What Is the Meaning of Brachycephalic Breed?

by Jodi Thornton O'Connell
    Brachycephalic dogs, such as this pug, have characteristically short faces.

    Brachycephalic dogs, such as this pug, have characteristically short faces.

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    Pushed-in faces are the hallmark of brachycephalic breeds such as Boston terriers, Pekingese, boxers, bulldogs, Shih Tzus and pugs. Brachycephalic is a term rooted in the Greek language that means "short head." Dogs of brachycephalic breeds come with cute faces, but they require extra care or your pooch will suffer from a host of health problems.

    Nearly every brachycephalic breed is prone to some aspect of brachycephalic respiratory syndrome; an elongated soft palate causes those endearing snorting sounds and not-so-endearing snoring. Narrowed nostrils and windpipe are also common. Because of the compressed respiratory system, dogs are inefficient at cooling themselves through panting and can succumb easily to heat stroke as their airways become inflamed from the effort.

    Shallow eye sockets on the shortened head can result in the eyes protruding so far that the eyelid is unable to close completely. A blow sustained to the back of the head during rough play can result in an eye being knocked from its socket or becoming misaligned. Other conditions can include the eyelid rubbing on the eye or improper tear drainage.

    Brachycephalic dogs frequently have trouble giving birth -- because of the broad heads of the whelping puppies. As pups develop, their shortened mouths struggle to fit all 42 teeth, sometimes resulting in crooked teeth that easily collect bacteria and lead to periodontal disease at a young age. Another thing to watch for is redness in the loose skin folds on the face and body, which can signal skin infection.

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    About the Author

    Jodi Thornton O'Connell has been an outdoorswoman for more than 45 years. She shares her love of adventure in columns for "Out-and-About Magazine," "Adam’s Rib," "Senior Christian Lifestyles," "Creede Magazine" and various websites.

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