Tips and Tools to Care for Flat-faced Dogs

Flat-faced dogs like pugs, bulldogs, and boxers may be known for their squished features and loud snorting but these characteristics that are affectionately admired by their owners also make them prone to health problems. Here’s how you can make sure your flat faced furry friend is getting the care they need.

These dogs were bred for people that adore the squish-faced look, but the unfortunate reality is that this look comes with a multitude of health issues. Breathing issues, dental issues, and eye issues are all a result of the changed skull shape, and it’s something to be aware of if you find yourself with one of these flat-faced friends.

Mouth Care


The scrunched up snout doesn’t come with smaller sized insides. While their noses are smaller, everything inside the mouth, like the tongue and soft palate, remains a normal size. A crowded mouth makes it hard for air to flow through. Add small nostrils and tiny tracheas to the mix, and you have a recipe for the characteristic snorting and rough breathing most of these breeds are prone to.


You can do a couple of things to heal ease their breathing troubles. The first thing is pretty straightforward, keep your pet calm and cool. Stress or intense activity can lead to heavy breathing or panting as a way to keep cool. While it works wonders for their body temperature, panting isn’t necessarily the best thing for their lungs — just like us after some vigorous exercise (or waking up late for an important day at work), not taking a moment to breathe well can be risky. On the same front, consider swapping from a traditional collar and leash to a harness.

A harness can remove any unnecessary pressure from your dog’s windpipe, which as we know, may already be labored by their physiology. As long as the harness isn’t on too tight or constricting their chest, it’s a fantastic alternative to collars!


Along with stopping a clear airflow, a crowded mouth can lead to dental problems. With crooked teeth or teeth that are too close together, there can be a lot of tartar build up. It’s important to stay on top of dental care and good nutrition, starting with dental chews and regular brushing. You can always ask your vet about dental cleaning, but it’s best to help your pet where you can at home.

Eye Care


If you’ve ever seen a pug, you’re probably familiar with the range of eye issues a brachycephalic dog can run in to. One of the major issues these pups face is dry or irritable corneas due to the shape of their eyelids and the “bulging” of their eyes. With less room in the skull, fully developed eyes tend to press out, and the eyelid sometimes can’t cover the whole eye. Corneal ulcers, dry eye, and other irritation of the cornea is common.


Of course, you can help. There are artificial tears for pets, and in many cases, keeping your pet’s face clean and doing regular checks may help to avoid further issues. Another frequent issue is a flipped eyelid (entropion/ectropion) which can cause further irritation of the eyes. It’s worth making routine visits to the vet, as with all pets, but in the case of these smushed-face friends it’s a good idea to take extra care of their eyes all around.


Thankfully tear staining is one eye issue that isn’t accompanied by surgery or emergency vet visits. The simple solution is daily cleaning to ensure that your furry friend’s face is healthy and clean. If you notice the staining getting more severe or appearing at a more rapid pace, it’s best to consult with your vet of course.

Skin Care


Squished faces come with bunched up skin. The folds in flat-faced dog can collect dirt and germs which, if left uncleaned, can cause skin infections. Be sure to frequently clean the folds. This doesn’t have to mean more bath times, dog wipes work well for this situation. Moisture is also a culprit for skin issues, so it’s important to give them a good dry afterwards. This is just like standard skin care, making sure that every bit of your pup’s face is clean and fresh.


Because these breeds tend to be messy eaters, it could be worth looking into specialized feeding bowls that either help slow or contain their eating habits. Some sloped bowls are designed to help flat faced breeds eat at a decent pace without throwing food all around the bowl, which can help with digestion. As a warning, not all bowls like this work, and even the ones that do work might not help with certain kinds of food.


Generally, it’s best to find a feeding method that helps your dog eat without labored breathing or getting too gassy. Improving eating habits and reducing the mess isn’t only good for their insides, it can make their faces less prone to lingering food or complications!




As we mentioned earlier, it can be rough for these breeds to get overexcited or exercise too much. But that doesn’t mean they’re 100% couch dogs! As with any breed, it’s necessary to get out and walk from time to time, as it keeps your dog active and healthy. Since these breeds are susceptible to overheating and tough breathing, it’s important to design your play, walk, or exercise routines around what they can handle. Make sure to carry plenty of extra water and maybe even a portable water bowl to help keep them cool. If you’re going to the park, be sure to find some shade every now and then.


Most importantly, keep an eye on your dog’s breathing and energy levels. If you notice your pup is tiring too quickly, it might be time for a break. Carry water, take breaks when necessary, it’s pretty common sense stuff! While these pups may be prone to overexertion, if you notice your friend getting tired too fast, even for them, it might be a good idea to ask your vet. As dogs age, their energy levels change, which is natural, but it’s never a bad idea to monitor those levels for sudden spikes or valleys.


If you own a flat-faced dog or are looking into getting one, be prepared for high maintenance care. But what dog doesn’t deserve your love and attention? If you find yourself in the company of these flat-faced buddies, just remember to really consider their specialized needs and peculiarities.

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