Breed Tips

What are the Brachycephalic Dog Breeds?

Have you ever seen a dog that looks like it ran straight into a wall at full speed, saw the face in the mirror and decided to keep it that way? If yes, then there’s a high chance you’ve come across a Brachycephalic dog.  

This may sound like a spell from ‘Harry Potter’ but is actually a term for dogs with short and broad skulls. Or you can just call them ‘squishy-faced’. To give you a better picture, imagine a child of a Bulldog and a Bulldozer. And if you think Kim Kardashian has the best pout, you haven’t seen one of them pout.

What is a Brachycephalic Dog?

Brachycephalic is a term used by vets to describe a short-nosed or flat-faced dog. The word finds its origin from the Greek language and is a combination of two words meaning ‘short’ and ‘head’. Dogs that come under this category have a muzzle that looks like it has been flattened or squashed inwards. And the bottom jaw is usually longer than the upper one. 

There are 24 dog breeds that are categorized in this. Many of them appear in the top breeds of different countries. Some of the most popular ones include – (1)

  • French Bulldog

Talking about topping charts, French Bulldogs or Frenchies are the most popular dog breeds in the US. These flat-faced tiny canines are very charming and can adapt to various lifestyles. 

  • Shih Tzu 

These small dogs belonging to Chinese Royalties are extremely social, friendly and cute. With a cheerful nature, they’ve cheered up the hearts of millions around the world. 

  • Pug

Another dog from the Chinese empire, Pug is an ancient breed, bred to be a loyal human companion. They won’t fail to make you laugh throughout the day. The best part is that they can adjust to almost all kinds of lifestyles.

Other common Brachycephalic dog breeds include – 

  • Pekingese

  • Affenpinschcer

  • Boxer 

  • Cane Corso

  • Boston Terrier

  • Japanese Chin

  • Chow Chow

  • Bullmastiff

  • Lhasa Apso

Are Brachycephalic Dogs in Pain?

Brachycephalic dogs are often seen struggling with respiratory issues because of their short snouts. They usually struggle to breathe during intense physical activities or hot weather. This causes excessive panting in them. You may even see them make snoring or snorting sounds, both while awake and during sleep. They can be signs of probable respiratory discomfort. 

As a caring pet owner, you must keep checking for signs of discomfort. Gagging or retching, particularly after eating or drinking, for example, can be a sign of problems with the throat or airways. (2)

Are Flat-Faced Dogs Healthy?

We, humans, have been breeding brachycephalic dogs for hundreds of years only for the reason that we find them cute and adorable. Some even say that the facial features of these dogs look like those of human babies. However, for the dog, being brachycephalic can mean being prone to certain medical issues including respiratory, eye, skin, ear, reproductive, dental, and spinal problems, as well as heat and exercise intolerance. 

Here are the most common health issues they face – (3) (4)

  • BOAS or brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome 

A common condition found in these dogs. Even normal breathing can be difficult for dogs with this condition.

  • Heart problems 

Short and narrow airways cause labored breathing in these dogs. This eventually leads to lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, which puts a strain on the dog’s heart making them more susceptible to heart problems. 

  • Dental problems

Brachycephalic dogs have a shorter upper jaw, but the number of teeth (42 in adults) remains the same. This can cause the teeth to overlap because of the smaller area which indeed increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 

  • Digestive issues

Their disproportionate facial structure also causes problems with chewing and swallowing and hence digestion. Reflux and vomiting are often seen in these breeds. 

  • Skin and ear problems

The disproportionate shape of their heads causes deep skin folds around the eyes and narrow ear canals. These are, hence, poorly ventilated making them prone to yeast infections. 

  • Birthing

Caesarean births are very common in such dogs, especially English and French bulldogs. This is because of the pup’s large head and the mother’s comparatively smaller birth canal. Without assistance, bulldog mothers are highly likely to die along with their offspring. 

  • Neurological problems

The compressed skull can also be a reason for neurological problems in these dogs. Syringomyelia, a condition where cavities or cysts form in the spinal cord is most often seen in Cavalier King Charles spaniels.  

What is the Life Expectancy of a Flat-Faced Dog?

Small dogs usually have a higher life expectancy of around 13-15 years as compared to the 8-10 years of big dogs. But in the case of Brachycephalic dogs, the average life expectancy is around 8-10 years given the multiple health issues they are prone to. 

Having said that, the lifespan may depend on various other factors such as diet, nutrition, lifestyle, physical and mental exercise, and most importantly, love. 

More About Spot Pet Insurance

There are no two opinions about these dogs being one of the cutest out there. But we do understand why you must be thinking twice before getting one of them home. But do not worry. You can take care of the lifestyle, nutrition and the love part. We’ll take care of the finances related to their treatments when needed. 

With pet health insurance, you can save up to 90% of the vet costs. With Spot Pet, you can get much more. 

Spot accident and illness plans can be used with any licensed vet in Canada or the U.S. Whether you are home, or traveling to the U.S., veterinary services your pet receives for the diagnosis, treatment, or management of covered conditions can be eligible for reimbursement. Spot’s accident and illness plans can help cover a variety of conditions including broken bones, lacerations, aggression, kidney disease, diabetes, and more. With the addition of Wellness Riders for an extra cost, you can also receive reimbursements for wellness exams, certain vaccinations, dental cleanings, and more. 

Learn more about dog insurance or get a free quote!


  1. Ushi, G., DVM. (2023, December 22). 15 Flat-Faced Dog breeds. PetMD.

  2. Reidy, S. (2024, June 13). Brachycephalic dogs: Characteristics & Challenges | BetterVet. BetterVet.

  3. Vetic. (2023, May 31). Brachycephalic dog breeds: How to keep your pug, lhasa apso, shih tzu and boxer pup healthy? Vetic | Pet Care Reimagined.

  4. Cross, B. (n.d.). Things to think about before buying a flat-faced (brachycephalic) dog. Blue Cross.

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