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Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs

If you have a dog with a short snout, it's important to know that certain breeds may be more prone to developing unique conditions such as brachycephalic airway syndrome. Our veterinarians in Lancaster can provide information about the signs of this condition and treatment options.

What is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

Brachycephalic is a term that can be broken into two parts. The first part, brachy, means "shortened," while the second part, cephalic, refers to the head. When combined, the term brachycephalic means "shortened head," which accurately describes breeds of dogs with flattened faces. Unfortunately, these unique physical characteristics can also negatively affect the dogs' health.

Veterinarians use the term "brachycephalic airway syndrome" to describe the upper airway abnormalities that affect these breeds. Some of the abnormalities include:

Stenotic nares: If a dog has stenotic nares, its nostrils are abnormally narrow or small, restricting airflow.

Extended nasopharyngeal turbinates: Nasopharyngeal turbinates are bony ridges covered with tissue that warm and humidify air when dogs breathe. However, when these turbinates become too lengthy, they can obstruct the airway, affecting breathing.

Elongated soft palate: A dog with an elongated soft palate may experience a partial blockage of the windpipe, leading to obstruction.

Laryngeal collapse: When chronic stress is put on the larynx of the dog, it can result in laryngeal collapse. As this collapse occurs, it will cause a restriction in airflow.

Everted laryngeal saccules: The laryngeal saccules are small sacs or pouches located within the larynx that can potentially block the airway.

Hypoplastic trachea: If a dog experiences hypoplastic trachea, it means their trachea has a smaller than average diameter.

Other Problems Caused By Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic airway syndrome has been linked to changes in the lungs as well as in the gastrointestinal tract, including:

  • bronchial collapse
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • chronic gastritis.

In bronchial collapse, the bronchi weaken and collapse, causing further obstruction. This can result in intestinal fluids flowing back into your dog's esophagus.

Dog Breeds With a High Risk of Developing Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

  • Bulldogs (French and English)
  • Boxer Dogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pekingese
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Pugs
  • Shih Tzus
  • Bull Mastiffs

Symptoms Of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs

Brachycephalic dogs may experience symptoms such as:

  • They may have noisy breathing, especially when they breathe in
  • They may gag when they are swallowing
  • These dogs may have the inability to partake in exercise
  • Cyanosis causing blue tongue and gums related to the lack of oxygen
  • The dog may occasionally collapse, especially with over-activity, excitement, or excessive heat or humidity
  • Dogs suffering from obesity will be at a greater risk

Many brachycephalic dogs have a preference for sleeping on their backs. This position provides the opportunity for the soft palette to fall away from the larynx.

Diagnosis Of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs

The diagnosis of brachycephalic airway syndrome may differ based on the specific abnormalities affecting the dog. Although stenotic nares can be easily diagnosed with a physical examination, other abnormalities are more complicated and require the dog to be put under general anesthesia. Depending on the issue, your vet may also suggest a chest x-ray to aid in the diagnosis.

How Successful is Surgery For Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs?

Diagnosing conditions affecting dogs as early as possible is important, as this leads to better treatment outcomes. Brachycephalic airway syndrome is usually treated with corrective surgery to improve the dog's breathing and airflow.

After surgery, there is a chance that the incision site may swell, so your vet will closely monitor your dog's breathing during recovery to make sure that it is not affected.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your flat-faced dog exhibiting any of these symptoms? Our veterinarians can assist you. Schedule an appointment today at Sears Veterinary Hospital in Lancaster.

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