Health problems of flat-faced dogs

There are both flat-faced dogs and flat-faced cats. In the cat world there is the Persian and Exotic Shorthair and in the dog world there are quite a few flat-faced breeds. The French Bulldog is one example. It’s became particularly popular during the coronavirus pandemic during which you can see a lot of flat-faced puppies walked on leads in parks. Their popularity is due to their baby-like faces. The dog breeders know how to attract the eye of a customer. Pretend that your dog is a baby and you’re halfway there to selling him.

Comparison flat-faced man-made dog and normal face
Comparison flat-faced man-made dog and normal face. Pictures in public domain. Montage by AHR.

The problem is that flat-faced dogs are inherently unhealthy. I think most people actually realise this. One veterinarian, who has her own website, Emma Milne, has been campaigning against flat-faced (short-faced – brachycephalic) dog breeds for years.

She’s been on TV and as a veterinarian she has seen a big increase in demand for “brachys”. Emma meticulously goes over some of the health problems inherited by brachycephalic dogs. And people should know by now that these health problems are caused by irresponsible selective breeding. Dog breeders are breeding these dogs for their appearance at the expense of their health. And Emma makes it clear that dogs suffer throughout their lifetime with these problems.

Skin folds

For example, you get skin folds where there should have been a muzzle but the face is too short. The skin has to fold to accommodate the natural shape of the muzzle. You create problems because it becomes inflamed and damaged where the skin folds over. The bacteria on the skin is not open to the air which creates more problems. Infections developed which are painful and which persist.

Eye sockets

When you breed a brachycephalic head the eye sockets do not contain the eye balls securely because the structure has been distorted. Extraordinarily, Emma reports that on some occasions the eyeballs simply pop out because the eye sockets are unable to keep them in. It’s as simple and as crude as that. You also get these horrendous photographs of dogs with huge, round protruding eyes. The eyes are exposed to damage. Emma mentions that the eyes can be so weakly in place that if a dog yawns or get too excited their eyeballs can pop out of the skull.


The skin folds can result in eyelashes becoming stuck on the cornea of the eyeball where they rub against the eye. This is very painful and it can, in the long term, cause corneal ulcers and worse.

Dwarf legs

You might have noticed that these dogs have dwarf-like legs. They are bowed like a dwarf human being or a sailor with scurvy! It’s horrible but you can see the squat, curved legs supporting a compact body. Emma Milne, calls them “Queen Anne” legs after antique chairs. The medical term is chondrodystrophy. These dogs also have tails that screw which is also part of the breeding process which can leave dogs with spinal disease.

Giving birth

They are unable to give birth naturally and would not survive without the intervention of veterinarians to allow them to give birth to offspring.

Breathing difficulties

Most of us know that they suffer from respiratory distress because they can’t breathe properly. They have very small nostrils so they can’t inhale enough air. I often see these dogs in parks with their mouths wide open breathing noisily. They are unable to exercise properly because they can’t breathe properly. Brachycephalic heads contain a range of deformities.


Emma says they often die after anaesthetics because they have no airways as they recover.

Misaligned jaws

Often they have misaligned teeth and the problems are almost endless it seems to me.

Other health issues of French bulldog

I’ve mentioned the major problems as per our Milne’s website but there’s more. For example, Wikipedia states that the French Bulldog has patella lactation (poor. loose joints), temperature regulation-related issues, ear infections, conjunctivitis, diarrhoea, skin problems et cetera. Their spine can be prone to a range of spinal diseases and disorders.


Phew…the list is too long to mention in this article. You don’t have to go far to find these health problems. Notwithstanding that this sort of dog is incredibly popular. What can we read from this? Well, we have to agree that when people purchase a new dog they do not check out health problems or if they do they don’t do it thoroughly enough. Perhaps dog breeders know this. They know that it is financially worth it to breed for appearance rather than health and they are relying upon the ignorance of customers to get away with what they are doing. But in the long term these customers will be distressed and upset by their dog’s ill health. And they may end up shelling out thousands of pounds in healthcare and no doubt they will not take out insurance. I can’t go on because I’m moaning too much but it doesn’t make sense. Something is terribly wrong.

Breed standards

One last point, what is particularly galling is that the Kennel Club in the UK has promised to do something about it but they have not acted. They need to change their breed standards to remove the encouragement to breed unhealthy dogs. The Kennel Club breed standard demands the brachycephalic head.

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Post Category: Dogs > dog anatomy