Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome In English Bulldogs
Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome In English Bulldogs

Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome in English Bulldogs: Understanding Causes and Treatment

Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome is a condition that affects many dogs with a particular facial structure, prominently including English Bulldogs.

These dogs are easily recognizable by their short noses and wide skulls, traits that contribute to their unique appearance but also predispose them to a range of eye problems.

Conditions such as corneal ulcers, dry eyes, and other complications are often grouped under the umbrella term Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome because of their association with the brachycephalic head shape.

Diagnosis and treatment of these eye issues require careful attention, as the symptoms can lead to discomfort and more severe health problems if left unmanaged.

English Bulldogs may display signs like excessive tearing, redness, or rubbing their eyes, which are indications that a visit to the veterinarian is necessary.

Vets perform a thorough examination of the eyes to determine the extent and severity of any ocular abnormalities.

Management of Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome involves a combination of medical treatments and, in some cases, surgery.

For English Bulldog owners, understanding the risks and signs of this syndrome is critical in providing a good quality of life for their pets.

Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help monitor the health of their Bulldog’s eyes and address issues as they arise, ensuring that these beloved companions remain as happy and healthy as possible.

Understanding Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome

Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome significantly impacts the eye health and comfort of certain dog breeds.

It’s important to grasp the special anatomy of these breeds that predisposes them to such conditions.

Defining Brachycephalic Breeds

Brachycephalic breeds are dogs with a distinctive skull conformation characterized by a shortened head, flat face, and broad skull.

This group includes well-known breeds like English Bulldogs, Pugs, and French Bulldogs.

The term brachycephalic comes from Greek words meaning “short” and “head”.

Anatomy of Brachycephalic Eyes

The eyes of brachycephalic breeds have a unique anatomy that includes shallow orbits which expose more of the eye than in other breeds.

Their palpebral fissure, or the eyelid opening, is often wider, leaving the cornea and the whites of the eye more susceptible to injury and drying.

Common Ocular Disorders in Brachycephalics

Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome encompasses various eye-related problems primarily stemming from their distinctive genetics and physical traits.

Some of the most common issues are corneal ulcers due to the inability of the eyelids to fully close, and cherry eye, a condition where the gland of the third eyelid protrudes.

Additionally, due to shallow orbits and pronounced eyes, brachycephalic dogs can sometimes experience problems such as corneal abrasions or even proptosis, where the eye can come out of the socket.

Caring for brachycephalic dogs takes an understanding of their unique issues and preventive measures.

Regular veterinary eye check-ups can help mitigate the impact of Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome and ensure these lovable pets maintain good vision and comfort.

Consequences of Brachycephalic Ocular Conditions

English Bulldogs, due to their unique facial structure, often face a range of eye-related issues known as Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome.

These problems can significantly affect their quality of life and may lead to more severe health complications if left untreated.

Challenges in Daily Living

English Bulldogs with brachycephalic ocular conditions typically experience discomfort in their everyday activities.

Entropion, where the eyelid rolls inward, can cause corneal ulcers and scarring from the friction of eyelashes against the cornea.

Ectopic cilia also lead to discomfort as abnormal lashes grow and touch the eye surface.

Bulldogs may exhibit tear staining or epiphora, visible as excessive watering of the eyes.

This constant overflow of tears can lead to sore skin and infections around the eyes.

Additionally, distichiasis, the abnormal growth of eyelashes from the Meibomian glands, often leads to irritation.

The short nose and shallow eye sockets mean that proptosis, or displacement of the eye from the socket, is a real risk from even minor trauma.

Progression to Serious Health Issues

Over time, brachycephalic ocular conditions can lead to more serious health problems.

Lagophthalmos, the inability to fully close the eyelids, can cause the eyes to dry out, reducing the protective tear film break-up time and contributing to ocular surface pathology.

Pigmentary keratitis, a condition where pigment is deposited on the cornea, can develop from chronic exposure and irritation, potentially leading to visual impairment or blindness.

The pain associated with these conditions can be acute, and the chronic stress from this discomfort can impact the Bulldogs’ overall health and well-being.

Without intervention, these animals can suffer from diminished life quality and ongoing health problems.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Before taking any steps to treat Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome (BOS), it’s essential for a veterinarian to accurately diagnose the condition through a detailed clinical assessment.

Subsequently, based on the severity and the specifics of the case, medical or surgical interventions can be recommended.

