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What pet families with French Bulldogs and other short-nosed breeds need to know

Nationwide® pet insurance analysis shows disease risk linked to popular breeds and offers tips on keeping these pets healthier

French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and Pugs have never been more popular than they are today, beloved by celebrities, social media influencers, and families alike. In fact, the American Kennel Club (AKC) announced last week that the French Bulldog ranked No. 1 among the registry’s purebreds in 2022, ending the Labrador Retriever’s 31-year reign as the most popular dog breed in America. The country’s largest pet health insurer, Nationwide®, has also seen its Frenchie population increase 435% in the last ten years.

But Nationwide’s study of policy and claims information of more than 50,000 of these short-nosed dogs and other similar breeds like them shows they suffer from more than their share of serious illnesses. The “In the Know About Noses: Burrowing Into Brachycephalic Dog Breeds” report analyzed claims data for 15 brachycephalic (bray·kee·seh·fuh·luhk) breeds.

The largest-of-its-kind study not only identifies the serious health issues common in what veterinarians call “brachycephalic” breeds, but also seeks to educate pet families and veterinary healthcare teams on what steps can be taken to keep these dogs as comfortable and healthy as possible. (The tongue-twister term means “short” (brachy-) “head” (-cephaly), and brachycephalic breeds are easily recognized by their distinctive shortened muzzle and skull, underbite, and wide-set eyes.)

“Veterinary healthcare teams see the challenges that these breeds face every day in hospitals across the country,” said Dr. Jules Benson, Nationwide’s Vice President, Pet Health and Chief Veterinary Officer. “Too often, though, people are unprepared for the medical, financial, and emotional toll that diseases common to these beloved dogs can cause. Our latest study aims to arm pet families and veterinary providers with more knowledge on these specific breeds, along with the best steps for prevention and intervention.”

The Nationwide study revealed:

  • Breathing problems are common: Brachycephalic dogs are prone to specific respiratory diseases collectively known as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). The risk of brachycephalic dogs submitting a claim for any breathing problem, including BOAS, was almost three times higher than for non-brachycephalic dogs.
  • “Extreme” dogs are at greater risk: French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and Pugs, known as the three “extreme brachycephalic breeds,” have dramatically higher percentage of claims for BOAS, even as compared to other brachycephalic breeds. The French Bulldog is more than 17 times more likely to have a claim submitted for BOAS, the English Bulldog nearly 12 times more likely, and the Pug almost 10 times more likely.
  • BOAS contributes to additional problems: BOAS in extreme brachycephalic dogs is linked to a dramatically higher risk of many other serious health concerns, including pneumonia, spinal disease, and diseases of the digestive system.
  • Additional concerns identified: Brachycephalic dogs are also at higher risk for eye conditions, hyperthermia (overheating), allergic reactions, complications of pregnancy, and neurologic disease.

“Millions of brachycephalic dogs have snuffled their way into the homes and hearts of pet families across the country,” says Dr. Benson, who is also lead author of the study. “Our goal is to contribute to the body of knowledge that helps them enjoy the healthiest and happiest lives possible.”

Top 3 Tips for Pet Parents of Brachycephalic Dogs

1. Keep them trim. Data shows that in French Bulldogs and other short-nosed breeds, extra weight can lead to breathing problems, back problems, and digestive issues, or a combination of those. Working with your veterinarian to help your dog maintain a healthy weight, while getting the nutrients they need, can help them avoid obesity-related issues.

2. Know their limits. Learn as much as you can about their unique health needs. For example, because of their shorter snouts, brachycephalic dogs can overheat more quickly than other breeds, so keep them cool and avoid strenuous exercise. Using a harness instead of a collar avoids putting pressure on their airway. They’re also more prone to respiratory diseases like pneumonia, so it’s important to know when snoring, snorting, and gagging are not cute little quirks – they could mean your dog is having trouble breathing and may need veterinary attention.

3. Develop a bond with your veterinarian. Your dog’s doctor can truly be your best friend when it comes to keeping your brachycephalic dog healthy. Regular exams and open conversations about your dog’s unique needs can go a long way toward early detection of any health problems. Plus, your veterinarian can give you tips and advice on how to take the best possible care of your furry family member.

To read Nationwide’s complete findings on brachycephalic dogs, visit www.PetInsurance.com/petdata

With Nationwide pet health insurance, many veterinary expenses associated with brachycephalic treatments are eligible for reimbursement based on the member’s chosen coverage. To explore pet health insurance coverage for any kind of dog, cat, and many avian or exotic pets, visit PetInsurance.com.