September 12, 2012
Brachycephalic. Big word, but what does it mean, and how does it pertain to dogs? Brachycephalic comes from the Greek words “Brachy” (which means short) and “cephalic” (which means head). Brachycephalic dogs are ones with a flatter face, or more accurately, they are dogs with a normal lower jaw and a compressed upper jaw.
Most people are familiar with breeds like the Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Shih tsu, Pekingese, Boxer Pug. They are characterized by their smooshed face. These breeds have another thing in common – they can all suffer from ailments typical for this type of head. Some seem funny, such as the snorting noises the dogs make, but others are very serious, even deadly. If you own a brachy or are planning on getting one in the future, you should be aware of potential health risks.
Brachy’s are far more likely to suffer from heat strokes than other dogs. Panting helps a dog cool off when overheated, and brachy’s are not efficient panters. This can lead to heat stroke or even death if not caught soon enough. Always protect your brachy from the heat.
Tracheal Stenosis is a fancy way to say narrow windpipe. Tracheal Stenosis creates an anesthetic risk, so prior to any surgery your brachy should have x-rays so your vet can determine if any extra precautions are in order.
Due to the shape of the head, brachy breeds have very shallow eye sockets, which is why their eyes appear to bulge out of their face. Any sort of blow to the back of the head, or pulling on a leash fastened to their collar, can actually make their eyeball pop out of the head. This would require surgical intervention to replace it. For this reason, brachy’s should wear harnesses, rather than collars, when on leash. Occasionally a brachy dog has eyelids that don’t completely cover the eyeball, which results in dry eyes. Your vet can correct this quite easily with surgery.
Many brachy’s have skin folds on their face and extra care must be taken. Clean the skin folds with a damp cloth so irritation and infection doesn’t develop. If you start cleaning the folds at an early age, your dog will sit calmly through the process.
These are a few of the special needs that are common in any brachycephalic breed. But don’t let these concerns deter you; the brachy breeds are delightful, fun-loving dogs with a lot of personality and that cute smooshy face is hard to resist. With awareness and caution your brachy will be a healthy, valued member of your family for years to come.