Flat-faced dogs: Advice for owners

Recognising your flat-faced dog has a health problem is the first step to making things better and improving their health and welfare.

Problems to be aware of

As the owner of flat-faced dog, it’s really important to find out more about the health problems they can suffer from. This will help you spot the warning signs and get help for your pet.

The biggest health concern for these breeds are breathing problems. Common signs of this are:

  • snorting
  • snoring

Read more about the problems some flat-faced dogs can have and the symptoms to look out for.

What to do if your dog has breathing problems

The first step is to take your dog to the vet. Before your vet can solve the problem, they need to know exactly what’s wrong. There are a range of tests available to vets, including:

  • Examining your dog for the common signs and symptoms.
  • Scans to look at their airways.
  • Inserting a camera down their airway.
  • Referral to BOAS specialists for testing and treatment.

Treatment options

Your vet will be able to talk you through all the treatment options available and what’s best for your dogs. Treatment will depend on what problems them have and how severe they are.

Weight loss

If your dog only has mild breathing problems, your vet may recommend lifestyle changes if your dog is overweight. Losing a bit of weight can make considerable improvements. Your vet will talk your through the right diet and exercise programme for your dog. You can also read our advice on keeping your dog’s weight in check.

An operation to open up the nostrils

If your dog has narrow nostrils (their nostrils look more like slits than round holes) your vet might want to operate on them. Opening up their nostrils should help your dog to take in more air with every breath.

An operation on their soft palate

Your dog’s soft palate is a soft piece of skin at the back of their mouth (humans have one too). If this palate is too long, it can block their airway and cause breathing problems. Your vet might want to operate on your dog to shorten this palate which will mean it stops causing a problem.

Keeping your dog healthy

If you have a dog with a flat-face – like a Pug, Bulldog or French Bulldog – it’s important to keep an eye on their overall health. This will help you spot any signs that they’ve got a serious health problem.

  • Watch their weight. Being overweight or obese can make their breathing problems worse so it’s important to keep their weight in check.
  • Don’t exercise them too much in one go. Flat-faced dogs need exercise but can struggle to do long exercise sessions or very high energy activities. Give them lots of time to recover their breath.. Take a look at our guide to exercising your dog.
  • Help them stay cool in hot weather. Dogs don’t sweat so the only way they can cool themselves down is by panting. Flat-faced dogs can struggle to cool themselves down like this so avoid taking them out in really hot weather.
  • Check their skin regularly. Flat-faced dogs usually have a lot of fold and wrinkles around their nose and face. These can get infected so keep an eye out of any red or sweaty patches.
  • Look out for eye problems. Flat-faced dogs often have eyes that bulge out slightly. This is because the shape of their skull is so different from dogs with a longer snout. Their eyes are more likely to get injured or infected so check them regularly for any unusual tears or discharge.
  • Be aware of the signs of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). This is a range of health problems that cause your dog to have breathing problems.

Flat faced breeds

Dogs like these have become really popular but there hasn’t always awareness of the health problems they can have.

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