By Robin Rhea, Senior PetSafe Brand Manager
You either love ‘em or hate ‘em – those dogs with smushed in faces known as Brachys or Brachycephalic (meaning short head) breed dogs. These short-snouted breeds include Pugs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Boxers, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus. These dogs require an owner to be well educated on their dog’s special needs. So before you fall in love with a Brachy breed dog, there a few important factors you should know.
Keep them cool
The length of a dogs nose plays a major role in how effective their panting is and how quickly a dog is able to cool himself down. Because of their super short snouts, Brachy breeds can’t handle hot temperatures and have to work extra hard to cool down. Overheating and heat stress are the #1 risk for Brachys and can cause brain damage. It’s best to be OVERLY cautious about keeping your dog cool. For my French bull dog Buckley, I make a special effort to plan my outings with her very carefully during scorching Tennessee summers and in many cases its best for her to stay home in the AC.
Keep them trim
Being excessively overweight can make it more difficult for these dogs to take in air. As responsible pet owners of brachys, we don’t want to contribute to any additional complications when it comes to their breathing. Consult with your vet on the proper amount to feed your dog, watch giving them too many extra treats, and avoid rawhides all together. Rawhides can easily get stuck in their throats and it’s not pretty.
Keep them regularly active
Consider an Easy Walk Harness or Remote Trainer on walks and during playtime to avoid putting pressure on their throats which can also restrict their breathing. Brace yourself! Your brachy dog may snore worse than Grandpa. Nearly all brachys suffer from an elongated soft palate, where the soft tissue that separates the nasal passage from the mouth flaps down into the throat. This is what causes that “adorable” snoring. For most brachys, this condition is not severe enough to cause respiratory distress but it is an important watch out. The condition can be corrected surgically and a maintaining a healthy weight can help.
Keep them clean
Take care to clean in between those cute wrinkles and skin folds to avoid infection. Also take care to clean your brachys teeth regularly and at home. Those small mouths mean their teeth are often closer together and are more at risk for tooth decay. The more effort you can make to keep teeth clean at home, the less often you’ll have to have your dog go under anesthesia for dental care. Because of a brachys respiratory issues, it's best to limit anesthesia and sedation as much as possible.
Keep them forever
With these “special” factors, you may be surprised to find that these smushed in faces have their own cult following. That’s because the brachy's most unique feature of all is their personalities. They are entertaining, make excellent companions, and will completely light up your life. Having a brachy breed dog is a great choice if you have the awareness and willingness to care for them. These watch-outs may seem like a lot to take on with these breeds, but the benefits far outweigh any snorting, snoring, or general inconvenience in my Brachy book.
Robin Hawn is the Senior Brand Manager of the PetSafe Family of Brands for Radio Systems Corporation, head quartered in Knoxville, TN. She works to build a brand of products designed to give consumer more of the best moments they can possibly have with their pets. She has a MBA with a Marketing Emphasis, a B.A in English, and 10 years experience developing and launching marketing plans, brand strategy and PR campaigns across a variety of diverse industries. Her French bulldog Buckley typically logs the same hours at the office as Robin. She volunteers with the Most Pet Friendly Community initiative that has a mission of making Knoxville, TN the most pet friendly community in America.