Rowan Sanderson sits down with Dr. Adele Fitzpatrick, founder of The Natural Vet, on how to help your brachycephalic dog (short-headed) thrive.
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What Are Brachycephalic Dog Breeds?
Brachycephalic (meaning “short headed”) breeds are essentially those dogs with “squashed” faces, including Pugs, Shih Tzus, and, of course, French Bulldogs. These types of breeds tend to have a predisposition to certain health issues.
Common Brachycephalic Health Issues
Frenchies are the number one registered breed in the UK. As ownerships increase, more data is available to reveal the common diseases that these types of dogs have. Gastrointestinal disease, skin disease, airway disease (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, or BOAS), and joint disease are among those at the top.
Other than these diseases, brachycephalic breeds tend to have problems related to birthing (most require caesarean sections to give birth). Eye conditions are also common on account of the shape of the head and how the eyes sit on the heads of these breeds.
Tips for First-Time Owners of Brachycephalic Dogs
The best thing that any prospective Frenchie owner should do, before even buying the pup, is to find a reputable breeder that conducts breed health testing. Pups that come from non-health-tested parents—which are unfortunately also often classified as rare-colored such as lilac and chocolate—usually happen to be those who experience health problems.
Consult the , , or for more information on what to look for in a healthy dog. Basically, an aspiring dog owner’s safest bet is to purchase a standard color breed.Adele also recommends having a good quality lifetime pet insurance policy for your French Bulldog to help cope with the cost of addressing any of the above-mentioned diseases should your dog experience them.
Nutrition for Frenchies
Because Frenchies and other brachycephalic breeds are prone to gastrointestinal disease, it is best to feed them good quality, fresh, and easily digestible food. Dogs who are prone to acid reflux and regurgitation, whether primary or secondary to airway disease, need to eat food that can quickly pass through their system. Ultraprocessed or kibble-based foods tend to stay in the gut longer and absorb water, ready to be regurgitated by exercising or otherwise excited dogs. The easiest type of food to digest is raw (for 90% of dogs, according to Adele), with cooked as the second-best alternative.
It is important that the food being fed is nutritionally balanced. In cases where there is a gap, such as in the case of those brands which only contain meat, bone, and offal, supplements containing zinc, and Vitamins B and D (among others) can be beneficial. Also consider introducing probiotics and digestive enzymes into the dog’s diet.
As a word of caution, please remember that nothing mentioned by Rowan or Adele is intended as medical advice. Any pet owner should visit a natural holistic vet, especially if they are first-time owners.