Canine brachycephaly (flat face) is a systematic welfare problem according to the latest research article in RSPCA Science Update 64.

Canine brachycephaly is a mutation that causes shortening of the skull and gives dogs such as Pugs and French Bulldogs their characteristic flattened face.  The popularity of these breeds is concerning, as brachycephaly causes a number of health and welfare problems including brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).  This is caused by anatomical abnormalities in the muzzle and throat, such as reduced nostril size, restriction of the airways and breathing.

Surgical intervention, such as widening the nostrils or removing soft tissue, can improve breathing and reduce the progression of BOAS. 90% of dogs show improved respiratory function after surgery, although 60% of these still have some form of breathing difficulty.

Canine Brachycephaly health issues

In addition to airway disease, there are many other conditions that occur more often in canine brachycephalic breeds than other breeds, which are often related to facial conformation including:

  • Difficulty thermoregulating due to their reduced ability to pant
  • Increased risk of eye trauma due to their protruding eyeballs and reduced ability to blink
  • Syringomyelia (skull is too small for the brain)
  • Spinal malformations associated with the screw-tail characteristic
  • Dermatological conditions due to the excessive skin folds
  • Orthopaedic conditions are also prevalent

Canine brachycephaly also impeded the ability of dogs to behave normally, with the extreme changes to their facial conformation limiting their ability to communicate with other dogs, chew their food, sleep with their mouth closed, or tolerate exercise and hot weather.