Common Issues

Breathing Issues:

Brachycephalic breeds are characterized by brachycephalic respiratory syndrome, which affects the different areas of the respiratory tract. Fortunately, most dogs do not suffer from all aspects of the syndrome but you should be aware of which your particular pet may have.

Stenotic Nares This is a fancy name for narrowed nostrils. The brachycephalic dogs begin by having very small nasal openings for breathing. If this is severe, surgical correction is possible.

Elongated Soft Palate  It is difficult to fit the soft tissues of the canine mouth and throat into the brachycephalic’s short face. As a result, the soft palate that separates nasal passage from oral cavity flaps loosely down into the throat, creating snorting sounds. Virtually all Brachycephalic dogs suffer from this, so keep in mind, complications from respiratory distress can happen with little warning and can result in death. Excess barking or panting may lead to swelling in the throat that can, in turn, lead to trouble.

Tracheal Stenosis  The brachycephalic’s windpipe may be dangerously narrowed in places. This condition creates tremendous anesthetic risk and should be ruled out by chest radiographs prior to any surgical procedures.

Heat Stress Because of all these upper respiratory obstructions, the brachycephalic dog is an inefficient panter. A dog with a more conventional face and throat is able to pass air quickly over the tongue through panting. Saliva evaporates from the tongue as air is passed across and the blood circulating through the tongue is efficiently cooled and circulated back to the rest of the body.

In the brachycephalic dog, so much extra work is required to move the same amount of air that the airways become inflamed and swollen. This leads to a more severe obstruction, distress, and further over-heating. Brachycephalic Dogs Are the Most Likely Candidates for Heat Stroke Altogether, the upper airways of the brachycephalic dog compromise his or her ability to take in air. Under normal conditions the compromise is not great enough to cause a problem; however, an owner should take care not to let the dog become grossly overweight or get too hot in the summer months. Be aware of what degree of snorting and sputtering is usual for your individual pet plus, should your pet require general anesthesia or sedation, your veterinarian may want to take extra precautions or take radiographs prior to assess the severity of the syndrome. Anesthetic risk is higher than usual in these breeds, though under most circumstances the necessary extra precautions are readily managed by most animal hospitals.

Eye Issues:   

Eye problems are potentially serious.  Minor problems can become major ones if not addressed.  See your Vet if the problem does not correct itself or with home remedy within a day.

To administer ointments to the eye, pull down the lower lid and place the ointment on the inner surface.  Then rub the eyelid gently over the eyeball to spread the medication.  Applying it directly to the eyeball can be dangerous if the dog jerks his head.  Eye drops can be placed directly on the eyeball.  Hold the eyelids open momentarily while the drops are applied.

Eyelashes  —  Some Bulldogs develop a congenital condition in which extra eyelashes grow from the lid and rub against the cornea.   The irritation may range from hardly noticeable to very severe with heavy tearing.  The hair can be removed by plucking – it’s not as hard as it sounds and the dogs adjust to it.  The condition may improve in time so treatment is no longer needed.  In severe cases, the hairs can be removed by electrolysis.  However, your dog will have to undergo general anesthesia, so the procedure is a serious one.  If left untreated, continued irritation of the eye in a severe case can lead to corneal scarring or blindness.

Entropion and Ectropion  —  In the normal structure of the eye, the lid should be shaped like a globe.  It should not be rolled in or out.  The breed Standard makes these undesirable conditions for show dogs, so breeders trying to adhere to the standard will usually produce puppies with a lower incidence of these conditions.  Entropion is the condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing irritation to the eye.  It is more common among Bulldogs than some other breeds.  If caused by a spasm or mechanical irritation, it can be corrected through medication.  If structural, the condition can be corrected by a simple operation.  Failure to correct the condition can lead to ulceration of the cornea and possible loss of sight.

Ectropion is a condition where it is rolled out, resulting in the third eyelid (or haw) being visible.  This is more common in Bulldogs than in some other breeds.   Its presence is undesirable in a show dog and a potential health problem because of the ease which foreign matter can enter the eye.

Cherry Eye  —  This is created by an enlarged and prolapsed tear gland on the inner surface of the third eyelid, generally caused by infection.  It shows itself as a red, cherry-like growth protruding from the inner corner of the eye.  It usually occurs in puppies and young dogs.  It is more common among Bulldogs than some other breeds.  It is usually treated surgically.  This can be done by removal of the gland, with the need for only local anesthesia, or can be done by tacking the eyelid under general anesthesia.  The choice of procedures and alternatives should be discussed with your Vet.

