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Why your French bulldogs and Shih Tzus need extra care

Dogs like pugs and Shih Tzus face health issues due to their unusual skull shape, a result of unethical breeding

The shorter skull and muzzle cause the airways to be small.
The shorter skull and muzzle cause the airways to be small. (Unsplash)

Recently, there has been an increase in demand for French bulldogs and Shih Tzus. It could be due to how adorable these breeds appear, as well as the fact that their small size makes it easier to care for them in an apartment.

But do you know what Pekingese, pugs, bulldogs, and Shih Tzus have in common? It’s their shortened muzzle and skull, a consequence of unethical breeding. Dogs with this kind of flat face are called brachycephalic dogs. Such dogs frequently have health issues because of their unusual skull shape.

One of the most common problems is breathing difficulty. The shorter skull and muzzle cause the airways to be small. They have smaller nostrils, a longer soft palate that almost completely blocks their windpipe, and a windpipe or trachea that is much narrower than those of other breeds. Snoring, loud and laborious breathing, and even sleep apnea can result from this.

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Have you ever heard a pug breathe? These restricted airways are the cause of that distinctive snorting sound that they make constantly. These canines may suffer from significant respiratory distress and breathing difficulties when exposed to smoke or even a stressful situation. In extreme circumstances, it may prevent the body from cooling down properly, resulting in heat stroke.

Eye problems are another concern. These dogs frequently have large, protruding eyes. As a result, the cornea, the eye’s outermost layer, is more vulnerable to damage and infection. If precautions are not taken, these dogs frequently develop corneal ulcers. Entropion, a disorder where the eyelid slides inward and leads to irritation and possibly blindness, can also occur.

These dogs experience dental problems more quickly than other breeds because of their crowded mouths. In dogs with significant inbreeding, the lower jaw frequently overshoots the upper jaw. This mean some of them could find it challenging to chew their food. Teeth that are misaligned are more prone to early decay, gingivitis and tartar build-up. This could be excruciatingly uncomfortable.

Brachycephalic dogs risk developing skin infections and a condition known as “wrinkle infections” because of the folds on their faces and the area around their lips, which can collect moisture and bacteria.They might also appear to be more prone to hot spots and skin allergies.

These canines frequently cannot exercise since their biggest issue is breathing properly. If their weight is uncontrolled, a lack of activity leads to obesity. This, in turn, leads to other issues, like diabetes, heart disease and joint-related problems. Obesity makes their already existing breathing issue worse.

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There is a solution. Make sure their weight is consistently in check. They can breathe more easily if they are the right weight. One of my clients has diligently maintained her pug’s weight at around 8kg. He is one of the few pugs who does not exhibit any symptoms of laboured breathing and can engage in many activities that other breeds may perform without discomfort.

Surgery can be done to shorten the palate if it is impeding the trachea. Surgeries can also be done to widen the size of their nostrils, which will ease breathing. Similar corrections can be made for atypical eyelids. Prospective pet parents should be aware of the anticipated veterinary costs of these operations.

Their corneas can be kept healthy by using lubricant eye drops regularly and limiting their exposure to the sun’s harsh rays. In a moving vehicle, never let your brachycephalic dog stick its head out of the window. Eye damage can also result from wind and dust. Infections can be avoided by routinely cleaning the skin creases. It’s important to keep these dogs indoors when temperatures are high to prevent heat stroke. It’s crucial to brush their teeth frequently and take them to the vet to have their dental health evaluated annually to delay dental disease.

So make sure your dog gets the right care and attention.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.

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