Brachycephalic Breeds and Anaesthetics

Brachycephalic is a term used to describe dog breeds who have a shortened skull and nose resulting in the appearance of a flattened face. The shorter than average nose and face in proportion to the rest of the body can cause problems for these breeds at times.

Brachycephalic breeds include Bulldogs (French and English), Pugs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Shar-Pei, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, and Bull Mastiffs.

Problems Associated with Brachycephalic Breeds

Respiratory problems

The shortened skull in brachycephalic breeds can lead to an abnormal relationship with the soft tissues that sit within it as they are squashed into this smaller space. The nostrils of brachycephalic breeds also can be small. These factors can reduce the flow of air through the upper airways (nose and throat) to the windpipe and lead to snorting during breathing. The abnormal breathing can over time lead to deformed and obstructed airways. In addition, the windpipe (trachea) is often narrower in relation to the size of the dog.

Gastrointestinal problems

Due to the swallowing of air, increased effort of breathing, or other breed related stomach conditions, brachycephalic breeds are more prone to vomiting and regurgitation.

Stress and cooling problems

Brachycephalic breeds tend to get stressed easily and struggle to pant effectively. The exchange of hot air for cool is limited due to their narrow maze of airways and this can be made worse by being stressed resulting in overheating.


We commonly anaesthetise brachycephalic breeds but it is associated with additional risk compared to other breeds due to the problems discussed above.

At Focus referrals our team of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses are very experienced in managing brachycephalic breeds before, during and after anaesthesia. Although there is an increased risk, by following specific protocols for these breeds (including constant monitoring, specific medications and airway management) we aim to minimise this risk.

Prior to your pet’s procedure, we will ask you some additional questions related to your pet being brachycephalic and talk in more detail about the risks associated. We will then ask you to sign a consent form to show that you have read and understand the information we have provided.

If you have any questions regarding your brachycephalic pet’s care, our team of vets or nurses would be more than happy to discuss these with you.