Brachycephalic dogs are flat-faced dog breeds with shorter facial bones and muzzles. Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Disease (BOAS), also known as Brachycephalic Syndrome, is a condition that affects brachycephalic dogs that also have respiratory abnormalities. Not all brachycephalic dogs suffer from BOAS, and the terms are often confused.
Flat-face dog breeds are very popular in America. Not only are they super adorable, but they also have charming personalities that make them brilliant family pets. There are small brachycephalic breeds, large ones, and many sizes in between, so you are spoilt for choice if you’re a sucker for a flat face. However, there could be a cost to their cuteness, so you must be clued up to the world of flat-faced doggos and the potential difficulties you might face.
Here we briefly explore what the term “brachycephalic” means, what BOAS is, and some frequently asked questions on this topic. We also have a comprehensive list of brachycephalic dog breeds, with a brief description and pictures of their gorgeous smooshy faces. Some of them are well-known brachycephalic breeds, and others might surprise you. So, let’s jump straight into the brachycephalic business.
What Does Brachycephalic Mean?
The term “brachycephalic” originates from the Greek words “short” and “head.” As a result, they have narrow nostrils and smaller airways compared to other dog breeds. Many brachycephalic dog breeds aren’t negatively affected by these abnormalities and lead normal lives. But the respiratory abnormalities of some brachycephalic breeds impact their quality of life. Plus, they are more sensitive to anesthesia.
Brachycephalic breeds are a hot and controversial topic right now. Some argue that it is unfair and unethical to breed dogs who are highly likely to suffer from respiratory issues, be they mild or severe. Some countries have implemented strict breeding restrictions to minimize their health issues. If you have your heart set on a flat-faced Fido, research them and their possible health concerns. Plus, it’s imperative that you work with a responsible breeder who breeds for health and function rather than looks alone.
What Is BOAS?
BOAS stands for Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Disease. It is a genetically inherited condition that affects dogs with short noses and short heads with other internal abnormalities concerning their airways. Together they lead to obstructed and dysfunctional breathing. We also have a comprehensive guide to BOAS to review for more details. BOAS abnormalities can affect their nostrils, tonsils, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), or soft palate (the tissue of the roof of the mouth).
BOAS has several symptoms, including stenotic nares (narrow nostrils), noisy breathing, exercise intolerance, heat intolerance, reverse sneezing, digestive issues, and sleep deprivation. Your vet can diagnose it based on the clinical signs, and they use a grading system regarding the severity of BOAS. If it’s severe, they might propose surgery. This is why it is important to consider investing early in pet insurance for your flat-face pooch.
Brachycephalic Dogs List: 19 Breeds
Some dog breeds, like Staffordshire Bull Terriers, are affected mildly, and you might not notice any problems. And other breeds, like Pugs and Bulldogs, are sometimes affected severely, which can require surgery to improve their airways. But that’s not to say all Pugs or Bulldogs experience severe BOAS problems. Let’s look at the comprehensive list of brachycephalic dog breeds and their flat faces in all their glory.
In the German language where this pup is from, the name “Affenpinscher” translates into “monkey dog,” and the French call him “diablotin moustachu,” which translates to “mustached little devil.” Affens typically weigh between 7 and 10 pounds and measure 9 and 11.5 inches tall, so they are one of the tiniest brachycephalic breeds around.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) describe them as famously funny and fearless. Many Affen owners say they are more like a person than a dog because you have to befriend them rather than own them. They have a tough terrier-like personality, which has much to do with their history as ratting dogs. So, this could be your pick if you’re after a cheeky little hairy flat-faced pooch.
They have a natural comedic streak and don’t require too much exercise. They are a top choice for city dwellers looking for a people-oriented, portable pup. According to a study by researchers in 2010, the Bostie is the third most commonly affected. They are also at risk of hearing problems.
Although they aren’t as popular as their cousin, the French Bulldog, they are just as cute. They weigh between 12 and 25 pounds and measure up to 17 inches tall, making them typically leaner and longer than Frenchies. Their flat face gives them a serious look, and when you combine that with their tuxedo jacket, they look like they mean business. Their nickname is “The American Gentleman.”
Boxers are active, intelligent, fun-loving, dopey, and super sweet. Boxers also have a protective and patient character, making them a top choice for families looking for a canine guardian and watchdog. They weigh between 50 and 80 pounds, reaching up to 25 inches tall. Boxers move like athletes, swift and agile.
