Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds and issues

Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs, have become increasingly popular in recent years. For example,  39,266 French bulldog puppies were registered with the Kennel Club in 2020, compared to 33,661 in 2019. Overall, the number of French bulldogs is up 2,700% since 2004. However, many owners aren’t aware that the ‘cute’ way they look can cause serious and often life-limiting health problems and compromise their welfare.

Brachycephaly refers to a short skull shape, which gives the appearance of a flattened face. It can affect dogs, cats, rabbits, and other species.

Health and welfare problems associated with brachycephaly include:

  • Anatomical defects of the upper airway causing breathing difficulties often associated with overheating, sleep apnoea, and regurgitation, eg Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)
  • Eye disease
  • Inability to mate or give birth naturally (requiring Caesarean section)
  • Repeated skin infections
  • Dental problems
  • Dogs that are affected may require regular visits to the vet and corrective surgery.

A survey given to Vets resulted in a consensus that the majority of people who own brachycephalic dogs aren’t able to recognise their pet’s breed-related health issues.

We have been advised by our governing body, BVA, to help educate our clients regarding Brachycephalic breeds.

Below are some national figures that potential owners should be aware of before purchasing a Puppy.

Orchard House Veterinary Centres Say

We would never tell our clients what breed they should or should not welcome into their lives, unless asked of course. However, we must point out facts, not guesses and we must point out the “Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to us” facts. As with every breed, you should do your research and be able to confidently answer yes to the following questions.

  • Can I afford to purchase this dog?
  • Can I afford to pay monthly insurance? (remember, £15 a month is for a healthy and young dog. Always keep in mind policy premiums can multiply with age, claims and inflation)
  • If my insurance excludes a condition, which is becoming increasingly common in Brachycephalic breeds, can I afford the Veterinary treatment for this breed?
  • Do I understand the breed and the needs of that breed? Not just when it is a puppy, but when it is an adult?
  • Does my lifestyle suit welcoming a dog into my life? Can I invest the time and money needed in giving this dog the best life possible?

If you can answer yes to all of those questions, great! But the hard work just begins! Make sure you do the following, especially with Brachycephalic breeds.

  • When visiting your potential puppy, make sure you see the bitch and dog, or at least one of them.
  • Always visit the home environment of the puppy, never “buy blind”. Imagine buying a Ferrari for £500 thinking it is a great deal only to find out it doesn’t have an engine!
  • Use a reputable breeder, ideally someone you either know or someone you know of through friends, family or reputation.
  • You can ask the breeder to view the breeding parents animal history, however they do not have to disclose this. A reputable breeder would have no concerns over proving the line of health in their dogs. Again, imagine your car is worth £5,000 but fails it’s M.O.T the week before you sell it. Is it still worth £5,000? It is if you don’t mention the fact it needs 4 new tyres and a new alternator! You would naturally want to buy a car that has had it’s M.O.T – why would a pet be any different!?

If the above checks out then the first thing to do is book a puppy health check with your vet, we offer your Puppies first consultation free of charge. We also offer 4 weeks immediate cover with Pet Plan. Let your puppy settle in first so give it a couple of days before booking an appointment. Your Vet will give a thorough health examination.

What if my Vet detects a problem?

The first thing to do is follow your vet’s advice. Depending on what the problem is, a bespoke estimate can be given. We always recommend informing the breeder, as it could be a defect in the bitches line, or something they are not aware of. Unfortunately, a Vet cannot be involved in a legal dispute, though diagnosis’s can be disclosed and an animal history but with no involvement in a legal dispute. It is worth noting, if the problem is detected at the point of consult, your 4 weeks free insurance MAY exclude this as it was found before the cover was activated, and they only allow policy activation AFTER a Veterinary consultation. However in our experience, this is not always the case, but do be aware this may be the case.


So again, we would never say don’t welcome a specific breed into your lives but you must be aware of the costs involved with all dogs but be even more aware that Veterinary Science and our governing body have identified that Brachycephalic breeds are much more likely to develop problems and will cost an owner a significant amount of money. Overbreeding is such an issue and even more so over the last 18 months.