Clinical Assessment of Brachycephalic Eyes

During the ophthalmic examination, a veterinarian will assess the eyes for abnormalities such as macroblepharon (enlarged eyelid opening), which is common in English Bulldogs.

They will conduct tests to evaluate corneal sensitivity and tear production, like the Schirmer tear test, to check for tear deficiencies that can lead to dry eye conditions.

A fluorescein dye test may be used to detect any corneal ulcers that might have developed due to the syndrome.

Medical and Surgical Interventions

If the bulldog shows signs of tear deficiencies, medical interventions such as artificial tears or moisture-retaining eye drops may be prescribed to manage the condition.

In severe cases, surgical treatment options like medial canthoplasty (to reduce the eyelid opening) or conjunctival flap surgery (to protect the cornea) may be necessary.

For issues like abnormal eyelash growth causing irritation, electroepilation could be an option to remove problematic lashes.

English Bulldogs with BOS should have a regular ophthalmological check-up to monitor their condition and adjust treatments as necessary.

Associations like the Australian Veterinary Association can provide guidelines and support for appropriate treatment protocols.

Implications for Breeding and Welfare

The breeding of English Bulldogs and other brachycephalic (short-headed) dogs has raised significant welfare concerns.

The popularity of certain physical traits in breeds such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers has led to the exacerbation of Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome (BOS) and other health issues.

Ethical Considerations in Breeding

Responsible breeders and organizations like the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) are advocating for ethical breeding practices to reduce the prevalence of BOS.

They emphasize the necessity of responsible reproductive strategies that focus on the long-term health of purebred dogs rather than just their physical appearance.

Selective breeding for shortened facial structures has caused numerous anatomic changes that impact these dogs’ quality of life.

Ethical breeding must consider the overall welfare of the dogs, striving to minimize health issues associated with BOS.

Advocacy for Breed Health

Advocacy groups and welfare organizations, such as the AVA, continuously work to educate the public on the health issues associated with brachycephalic breeds.

They provide guidance and support for breeding practices that prioritize the animals’ health, endorsing a shift away from selecting for extreme physical traits that compromise well-being.

These efforts support a more sustainable and welfare-oriented approach to breeding and maintaining the breed standards of French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and others.

Caring for Dogs with Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome

The well-being of dogs suffering from Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome hinges on diligent daily management and a commitment to sustained ocular health.

Recognizing and addressing the specific needs of these dogs can significantly enhance their quality of life.

Daily Management and Prevention

Owners should be attentive to their dog’s eyes, watching for signs of discomfort or changes in appearance.

One aspect of daily care includes managing the dog’s environment to reduce the risk of chronic exposure that could exacerbate eye conditions.

For instance, environmental dust and pollutants can irritate the eyes and should be minimized.

Topical eye medications may be necessary to maintain adequate aqueous tear secretion and to treat or prevent corneal pigmentation and fibrosis.

Eye drops or ointments prescribed by a veterinarian can help to keep the eyes moist and prevent ulcers.

In some cases, usage of an Elizabethan collar is recommended to prevent the dog from scratching its eyes and causing further injury.

Supporting Long-term Ocular Health

Long-term care for dogs with Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome often requires vigilance against related health issues.

This includes regular evaluations for dental problems, which can be common in brachycephalic breeds due to their jaw conformation, and can affect the nasolacrimal apparatus and ocular health indirectly.

Proper pain management is also crucial for dogs suffering from ocular disorders such as medial canthal and lower lid entropion, or more severe conditions like traumatic proptosis.

Pain management might involve a combination of systemic analgesics and topical treatments as prescribed by a veterinarian.

By maintaining a healthy weight and using a harness instead of a collar, owners can alleviate pressure on the dog’s neck and eyes, helping to prevent medial lower lid entropion.

These steps contribute to a better quality of life and potentially reduce the development of further health problems associated with Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome.

About the author


Hayley Smith is a passionate advocate for holistic dog nutrition and healing. With a Bachelor's degree in Veterinary Science and a certification in Canine Nutrition, Hayley has devoted her career to understanding the link between a dog's diet and their overall health and wellbeing.

Before joining our team, Hayley worked as a veterinary nutritionist for a decade, where she helped develop tailored diets for dogs with various health issues. Her work in the clinic also involved educating pet parents on the benefits of natural remedies.

When she's not researching the latest in dog nutrition or writing, Hayley enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters and spending time with her two rescue dogs.
Her mission is to bridge the gap between traditional veterinary practices and holistic approaches to pet care, ensuring every dog can lead a happy, healthy life.