anal gland expression. Surgically removing the problematic part of the tail is curative.

Despite their issues, these breeds are some of the sweetest, funniest, most irresistible pups on the planet. We will help you ensure your brachycephalic buddy leads the happiest and healthiest life possible!