Dry Eye  —  This is a disease, usually of the older dog, which results from inadequate tear production, sometimes from the surgical treatment of Cherry Eye.   The eyes appear dull and listless and the eye has a thick discharge.  This can lead to infection or corneal ulcers if left untreated.  Fortunately, this is an easy disease to treat if not a severe case.  There are many artificial tear products in the drug store which can be used several times a day to relieve the condition.  In more severe cases, a drug can be used in the eye or an operation may be required to transplant the salivary duct to the eye to maintain the flow of fluid.

Conjunctivitis  —  This is a common disease of all domestic animals (including humans, where “pink eye” is an infectious form).  Its cause can vary from an infection to allergies and environmental irritants.  Blinking and squinting caused by mild eye pain and tearing are the main symptoms you will notice.  Your Vet can diagnose the cause and prescribe appropriate medical treatment (sometimes eye drops or scraping the conjunctiva) to clear up the condition easily and rapidly.

Corneal Problems  —  Corneal ulcers are dangerous and should receive immediate veterinary attention to avoid potential loss of the eye.  Large ones are visible with the naked eye as dull spots or depressions on the corneal surface.  Smaller ones can be seen under a special light after staining by the Vet.  Corneal abrasions are scratches which usually will heal in a day or two if no foreign body is present in the eye. The eye should be carefully checked to ensure removal of any foreign body present. Failure to act quickly can result in an ulcer or inflammation of the cornea.


Dogs, like humans, can also suffer from allergies. Itching of the skin is the most common symptom of a dog allergy. The respiratory tract can be affected causing coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. At times, the eyes and nose may develop a discharge. Also, the digestive system may be affected causing vomiting or diarrhea. About 20 percent of the dogs in the United States suffers from some type of allergy, whether it be atopic dermatitis, flea allergy, food allergy, inhalant allergy, contact allergy, or bacterial allergy.

Atopic Dermatitis

An allergic skin disease of dogs, known as canine atopic dermatitis, is caused by the dog’s immune system hypersensitivity to common substances in the environment, such as dust mites or molds. The signs of atopic dermatitis usually appear within the first two years of a dog’s life. If the dog begins to groom excessively, with licking or chewing of the paws, abdomen, and hind quarters, then it may suffer from atopic dermatitis. Also, check to see if the ears are reddened and hot to the touch.

A hidden sign that a dog is atopic is in the armpits, groin, or between the toes of the paws. Check to see if there is saliva staining. In light colored dogs, it appears as a red-brown staining. In chronic cases the skin, mostly in the abdomen, may change color from a pinkish, to angry red, to black mottling.

Flea allergy, food allergy, and parasitic infestations may mimic the symptoms of atopic dermatitis making it difficult to diagnose. Once fleas, foods, and parasitic infestations are eliminated as being the offending culprits, then allergy skin testing for dust mites, pollens, and molds may be done to determine what causes the dog’s atopic dermatitis.

Flea Allergy

The most common form of canine allergy is flea allergy dermatitis. The flea itself is not the culprit in canine flea allergies. It is their saliva that causes the allergic reaction. A skin allergy test can be preformed to determine if a dog is allergic to flea saliva. If it is, then a strict flea control regimen is required to reduce symptoms. Caution must be used however to make sure the chemicals in the flea preparations are not harmful to the dog.

Inhalant Allergy

Just like humans, canine inhalant allergies are caused by pollens (tree, grass, and weed), dust mites, molds, and chemicals. Although any pure bred or mutt can acquire inhalant allergies, the most common breeds that are affected include terriers (especially the West Highland white terrier, Skye terrier, Scottish terrier and Boston terrier), golden retrievers, poodles, dalmatians, German shepherds, Chinese Shar-peis, shih tzus, lhasa apsos, pugs, Irish setters, and miniature schnauzers.

The symptoms of an inhalant allergy include scratching, biting, chewing at feet and constant licking. The itching may be most severe on feet, flanks, groin, and armpits. Inhalant allergies are often the reason for recurrent ear infections in your dog.

Food Allergy

Dogs can become allergic to a food they have eaten for years which causes many people to over look the possibility of a food allergy.
Food allergies only account for 10 percent of allergy problems in dogs. Dogs often can not tolerate soy products, wheat, corn, beef, pork, chicken, milk, whey, eggs, fish, chemical preservatives, or artificial sugars in their food.

Determining the food allergen can be time consuming. First, eliminate all the possible allergens from the diet, by using a home made diet consisting of a protein and a starch the dog has not eaten before. Gradually add back, one at a time for a week, the ingredients of the dog food. If symptoms return, then the offending food allergen should be easily determined. Commercial dog foods can be found that do not contain the offending allergen.

Food sensitivities in a dog may manifest as itchy skin, scratching at ears, shaking of the head, licking and biting at the hind quarters or feet, rubbing faces on carpeting, ear inflammations, coughing, and rarely vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, sneezing, asthma like symptoms, behavioral changes, seizures, gagging, and vomiting.


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