Even though the words (squashed face, shortened muzzle) used to describe a dog's look might not sound pleasant, brachycephalic dogs are adorably cute. Brachycephalic dogs are not a specific breed — it's a term that covers a number of dogs whose facial features are noticeably compressed. This can include many types of spaniels and bulldogs, not to mention the pug. While your dog's brachycephalic attributes can result in a distinctively cute face, the condition isn't limited to their physical appearance. Would you know if your brachycephalic dog is experiencing poor health directly related to their condition?
Although the brachycephalic attributes of your dog are naturally occurring, it doesn't mean that they're harmless. Generations of selective breeding have resulted in many aspects of your dog's development becoming affected. Their seemingly squashed facial features also mean that certain parts of their anatomy can likewise be compressed. Their nostrils and trachea can be excessively narrow, and this can impede their breathing. There's little that you could have done, since this is the result of generations of selective breeding, which sought to retain the appealing physical characteristics of these dogs.
In short, brachycephalic dogs are at risk of oxygen starvation. Given the reduced capacity of their airways, they often have more difficulty in drawing in air than a non-brachycephalic dog. Even non-intensive exercise can be troubling for some brachycephalic dogs. Any dog is likely to pant after exercise, but this can be far more pronounced in brachycephalic dogs, whose breathing can become labored. If this labored breathing doesn't subside, and if it's accompanied by disorientation, light-headedness, or even fainting, your dog requires immediate treatment, and you should transport them to the nearest animal hospital.
Treatment and Testing
This immediate treatment will involve resuscitating your dog if needed, often along with providing supplemental oxygen. Additional testing will be needed to gauge the severity of your dog's brachycephalic-related health condition, but this might be scheduled for a later date, allowing your dog ample recovery time. This testing can include an exercise tolerance test (seeing how much physical activity your dog can perform before encountering breathing difficulties). Additionally, your vet might perform a CT scan to view the internal structures of your dog's skull and cardiovascular system. The likely outcome is that your dog will require a specific diet and exercise plan that accommodates their brachycephalic attributes without causing problems.
Parents of brachycephalic dogs need to be aware that simple, fundamental tasks (such as receiving sufficient oxygen) can become difficult for their dog and that this needs to be carefully monitored.