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Caring for a Brachycephalic Pet

May 15, 2021

Is your dog or cat brachycephalic? Several of our canine companions are brachycephalic, including the Boston Terrier (learn more about this breed on Boston Terrier Day), English Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles, French Bulldog, English Mastiff, Pekinese, Pug, and Shih Tzu. Cats can also be brachys. The Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese are most likely to be brachys. A local veterinarian discusses caring for a brachy below.

Health Issues

Brachys are adorable, as those squished faces have a lot of character. Unfortunately, as you may know, that charming appearance comes with a price. Brachys often have trouble getting enough airflow through their short nasal passages. This can be very dangerous, as your pet can easily get out of breath, sometimes after just mild exertion. These guys should not be encouraged to run or swim.


There are operations that can correct two of the common issues caused by brachycephaly: elongated soft palate and malformed nostrils. These problems often lead to severe respiratory issues, including shortness of breath, snoring, gagging, coughing, trouble eating, and vomiting. Some brachys will benefit from surgery. That said, every pet is different, so this is definitely not an across-the-board recommendation. For more information about surgical options for brachycephalic pets, visit our Veterinary Surgery page. Ask your veterinarian for more information tailored to your pet’s specific needs.


You’ll need to use a harness, rather than a collar, on a brachycephalic dog. It’s much too easy for collars to cut off your furry friend’s airflow. To be fair, this can happen with any dog. However, it’s extremely common—and dangerous—for brachys.


You’ll need to keep your pet at a healthy weight. Fido and Fluffy are already short of breath: if they become overweight, they’ll be panting and exhausted after even mild activity. Obesity will make it even harder for your pet to stay strong and healthy.


Many brachys have skin folds. These can collect dust, dirt, oil, and bacteria, which can cause irritation. You’ll need to keep your pet’s skin clean. Follow your vet’s instructions.


Overheating is also especially concerning with brachys. Fluffy and Fido can’t sweat, and panting won’t cool them off as efficiently as it would other dogs and cats. Your four-legged friend can get into serious trouble very quickly in hot weather. Make sure they always have fresh water. It’s also best to keep your furry pal cool and comfy indoors when it’s really hot out, in rooms cooled by fans and/or AC. Fido shouldn’t swim, but he may enjoy splashing around in a kiddy pool, or playing in the spray from a hose or sprinkler. Like any other pet, your brachy may also appreciate a cold treat on hot days.

Do you have questions or concerns about brachys? Contact us, your veterinary clinic in Peterborough, ON!