Short-snout Dogs



Flat-Faced Breeds

This article is posted as part of PGAA’s curation efforts. This was originally posted at Essential Dogs



Lauren, a very special family friend just got two Lhasa Apso puppies. She named them Bear and Boo. Many breeds have issues that go along with the territory. Lhasas have short muzzles. There are things that Lauren needs to be aware of concerning this a breed with this characteristic. Lauren loves her puppies very much and I am confident that she is going to raise the happiest and healthiest dogs possible.

Flat-faced or short-snouted dogs include Shih-Tzus, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Boston Terriers, Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. The veterinary community refers to these faces using the medical term, brachycephalic to describe their facial structure. That term is used to describe breeds that have flat facial structure. The shorter and stockier breeds tend to have more issues than the bigger breeds like the Boxer.

Although their faces could be irresistibly cute, there are things to be cautious about. These breeds have short muzzles and compact skulls. Their respiratory systems is compressed and their airways are narrow. Weak or abnormally formed tracheal cartilage is not uncommon in these breeds. They tend to have elongated soft palates and short airways. Their nostrils tend to be tighter than non-brachycephalic breeds. This less than ideal structure leads to snoring, snorting, wheezing, and reverse sneezing. Their respiratory systems not as efficient as their non- brachycephalic friends and there are several issues to be aware of. There are things to be cautious of and there are ways to avoid dangers. Let’s make life easier and more comfortable for our friends!

Temperature & Weather:

When dogs need to cool off, one way in which they do so is by panting. Because their respiratory systems lack efficiency, they are more likely to overheat and bad-weather cropped suffer from heatstroke. When outside on very hot days, if this breed is panting excessively, be aware. This is a sign that this dog is overheating and they are not able to get enough oxygen. Cool water and shade help to cool them off. In extreme weather conditions, this breed needs to spend more time in places where the temperature is cool enough so they are not panting excessively. Panting can lead to heatstroke, collapsing, and possibly death. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature is essential for these dogs. Not only is hot weather problematic, but cold temperatures make breathing difficult for these breeds. Wind and high humidity present issues as such conditions would present problems for a person with asthma.

Collars & Harnesses:

Brachycephalic breeds are prone to tracheal collapse. I strongly suggest the use of harnesses with a leash as opposed to attaching the leash to a collar. In light of the challenges that these breeds face due to their structure, controlling this breed using a leash and collar could lead to further respiratory issues. Pulling on a leash attached to a collar will make breathing more difficult if the dog is pulling. Such breeds that pull on leashes risk tracheal collapse. To avoid problems, attach the leash onto a harness. Be sure to use a harness for walking and never pull the dog by the collar. Collars are for tags – NOT leashes! A collar mustn’t be tight. If you can slip 2 or 3 fingers in between the dog and the fastened collar without digging your fingers into the dog it should be a good fit. I use the Walk In Sync harness and leash set for my own dogs who do not have flat faces. I recommend these harnesses for all breeds because the support they provide is much more evenly distributed and more comfortable than the harnesses that support the dog’s chest with straps.

To shop for harnesses, go to Walk In Sync. It is by FAR the most innovative harness on the market today and provides the very best support. Its design was created to provide you with the most control for all dogs. It curbs pulling and jumping in the most humane way. There is no choking or any risk of physical damage to your dog. This is a must have product. I wrote a review on the Walk In Sync at the following link: The BEST Harness EVER! I also included it in my Favorite Products Page.

Eye Injuries & Dislocation:

Many Brachycephalic dogs have eyes to protruding eyes due to their compact facial structure. Their eyes sockets don’t hold their eyeballs as securely as breeds that are non-brachycephalic.

These breeds with bulging eyes sometimes have issues with eye lubrication because so much surface area of the eyeballs is exposed. As a result, if there is trauma to the eyes, the healing process usually takes longer than it would for non-brachycephalic breeds.

Excessive pressure to the head or around the neck can cause their eyeballs to dislocate. The eye sockets cannot withstand much pressure so dogs with protruding eyes are vulnerable.

Another eye issue occurs when the eyelashes grow into the eyes. It could be one little eyelash that is growing in the wrong direction that becomes a problem. If your dog is rubbing his face against anything like carpet for example, it could be a sign that the dog might have a hair growing in an uncomfortable direction.

As a result, eye injuries and issues are not uncommon. Just imagine this breed sniffing the ground. If a branch is sticking up, there is not much space between the eyes and the ground. Non-brachycephalic breeds have longer muzzles which allows their eyes to be further away from whatever they are sniffing.

It is very important to keep the folds that are near the eyes as clean and dry as possible. It is very common to see stains around those areas. This area is prone to infections (especially yeast). You may use warm water on a cotton ball or a cloth and then dry the area gently with a cloth. Be careful not to apply too much pressure because of the danger of dislocating the eyeballs. A dog’s diet is usually the biggest culprit for the issue of eye staining and infections that result. When the eyes are not kept clean and maintained, it affects the tear ducts which are vulnerable to clogging in many of these dogs. Antibiotics are the typical treatment, but a proper diet does wonders. My white dogs NEVER had staining.

Dental Issues:

Due to the lack of space in the oral cavity, many flat-faced dogs are prone to teeth crowding. Sometimes teeth need to be extracted because crowding can cause pressure and discomfort as baby teeth fall out and adult teeth replace them. When the oral cavity is crowded, it becomes a breeding ground for tartar and plaque which if ignored, can lead to gum disease and other infections. Inside the mouth there is great access to blood supply. Toxins inside the mouth travel to the bloodstream it is important to be aware of crowding of teeth.


It is especially not ideal for these dogs to lower their faces to a bowl on the floor. In that position, swallowing food or water further impairs their oral and respiratory functioning. It is best to invest in elevated bowls to make eating and drinking more natural for their structure. I use raised bowls for my own dogs who do not have flat faces. I recommend such feeding bowls for all breeds. These dogs do poorly if they are overweight. Extra weight puts additional stress on their respiratory systems. The image on the left shows traditional bowls which require the dog to hold his face downward while eating and drinking. You do NOT want this. You want the bowls to be raised above the floor so Fido can eat more comfortable based on his physical structure.

To shop for elevated bowls you can check out this great selection of raised bowls at Muttropolis.

All in All:

Although there are many issues associated with these breeds (particularly the smaller stockier varieties), but as long as owners are aware of the issues, they can keep their dogs safe and sound.


Essentially Dogs is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) veterinary treatment. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet is taking, including herbal remedies and supplements. Please do plenty of research so that you may equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to be an effective advocate for your dog’s well-being.