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Adorable, smooshed-faced dogs could cost you thousands more in the long run

The flat face common to Shih Tzus, pugs and bulldogs is more often than not a sign of respiratory issues to come, explains Aylin Atilla, veterinary medicine instructor at the University of Calgary.

Potential owners should know about dogs' predisposition to breathing issues and hernias, says vet

Why flat-faced dogs often rack up thousands in surgery bills

5 years ago
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Those squishy, wrinkly faces may be irresistibly cute, but they could also cost you a couple of thousand dollars in extra bills, warns one vet. 0:35

Those squishy, wrinkly faces may be irresistibly cute, but they could also cost you a few thousand dollars in extra bills, warns one vet. 

The flat face common to Shih Tzus, pugs and bulldogs is more often than not a sign of respiratory issues to come, explained Aylin Atilla, who teaches veterinary medicine at the University of Calgary.

Besides having smaller nostrils and tracheas compared to equivalent-sized dogs of a different breed, flat-faced dogs also tend to have a longer soft palate, meaning they have extra tissue that can dangle over their airway.

The British Veterinary Association is trying to discourage prospective dog owners from buying popular flat-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs. (Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images)

This all contributes to difficulty breathing, and it can lead to heat intolerance, as well as noisy eating, breathing and sleeping. 

"You may hear them snarfling or snuffling," Atilla told CBC's The Calgary Eyeopener. "Some people can't sleep with them in the same room because they snore so much."

It's relatively simple to correct these issues through surgery, but potential owners should be prepared to pay roughly $2,000 to $3,000, said Atilla. 

Take precautions

Even if these symptoms aren't obvious, Atilla recommends taking your boxer, Boston terrier, Pekinese, bulldog or other flat-faced dog to the vet for a breathing check up.

"If it looks like somebody punched it in the nose and it has no more nose, it should be evaluated," she said.

"I assume all smooshed-faced dogs have a long palate until proven otherwise."

Some of the most popular flat-faced dogs include French bulldogs (above), boxers, bulldogs and Shih Tzus, according to the American Kennel Club. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

If these breathing issues aren't addressed early on, Atilla said over time they could lead to the collapse of cartilage in the airway. Because these dogs are forced to work so hard to breathe, they're also at a higher risk of having their stomach herniate into their chest.

The British Veterinary Association has advocated against breeding flat-faced dogs for these reasons, but Atilla says she wouldn't go that far.

"The better approach is to be well-informed," said Atilla.

Potential owners should work with veterinarians to understand the risks associated with any particular breed, so that they can make sure they are financially prepared to deal with any complications.

"They can be very sweet dogs, they can be great family companions. I think you pick your poison and know what you're dealing with."


With files from CBC's The Calgary Eyeopener

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