Why Flat-faced Dogs Are At Higher Risk Of Obesity-related Issues

Obesity statistics for dogs are reflecting those for humans, with around one in five (18.9 percent) of dogs classified as obese and more one in three (36.9%) overweight. Whether owners are giving their canine companions too much food or too little exercise, the dog obesity rate is at epidemic levels. 

Obesity is linked to serious health risks for any type of dog. However, flat-faced dogs can be at even higher risk. Breathing problems are common in popular breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs, and excess body weight makes these issues even more serious. Owners of these flat-faced breeds need to take extra care with their dogs and keep them at a healthy weight.

The Health Risks And Issues That Accompany Obesity In Dogs

According to animal experts, pugs, English bulldogs, and other flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds are at special risk when it comes to obesity-related conditions. Obese dogs are already at higher risk of heart issues, arthritis, joint problems like elbow dysplasia, and diabetes. In addition, obesity brings with it the potential for a shortened life span and a lower quality of life.

Common Flat-faced Dog Breeds

The most common flat-faced breeds include French bulldogs, English bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus, mastiffs, and boxers. Obesity or overweight is a common disorder in pugs and bulldogs, even though the latter breed, who have an average weight of 54 lb (24.4 kg) can live on 1700 calories per day. For this reason, it’s wise to put your pooch on a specific dog breed pet food, so they receive the optimal calories. Common brachycephalic breeds include Affenpinscher, Brussels Griffon, Dogue de Bordeaux, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Brasileiro, and Pekingese.

If your dog is of a flat-faced breed, you might be aware that obesity further heightens the risk of breathing issues commonly associated with their breed. This is known as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) or brachycephalic syndrome. It’s common for dogs with BOAS to struggle to breathe normally.

Why Do Flat-faced Dogs Suffer From Breathing Issues?

So how does brachycephalic syndrome cause breathing issues in affected dogs? Flat-faced breeds have shorter muzzle bones in their skulls than other dogs. At the same time, the soft tissue around their mouths, noses, and throat hasn’t decreased in size. As a result, they have a lot of extra skin and other soft tissue around these areas, blocking or narrowing the airways. Their nostrils are narrower, which impedes inhaling. As such, these dog breeds tend to take in less oxygen with each breath. 

Compounding this is the fact dogs don’t sweat and rely on panting to regulate their temperatures. Dogs with shorter muzzles can’t cool themselves as effectively through panting and so are more likely to overheat, particularly if they’re obese. Related symptoms include overheating, exercise intolerance, and regurgitation or vomiting. Around half of the pugs, French bulldogs, and bulldogs have clinically significant signs of BOAS.

Snoring, snorting, or wheezing are some of the signs of BOAS. Dogs with BOAS are more likely to pant excessively and have labored heavy breathing. BOAS-affected dogs might not be able to exercise normally and might need frequent rests during exercise. In critical cases, BOAS-affected dogs might have blue or greyish gums and collapse due to oxygen deprivation.

Owners love their pets and are sometimes completely unaware their pet is overweight or even obese. Too much snacking, using food as a reward, and a lack of physical exercise can lead to weight gain worsening your dog’s susceptibility to breathing issues. 

How You Can Take Action 

The good news is obesity can be reversed. Pet welfare experts are urging owners to take action by helping their dogs lose weight. Speak to your veterinarian about portion control, changing your dog’s diet, and/or getting more physical activity into your dog’s day. If you’re traveling with your dog, be aware your dog could be at higher risk of issues when flying, and consider alternative options to air travel.

Also, ask your vet about diagnosing your dog for BOAS. If your dog has the brachycephalic syndrome, your vet can provide you with guidelines and tips to help you better support your dog. For more serious cases, your vet could prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and/or treat your dog with oxygen. The most serious cases might require surgery to improve airflow.

Obesity is becoming a major issue for pets. For brachycephalic breeds, the risk of health issues is even higher. All dog owners should track their dog’s weight and ensure their animal family member stays within a healthy weight range. 

If your dog belongs to a flat-faced breed, you’ll need to be aware of your dog’s increased risk when it comes to obesity worsening breathing issues. Talk to your vet about how to check your dog’s weight. It’s also a good idea to ask your vet about what you can do to support easier breathing and make your dog more comfortable during exercise.

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