Boxers are Bulldog-type dogs, which is mainly why they have flat faces. They have square-shaped heads, large sweet eyes, and fleshy noses. Their grin stretches from ear to ear, showing off their playful and mischievous personality, and you need to have the time and energy to own one of these canine comedians. In addition to their flat faces, you must be aware of their predisposition to multiple cardiac concerns.
Though they look very similar, the Griff is much more popular in America than the Affens. Their popularity might partially be due to the famous film “As Good As It Gets,” where a Brussels Griffon named Jill upstaged Jack Nicholson. And Squid the Griff is a famous internet star with many admirers. The AKC describes them as alert, curious, and loyal.
Griffs usually weigh between 8 to 10 pounds and measure between 7 to 10 inches tall. Their large bug eyes are more noticeable because of their flat muzzle. They also have a downturned smile, making them look like they are constantly frowning, earning their nickname “grumpy Griffs.” Many Griffs sport a larger-than-life beard and mustache, making this a top choice for an owner looking for a hipster side-pup.
The Bulldog is one of the most instantly recognizable flat-faced breeds, and they have a pushed-in nose, lots of facial wrinkles, and an undershot jaw. Bulldogs are chunks and usually weigh between 40 and 50 pounds and measure up to 15 inches. Despite their health problems, they are mixed with many other breeds.
The study above found that Bulldogs are most likely affected by BOAS, so you must research this thoroughly if considering welcoming a Bulldog into your life. Even many well-bred Bulldogs struggle with their breathing and snuffle and snore most of the time. They also overheat quickly, so you must be extra cautious during warmer days. If you’re looking for Bulldog, please research the breeder thoroughly, and ask them how they’ve reduced the likelihood of BOAS.
The Bullmastiff is the largest hound on this list, weighing between 100 and 130 pounds and measuring up to 27 inches tall. Like the Bulldog, they have broad, wrinkly, and very flat faces, which makes them relatively high on the BOAS scale. They are also prone to cardiac problems and bloat, which needs immediate medical treatment. Their coat comes in beautiful shades of fawn, red, or brindle.
They are a late 19th-century creation and were a ratio of 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog. This puppy makes a fantastic family guardian, and their nickname is “The Gamekeeper’s Night Dog.” If you’ve got experience training large and stubborn dogs and the room for them, they make brilliant family companions.
This is a breed that might surprise you to be on this list. But Cane Corsos are a relatively flat-face breed that can experience respiratory problems. Thankfully, respiratory issues are less common than similarly sized breeds like the Bullmastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux. They measure up to nearly 28 inches at the shoulder and usually weigh over 100 pounds.
Their name roughly translates to “bodyguard dog.” They have an air of grace and regalness, often described as majestic, but they are very courageous and protective of their family. Their popularity has steadily increased over the years, and they now commonly find themselves in the top 20 dog breeds.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the best of two worlds. The toy dog world is small and portable, and the sporting Spaniel world, with plenty of playful energy. These traits make them great family pets and resilient but not too boisterous, which is why they are so popular in America. They are also adaptable and get on well with other dogs, and they are gentle, graceful, and affectionate.
Cavies weigh between 13 and 18 pounds and measure up to 13 inches tall. They have a flat face, but thankfully, not as much as some breeds on this list. During the Victoria era, this breed was mixed with Asian dogs, which resulted in the English Toy Spaniel, which has a flatter face. Thankfully, the original King Charles Spaniel was brought back to life by breed fanciers in the 1920s.
The Chow Chow is another pup who might surprise you to be on this list, but they, too, have a flat face. Combining their flat face and extreme amount of fur, keep them out of the sun and exercise them during cooler parts of the day. Under all that fur, they also have a robust and sturdy body weighing between 45 and 70 pounds.
Chows are ancient dogs from China, one of the oldest breeds in the world, and are dignified, bright, and serious-minded. They are protective of their family and home, aloof with strangers, and adaptable as long as they get what they need. Chows didn’t catch on in the Western world until Queen Victoria acquired one in the late 19th century. Chow fanciers say they are one of the cleanest dog breeds, as fastidious as cats.
