Brachycephalic Syndrome in English Bulldogs

Keep me out of the heat, I don't pant well.
i grumpy image by Harvey Hudson from

Brachycephalic is the scientific term for your English bulldog's short muzzle. It literally means "short head." Brachycephalic canines, which include other breeds, might suffer the consequences of various disorders attributable to their anatomy. According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, English bulldogs are the most prone to problems.

Eye Problems

The smaller the head, the more likely your bulldog might suffer eye problems. In brachycephalic breeds, the prominent appearance of the eyes result from shallow sockets. Even minor injuries may cause the eye to fall out of its socket. The eyes may be so prominent that the lids don't cover them, leading to dryness and irritation. Your dog may not produce sufficient tears, or his eyelashes may constantly rub his eyes because of abnormal placement. Find a good veterinary ophthalmologist, as some of these conditions require surgical correction.

Respiratory Issues

Brachycephalic syndrome often results in respiratory problems because breathing is a chore. Your bulldog snorts and snores because he has difficulty getting sufficient air into his lungs because of his short muzzle and small nostrils. He can't pant as well as a non-brachycephalic breed to keep himself cool. A narrow windpipe, known as tracheal stenosis, means anesthesia is particularly risky, yet only surgical intervention can alleviate certain brachycephalic issues. Your bulldog is virtually guaranteed to have an elongated soft palate, which can cause throat swelling if he barks too much or pants heavily.


At maturity, dogs have 42 teeth in their mouths. If that mouth is abnormally small, as is the case with brachycephalic breeds, dental problems are likely to ensue. A crowded mouth means teeth don't have room to properly erupt, resulting in crooked teeth that trap food debris. This affects the gums, so periodontal disease commonly occurs at an early age.


Preventing brachycephalic syndrome really means changing breeding practices. If you are set on owning an English bulldog, you must realize that these genetic issues may affect your pet. Buy your dog from a reputable breeder, carefully examining not only the puppy but its mother and father. Look closely to see if the parents appear to have had surgery done on their eyes, nose or mouth to correct defects. Walk your bulldog with a harness and leash rather than a leash and collar to lessen the possibility that a sharp tug injures your dog's trachea or eyes. Start brushing your dog's teeth in puppyhood and keep them as free of food debris as possible. In hot weather, keep your buddy indoors where it's air-conditioned. Don't let him get fat, as obesity contributes to respiratory problems.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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