Short-muzzled breeds of dogs and cats such as but not limited to Pugs, French and English Bulldogs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Shihtzus, Cavalier King Charles spaniels and Persian cats are called brachycephalic which means ‘short head’. These completely adorable breeds are becoming more popular since they are generally lower energy pets that don’t demand much exercise, which is appealing, especially to those with restricted available space.
Not all brachycephalic breeds will suffer health problems but many of them do and unfortunately, as the Spring and Summer approach, more of these pets will require veterinary treatment.
Short muzzled breeds and pet are at risk of developing Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. This syndrome makes breathing more challenging as the windpipe is often deformed and narrowed and the tissue around the nose and throat which is squished into a smaller space can partially block the airway.
It is important to recognise any signs of breathing difficulty in these breeds as early as possible because as the weather continues to heat up, these pets respiratory challenge increases. Signs of your brachycephalic pet becoming compromised include an increase in laboured and noisy breathing, gagging, drooling, and distress with exercise.
Other health issues affecting these breeds include heart problems, skin fold dermatitis and dental issues. Giving birth can also present problems and caesarians are commonly required because large heads make a natural birth difficult.
If you are the owner of a brachycephalic pet, it is very important to seek frequent veterinary examinations to identify ways to help make your pet as comfortable as possible and to generate a plan should they become compromised in the hot weather. Its also a good idea to keep them as cool as possible (ideally in the air conditioned indoors during the summer time), limit any exercise to cool parts of the day and to calm and cool your pet with wet towels should they show signs of respiratory stress. It’s critical to seek veterinary advice as early as possible should your brachycephalic pet develop any degree of respiratory distress.
Pet owners of these breeds are advised to consult with a veterinarian about long term management of airway issues and discuss potential surgical options for potential resolution of any airway challenges.
For those people looking to adopt a brachycephalic pet, it is important to understand their health risk and to prepare for the potential of high level veterinary care.