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Caring for your flat-faced pet

close-up of a French bulldog's face lying on a cushion © Chris Benson | Unsplash

What to do as a pet owner

In recent years, flat-faced (brachycephalic) animals have become increasingly popular as family pets. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the health risks associated with these breeds, and we want to change that.

Sadly, it's all too true that flat-faced animals face various health issues during their lives which can be debilitating and extremely distressing. These problems should be taken very seriously and may require medical treatment.

As an owner of a flat-faced animal, it's really important to be on the lookout for issues and to monitor your pet closely. We know you'll agree that they deserve a long, happy and healthy life, and having the right information can really help you take care of them.

Our top tips for keeping your flat-faced pet healthy

Hot weather precautions

Many animals can struggle in extreme heat especially dogs due to how they regulate their heat through panting. Brachycephalic animals are at greater risk in hot weather, as their ability to breathe will become even more impacted. This means they will need even more help to keep cool.

Weight management

Weight can be a huge factor in your pet's overall health and can cause additional stress on their breathing. Make sure you monitor your pet's weight and don't hesitate to take action if there are signs of obesity. Many vets have supportive weight clinics run by trained veterinary nurses which are a great place to start. It's important to ensure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need while losing weight, so you should discuss this with your vets. You can make feeding time more fun too by using toys that make your pet 'work' for their meal.

Careful exercise

Exercise is a crucial part of your pet's life, and vital in keeping them healthy. However, brachycephalic breeds are at more risk of overheating or developing breathing problems if exercised too strenuously or in hot weather. A regular routine of steady exercise is the best way to keep your pet in good physical shape and help to improve their overall health.

Keep an eye on their vision

Flat-faced animals are more prone to ulceration and eye trauma, so make sure you check your animal's eyes regularly for unusual discharge, tears, redness or cloudiness. You might also notice behavioural changes such as rubbing their eyes with a paw. Seek advice from your vet as soon as you can if you have any concerns. Ulcers are not visible to the naked eye, requiring your vet to use a special dye to check for them. Ulcers are painful and can progress quickly in brachycephalic breeds, even risking the loss of the eye.

Check their skin regularly

Due to skin folds and wrinkles, flat-faced animals are extremely prone to skin infection and chronic itching. You should check in between the folds of skin on a daily basis. Look out for signs of infection such as an unusual odour, red/sore patches and discharge or pus. Your pet may also rub at the area, or rub it against the carpet. It's also good to be mindful of their general hygiene by keeping them clean and carefully drying them afterwards, especially between skin folds.

Take care of their teeth

These particular animals are at greater risk of overcrowding of teeth and other dental issues. Overcrowded teeth build up more plaque and tartar. Make sure you take good care of your pet's teeth with regular cleaning and monitoring, and proactively take them in for dental checkups. Your vet can advise about appropriate teeth cleaning products for dogs and the best way to introduce this to your pet.

Seek professional advice

If you have any problems with or concerns about your pet, you should not hesitate to get specialist advice from your vet. While doing your own research from reputable sources is encouraged and recommended to help you care for your animal, if you spot any issues, please contact your vet as soon as possible. Many 'internet remedies' are ineffective and can even be dangerous.

Want to help us protect future generations of flat-faced pets?

Our #SaveOurBreath campaign has launched to help inform and educate the public about flat-faced animals. To make change happen, we need to collect as much information as possible about these breeds and their health and welfare issues. As a brachycephalic owner, you can help us by sharing your experience.

Find out more