What Is the Meaning of Brachycephalic Breed?

by Jodi O'Connell Google
    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.

    Respiratory Issues

    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.

    Eye Problems

    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.

    Other Concerns

    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

    A former world-class swimmer, Jodi O'Connell shares her love of adventure travel, extreme sports and pets through thousands of published articles. O'Connell studied journalism at Grand Canyon University, and brings professional experience raising farm animals, training mustangs and running a pet sitting service. She authors the blog, Traveling With Large Dogs.

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