Dogue De Bordeaux
The Dogue de Bordeaux is the second largest dog on this list, looking very similar to the Bullmastiff. According to the AKC, they have the proportionately largest head of all dog breeds. So, if you like chunky, flat heads, this could be the breed for you. Although they aren’t that common in America, they are well-known thanks to the movie “Turner & Hooch.”
Dogue de Bordeaux originates from France, and they are an ancient dog breed who are supposedly older than France itself. Their coat is usually a shade of brown or red, with red features such as their nose and lips. In addition to their respiratory concerns, they are prone to cardiac problems and have a relatively short lifespan of 5 to 8 years.
English Toy Spaniel
During the Victorian era and the royal fascination with creating small toy dogs, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was mixed with flat-face Asian toy dogs, likely Pug or Japanese Chin. The result was the English Toy Spaniel, a smaller, flatter-faced version of King Charles Spaniels with a domed skull. English Toy Spaniels weigh between 8 and 14 pounds and measure up to 10 inches.
They are a Spaniel first and a lap dog second. English Toy Spaniels are much rarer in America compared to King Charles Spaniels, and in England too. They are gentle and great with dog-savvy kids and other dogs, making them an all-around good family pet.
They have recently overtaken the Lab and owned the title for over three decades uninterrupted. Frenchies are much-loved family pets and companions for city dwellers. They are alert, playful, adaptable, affectionate, and get along great with humans and other animals. Their sturdy but small size makes them a top choice for families with younger children.
According to the previous study, Frenchies are the fourth most likely to suffer from BOAS. It isn’t just their flat, wrinkly faces that we love. Their distinctive bat-shaped ears and cheeky smile are beautiful. They usually weigh under 28 pounds and measure between 11 and 13 inches from paw to shoulder. Keep them out of the midday sun during playtime. Instead, opt for indoor play to prevent overheating. Frenchies are snuffly pups and snore-like bears, so you might want to invest in earplugs.
They have a profuse, silky mane around their neck and shoulders, culottes around their rear legs, and an arching, plumed tail. Giving them an exotic and always astonished look. They also look Spaniel-like, which is why they used to be called Japanese Spaniels. They weigh between 7 and 11 pounds and measure up to 11 inches.
Chins are the epitome of royal dog breeds, and many owners say that once you’ve owned one, you’ll never want to be without one. They were unknown in the Western world until 1854 when Japan reopened for trade after centuries of isolation. The AKC describes them as charming, noble, and loving, but they don’t tolerate excitable and expressive children. They are more cat-like than dog-like, owing to how they walk, act, and clean themselves.
Lhasa Apsos are relatively healthy, long-living dogs with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. They are ancient dogs from monasteries high up in the Himalayas, acting as small but courageous watchdogs. And this is something you can expect in your palace too. Their nickname is the “bearded lion dog.” Despite their regal nature, they are family comedians and love to make their loved ones laugh.
Although Lhasas have flat faces, BOAS isn’t as common in the breed compared to others on this list. They have a long, silky coat that sweeps the floor and requires regular grooming. However, you can opt for a more manageable puppy cut. They weigh between 12 and 18 pounds, reaching up to 11 inches tall.
The Pekingese is another compact Asian breed with a flat face. They are super affectionate with their family and offer unwavering loyalty and companionship. Although they aren’t fond of handsy kids, making them better suited to older, calmer children. Pekes can be very stubborn and independent, which can make training difficult. But they are intelligent, so they’ll pick commands up with treats in hand and lots of love.
Grooming requires lots of time and effort to keep their coats clean and debris free. They are short and stocky, and their face is much broader than it is long, giving them an envelope-shaped head. Their breathing is often noisy, and they prefer colder climates. So much so that owners often travel with ice packs, providing a much more comfortable time. Pekes weigh up to 14 pounds.
According to the study we mentioned earlier, the Pug is the second most affected breed regarding BOAS, and as such, you need to do your homework before welcoming one of these dogs into your life. Their super-flat faces and other respiratory problems cause many BOAS issues. However, they are still a relatively popular dog breed in America, providing their families endless entertainment and love.
Pugs are small dogs weighing between 14 and 18 pounds and measuring 10 to 13 inches tall. They are smothered in wrinkles, particularly around their face and neck, requiring weekly cleaning. They were once companions of Chinese emperors and later the mascot of the Netherlands’ House of Orange. Their large and expressive eyes give you a glimpse of just how cheeky-natured they are. Their eyes are prone to injury because of how much they protrude from their flat face.
