Caring For a Brachycephalic Dog Breed

caring for a brachycephalic dog

I have had to care for some brachycephalic dog breeds and have asked owners if they are a challenge to care for.  Many have said it’s not as long as you aware of a few things.   I have asked them to share those with me so that I can share it with you.  But first, what is Brachycephalic syndrome and what dog breeds are considered to have it.  According to the VCA Hospital website, brachycephalic airway syndrome refers to a particular set of upper airway abnormalities that affects brachycephalic dogs. The upper airway abnormalities that occur in this syndrome include stenotic nares, an elongated soft palate, a hypo-plastic trachea and everted laryngeal saccules. An individual dog with brachycephalic syndrome may be affected with a combination of one or more of these abnormalities.

Many flat face dogs may have the syndrome.  Dogs such as Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas have it. Other brachycephalic breeds include Chow Chows, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Bull Mastiffs, and English Toy Spaniels. Because the flat face is so popular, these dogs have been bred for their looks, but many suffer from airway issues as a result. The flat face is the result of a smaller upper jaw, in which the tissues inside are bigger than the jaw can allow. All of the airway issues that can result from this overcrowding are collectively referred to as “brachycephalic airway syndrome.” (

So if you have these type of dogs, what are the signs to look for?  Some dogs may exhibit snoring, snorting, coughing, regurgitation, gagging and/or vomiting.  Many pet parents have said that stress or overheating can make symptoms worse.

It’s important to take your dog to the vet if you see an increase in any of the above symptoms.  There are a few things owners can do to prevent some of those symptoms.  Those include not over feeding your dog.  You should provide them with small meals throughout the day, as opposed to giving them one or two large meals.  This will also help maintain their body weight.  Also, use a harness instead of a collar, this avoids pressure on the trachea.

It’s important to follow these suggestions. In a crisis situation your dog may not be able to take deep or fast enough breaths to blow off carbon dioxide. This leads to distress and further increases respiratory rate and heart rate, creating a vicious circle that can quickly lead to a life-threatening situation.  Dogs experiencing a crisis situation due to brachycephalic syndrome typically benefit from oxygen, cool temperatures, sedatives, and in some cases more advanced medical intervention including intubation. (

Many brachycephalic breeds may have dental, as well as ocular issues so it’s important to take your dog to see the vet regularly.  Also, if you are thinking about air travel, please speak to your doctor.  Brachycephalic dogs are more likely to die during air travel and have been banned by many airlines. (

Do you own a brachycephalic breed?  Feel free to share in the comments below.