Health problems directly related to brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds include respiratory disease, eye disease, birthing difficulties and heat stroke. Despite the known health risks and shortened lifespan related to the way they are bred to look, brachycephalic dog breeds (e.g., pugs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers) continue to be popular.
This study is the first to use a large-scale, big-data approach to compare the health of brachycephalic versus non-brachycephalic dogs. The authors analysed Vet Compass data on 22,333 dogs (4,169 brachycephalic and 18,079 non-brachycephalic) presenting to veterinary clinics in the UK in 2016. They aimed to assess the risk of broad categories of health problems (e.g., heart, eye, skin disease) and more specific common conditions.
The results of this study provide strong evidence, based on a large sample size, that brachycephalic dogs have poorer health overall compared to non brachycephalic dogs. Broadly, brachycephalic dogs are predisposed to heart, eye, upper respiratory, ear, skin and anal sac disease. They are at significantly higher risk of corneal ulcers, heart murmurs, umbilical hernias, pododermatitis (infection and inflammation of the paws), skin cysts, patellar luxation (displaced kneecaps), ear infections and anal sac impaction. While they were at lower risk of behavioural problems compared to non-brachycephalic dogs, this study confirms that brachycephalic dogs are less physically healthy based on total disorder counts and specific common conditions.