Dogs Trust

Flat Faced Dogs

French Bulldogs, Pugs and English Bulldogs are susceptible to multiple veterinary conditions due to the way they have been bred to produce the desired look of having a relatively broad, or short skull which can result in severe breathing difficulties.

Due to their large heads and broad chests, it can be common for these puppies not to fit through the birth canal and the mum has to undergo a c-section to deliver them.

We understand that people buying these breeds may be totally unaware of their potential suffering, so we are pleading with anybody considering a flat faced dog to please speak to their local Vet first.

In addition, these breeds are often afflicted with a condition called Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome or BOAS as its more commonly known. To put this in context, it can be akin to hiking up a mountain while trying to breathe through a straw. Brachycephalic breeds can endure all sorts of medical issues over the course of their life, resulting in a poorer quality of life for the dog, and high veterinary bills for their owner.

What is BOAS?  

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome can impact every dog differently. This occurs due to their short-nosed and flat facial shape and results in difficulty breathing (noisy breathing, increased breathing effort), exercise intolerance, increased risk of heatstroke and even gastrointestinal problems such as regurgitation.  

Specific features that might be encountered in a dog with BOAS include narrow nostrils, a long soft palate (located at the back of the mouth) and a narrow windpipe, however not all brachycephalic dogs will have these features.  

What do I do if I think my dog might have BOAS?  

If your dog is having breathing problems or showing signs that you think are consistent with BOAS, contact your vet. They will assess your dog for signs of BOAS and may refer them to a specialist if needed.  

How do you treat BOAS?  

Treatment for BOAS depends on the severity of the condition and will be guided by your vet. In mild cases, treatment can involve careful management, including making sure the dog is not overweight and taking care not to excessively exercise your dog, particularly in warm weather. In the summer months, walk them early in the morning or late in the evening to prevent them from getting heat stroke.  

In more severe cases, surgery may be required, which can be costly and can also be associated with severe complications. Consider getting pet insurance as soon as you get your dog, before any signs of illness start.  

How can I get a brachycephalic dog that doesn’t have health problems?  

All dogs can have health problems, but there are things you can do to ensure you’re buying your dog from a reputable breeder who takes breeding healthy puppies seriously.  

Do research to find out what health testing should be done for the breed you’re interested in and speak to your local vet/vet nurse to see if they have any reputable breeders as clients who they can refer you to.

Please avoid looking for dogs online as unscrupulous puppy farmers often very cleverly masquerade as reputable dog breeders and you can end up with a very sick dog as well as unintentionally condemning the parents to a lifetime of misery churning out litter after litter without the love, affection and care that every dog deserves.

See our Getting a Dog section for more information.