The Shar Pei is another Chinese canine, but this puppy was a peasant’s dog instead of a lapdog living a life of luxury. They were versatile farmers’ dogs tasked with hunting, herding, and guarding. This ancient breed goes back to the Han Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago. They nearly became extinct, but breeders in other countries, including America, saved them. They are fiercely independent, loyal, calm, and serious-minded, and they need an experienced owner to get the best out of them.
Shar Peis have a unique look, a hippopotamus muzzle, blue-black tongue, small eyes and snobby expression, and endless rolls from nose to tail, which haven’t changed during their 2,000 years. They don’t have as flatter faces as the other breeds on this list, but their respiratory function and palate are still affected.
The Shih Tzu is a popular dog breed, and most people have met one. They are ancient Chinese breeds, and historians believe they are a cross of Lhasa Apsos and Pekingese, both on this list. Chinese nobility favored them as lap warmers and companionship dogs. Now they are commonly found in family homes or as companions for older people and everyone. They are playful, adaptable, sweet, and affectionate but don’t like being alone.
Shih Tzus have long, silky coats that sweep the floor and over their eyes, so it needs plenty of grooming and tying up above their eyes. Alternatively, you could give them a puppy cut for a more manageable coat. Their flat face is typical of ancient Asian breeds, as are their large eyes. They weigh between 9 and 16 pounds and measure up to 11 inches. These pups don’t need too much exercise and try to keep them out of the summer sun to prevent overheating.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Last but certainly not least is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, also known as the Stafford. Although they haven’t got as flatter faces as other dogs on this list, they sometimes experience the symptoms associated with BOAS. They are related to Bulldogs, which is why they have flat faces that can affect their breathing. Their soft, shiny coat is easy to maintain, and their wide grin and love for life are infectious.
Staffords are tough and reliable dogs that love to play with their family, finishing their day with a snuggle on the sofa. Although they are relatively rare in America, they are one of the most popular dog breeds in Great Britain. They might have a troublesome past and unfair reputation, but they make brilliant family companions and adore children.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are questions we frequently get asked by our readers regarding brachycephalic dogs. Don’t see yours? Ask us in the comments.
Is BOAS Treatable?
BOAS is not a curable condition. However, surgery can alleviate the symptoms to improve their breathing and quality of life. Different types of surgery are available depending on the affected areas and their severity. For example, nostrils can be widened, the soft palate can be thinned and shortened, or they can partially remove tonsils. If left untreated, it can lead to secondary health problems such as larynx collapse, cardiac issues, and chronic gastritis.
How Can I Manage My Dog’s BOAS?
BOAS is not preventable. But there are a few things you can do to help ease the problems associated with it. Firstly, work with a responsible breeder who only breeds dogs minimally affected by it or not at all. Secondly, ensure they maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight because excess weight puts extra pressure on their body and airways. Thirdly, avoid overheating because dogs with BOAS struggle to regulate their body temperature. Do not exercise them during the hotter periods of the day.
Can Dogs With BOAS Fly?
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) urges owners of flat-faced breeds to use caution when flying with their dogs. Dogs suffering from BOAS are more at risk of health problems during air travel than non-brachycephalic dog breeds due to compromised respiratory systems. Sadly there have been several fatal incidents of brachycephalic dogs traveling by air. As a result, many airlines have imposed strict guidelines for airline travel or banned them altogether. If you plan to travel with your pup by air, please ask your airline for their advice and procedures.
Our list of flat-faced breeds details the most likely to be affected, like the Bulldog and the Pug, to some of the least affected breeds, such as the Cane Corso and the Stafford. Flat-faced dogs are cute, which is one of the reasons why they are so popular, but there is sometimes a cost to their cuteness. Their flat faces and abnormal anatomy can cause health issues, including BOAS symptoms. Not only can this cause a lower quality of life for the dog, but it can also be costly for owners who need to rectify it.
If you are considering welcoming one of these flat-faced breeds into your life, you must thoroughly research them and their health concerns. You need to ask yourself, can you rectify their problems if required? It’s essential to consider investing in a pet insurance policy that covers the associated health problems to help cover the costs. It’s also crucial to work with responsible breeders who breed for health rather than looks and speak to them about BOAS too.