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Grooming advice for brachycephalic dogs (3-min read)

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Immediately recognisable by their squishy faces, brachycephalic dogs (brachy meaning 'short' and cephalic meaning 'headed') are increasingly popular in the UK and include:

  • Boxers

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

  • Chow Chows

  • English Bulldogs

  • French Bulldogs (the most popular dog in the UK in 2019 and 2021)

  • Griffon Bruxellois

  • Lhasa Apsos

  • Pugs

  • Shih'tzus

The steady popularity of brachycephalics is somewhat controversial, with institutions such as the British Veterinarian Society urging caution before getting one, versus the Kennel Club enjoying the demand, yet still advising on responsible care, since these breeds are more prone to health issues than other dogs. Particularly to do with their breathing, skin, eyes and teeth. Understanding more about their vulnerabilities helps us know how to groom them safely.


Advice on grooming brachycephalic dogs at home, or in the grooming parlour


Bathing
Bracycephalic Shih'tzu being bathed carefully at The Artful Dog Grooming Parlour in Finchley
Palomi the Shih'tzu

🐾 Brachycephalic breeds are prone to breathing problems; and can react badly to water or shampoo getting inside their nasal cavity. Always use a flannel to clean and rinse their faces to protect their breathing apparatus.

🐾 Be extra careful to clean inside any skin folds to prevent dirt from accumulating and creating sores. Use a dog-safe disinfectant wipe, or a pet-safe sanitiser (I use this one from Dew Products in The Parlour). Tell-tale signs of a problem include a bad smell emanating from the fold, redness or itching.


This is Palomi the Shih'tzu staring me out after I flannel washed her face!



Drying

🐾 Never point the hairdryer at the face of a brachycephalic dog - better to wipe moisture off with a towel and let the face dry naturally but...

🐾 Also make sure to thoroughly dry any skin folds after bathing, as parasites like nothing more than a warm, moist environment to breed in.

🐾 Brachycephalic noses are prone to get dry and cracked. Sometimes a scab can form which may conceal an infection, so regular vet checkups are essential. In the meantime, a little nose balm goes a long way.



Nail Clipping

🐾 Brachycephalic nails can grow tough, strong and curly. Even the smaller breeds can have disproportionately large and fast-growing nails. If nails are left too long without a trim they can curl back into the paw pad and push into it, which is incredibly painful for the dog, and difficult to remove.

French Bulldog puppy at 12-weeks-old after her first nail trim at The Artful Dog Grooming Parlour
Zen the French Bulldog puppy at 12-weeks after her first nail trim

Make sure to trim those nails regularly, or have them trimmed by a groomer or vet. I find that fortnightly trims with a strong pair of pet nail clippers, taking a little bit off each nail (and I mean slicing off millimetres each time) are effective at keeping them in check.


This here is gorgeous little Zen, a French Bulldog, whose owner brought her to The Parlour when she was only twelve weeks old to have her nails clipped, so she could get used to the process.




Teeth Cleaning

🐾 Since brachycephalic heads are small, there often isn't enough room for the teeth to grow comfortably. Awkwardly positioned teeth mean that they can cut into lips and gums. The risk of tartar and plaque build up in the crevices is also higher when teeth are squashed together. Again, regular dental checks with the vet from an early age are essential. Since prevention is better than cure, get your brachycephalic dog used to having its teeth cleaned at home, by you, every day. Unfortunately, dental sticks aren't as effective as the marketing suggests. I've recently started using a silicone finger toothbrush on my own pet dog (tho' not a brachycephalic breed) and it's surprisingly good at allowing me to get to the inside surfaces and teeth at the back. Ultra-sonic cleaning for dogs is also highly effective at treating plaque, and we will soon be offering this service at The Artful Dog Grooming Parlour in Finchley.



Say hello to Ike
Griffon Bruxellois, a Brachycephalic Dog at the Artful Dog Grooming Parlour in in Finchley
Ike the Griffon Bruxellois

Ike is a Griffon Bruxellois, and a regular frequenter of The Parlour. You can see from the photo that there isn’t enough room in his head for everything to fit, which is why his tongue always sticks out and his eyes bulge. His teeth are already rotting, at the tender age of 4yo, and he had to have a complete de-scale under anaesthetic at the vets. His breathing is getting more laboured and he is likely to need an operation to help the air flow more freely. Till then, lots of cuddles 🥰

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