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Buying a flat-faced puppy

Regardless of what a dog looks like, they should be able to lead a happy and healthy life and be able to breathe, walk, hear and see freely without discomfort.

What is a brachycephalic dog?

Dogs with a flat, wide shaped head, are said to be brachycephalic (brachy, meaning short and cephalic, meaning head). This particular skull shape will often give these dogs a characteristic flattened face and a short muzzle. Muzzle length may vary, even amongst a particular breed, with some dogs having shorter muzzles than others.

Which breeds are brachycephalic?

Popular brachycephalic breeds include, amongst others:

Head shape and dog health

Although the shape of these dogs’ heads can make them look very cute, dogs with a very flat face and short muzzle have a higher risk of developing certain health issues associated with their features, such as:

Research before you buy

Always see mum

Seeing mum (and dad if possible) is always an important part of buying any puppy, but especially so for brachycephalic dogs, as it may tell you something about the future health of your puppy. If you would not be happy to take home either of the puppy’s parents, then it may not be advisable to choose a puppy from the litter.  The mother and father will pass various characteristics on to their puppies and the characteristics that you may not like may also appear in the puppies when they are a little older. 

Assess the parents

Not all brachycephalic dogs will have the health issues listed below, but it is important that when seeing the mother (and father, where possible) you should check for the following signs of illness.

Breathing difficulties

The soft tissue in the nose and throat of some brachycephalic dogs may be excessive for their airways, making it difficult for them to breathe normally. Some dogs may also have narrow nostrils making it even more difficult to breathe.

What to listen and look out for:

Find out more about brachycephalic breathing problems:

Skin problems

Some brachycephalic dogs may have an excess of skin, which creates folds, especially around the front of the face. These folds can make a warm, moist environment which is perfect for bacteria and yeast to grow, possibly leading to infection and severe itching.

What to look out for:

Find out more about brachycephalic skin problems:

Teeth problems

Dogs with a shortened skull will often have a shortened jaw, but the number and size of teeth will stay the same. This can mean that the teeth become overcrowded and can cause dental and gum problems.

What to ask about: 

Eye conditions

Some brachycephalic dogs may have particularly shallow eye sockets, causing their eyes to become more prominent and at a higher risk of trauma, ulcers and increasing the chance of them becoming dry and painful (due to not being able to blink properly).

What to look out for: 

Find out more about brachycephalic eye problems:

Find a responsible breeder

Ask friends, family, breed clubs, training clubs or your local vets to see if they have any recommendations for responsible breeders.  A breeder with a reputation for taking care of their dogs is a great place to start.

The Kennel Club strongly advises puppy buyers to go to responsible breeders, such as members of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, which is the only established scheme in the UK that contains breeders assessed to UKAS standards, in order to protect the welfare of puppies and breeding bitches.  Assured Breeders formally agree to follow good practice when breeding their dogs which includes making the health of their puppies a priority. They will have been inspected by a Kennel Club Assessor to make sure that they’re upholding the scheme standards. 

If you are buying a French Bulldog, Pug or Bulldog, make sure that the parents have been screened for breathing problems before they were mated with the Kennel Club and University of Cambridge Respiratory Function Grading Scheme.

Avoid buying from a puppy farmer

Puppy farmers are likely to take advantage of the high demand for these very popular breeds. Puppies born on puppy farms often require expensive long term veterinary treatment or die at a young age due to health problems.  Many puppies are severely traumatised by the experience and may have behavioural problems for life.

Tips for avoiding puppy farmers

For more information: