April 15, 2021

Common Health Issues For Flat-Faced Dogs

Eating too much, harmful junk food diets, and being lazy couch potatoes – no, we’re not talking about our fellow humans, we’re talking about our pets. 

by John Woods

Photo by Parker Amstutz on Unsplash


Pet obesity is on the rise, with many countries reporting that obesity afflicts as much as half of all pets. This means huge numbers of our furry pals face numerous health issues, with some more at risk than others.


Flat-faced breeds of dogs such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Mastiffs are at a higher risk of developing the effects of being overweight. While all dogs are at risk of obesity, these flat-faced breeds are particularly vulnerable and are more likely to develop fatal health problems associated with being overweight. 


Here are some of the health issues associated with flat-faced dogs that you need to know.



The shocking obesity statistics


A recent US survey has revealed that more than half of American pets are overweight, with one veterinarian stating, “Obesity is the single biggest threat to our pets’ health.” 


It’s a similar story around the world; according to PDSA, 48% of dogs in the UK are overweight, and further studies show that almost half of the Australian pets are overweight. 


The risks of obesity in flat-faced dog breeds has been declared by the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) as a potential health hazard. The group, who is made up of experts in dog health and welfare, veterinary organizations, and kennel clubs, is urging owners to be vigilant when it comes to the care and health of their flat-faced canines. 


“Obesity is one of the most common disorders affecting our dogs, according to Royal Veterinary College VetCompass research. But while obesity can harm any dog, it is of particular concern for flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs,” says Chair of the BWG, Dr. Dan O’Neill.


Dogster gives a useful list of flat-faced breeds:

  • Affenpinscher
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bulldog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • English Mastiff
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • French Bulldog
  • Japanese Chin
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu
  • Tibetan Spaniel



Health issues associated with overweight flat-faced dog breeds

Dr O’Neil continues, “Many of these dogs already struggle to breathe freely because of their squashed faces, which leads to snoring and noisy breathing. Consequently, excess body weight with fat deposits in the neck and chest only worsens these breathing problems in flat-faced dogs.”

Heart issues, arthritis, diabetes, lung and kidney failure, and even cancer are all risks associated with obesity in pets. And given the unique issues relating to short-nose dogs like Pugs, obesity can be a death trap.

As these breathless breeds gain more popularity thanks to social media, animal welfare experts are warning pet owners about the potential calamity an unhealthy lifestyle can have on their pets. 

Pugs and French Bulldogs have been glorified by celebrities and the media, their squash-in faces and big eyes a drawcard for many people looking to buy or adopt a pet. But many pet owners aren’t aware that these breeds’ scrunched skulls and snouts leave very little space to breathe. 


Flat-faced dog breeds and travel

Even in healthy short-nose breeds, breathing can be labored due to this anatomical affliction. It is why those who are looking to travel with their pets are warned against bringing their flat-faced pup with them. 

Many airlines are now banning the travel of these dog breeds due to increased health risks associated with their breathing. Naturally, obesity intensifies these issues as the need to carry extra weight makes breathing even more difficult.

If flat-face dogs become obese, they can become starved of oxygen, leading to fainting and even the long-term weakening of throat structures such as the larynx, causing them to narrow or even collapse. 


Treatment and prevention

Because these specific dog breeds’ symptoms are exacerbated by obesity, the first line of defense in treating an overweight dog is to be put on a weight management plan. 

Like all creatures – including humans – frequent exercise and a balanced diet are the two main components to preventing obesity and its potential health risks in dogs. Many pet experts advise feeding your wonderful flat-faced friend a breed-specific dog food. 

For example, a typical 13lb flat-faced Shih Tzu may only need 420 calories a day, while a typical flat-faced, working Bulldog requires 1700 calories to be healthy. 

In contrast, a typical Rottweiler weighing 110lb – who doesn’t fall under the flat-faced breed – consumes a staggering 2100 calories per day. 


Photo by Nikolay Tchaouchev on Unsplash


“Prevention is always better than cure. But even if pets are already overweight or obese, the good news is that it can be reversed with the right diet and exercise advice from veterinary professionals”, says Dr. O’Neill.

Pets are often regarded as family members, and it is the pet owners responsibility to make sure that their four-legged friend is being cared for properly. For those with flat-faced breeds, this need for proper care is amplified. 


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