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Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs

When it comes to dogs, there is always a chance that certain breeds may be affected by or have a higher risk of developing unique conditions such as is the case in dogs with short snouts. Our Des Moines vets talk about brachycephalic airway syndrome in dogs with shortened skulls and what the signs and treatment options are.

What is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

We can separate the word "brachycephalic" into its two constituent parts when breaking it down. The word is made up of two parts: brachy, which means shortened, and cephalic, which means head. Consequently, the term "brachycephalic" in its entirety refers to shortened heads. Which is precisely how you would characterize these dog breeds. These are the breeds of dogs that many of us adore because of their compressed faces. Unfortunately, these distinctive qualities may also be harmful to the health of these dogs.

The veterinary term for the condition that these dogs experience is brachycephalic airway syndrome, which refers to the upper airway abnormalities affecting these breeds. Some of these abnormalities are:

Stenotic nares: If a dog is experiencing stenotic nares it will have abnormally narrowed or small nostrils restricting the airflow into the nostrils.

Extended nasopharyngeal turbinates: The dog's nose contains ridges of bone covered in tissue called nasopharyngeal turbinates, which aid in warming and humidifying the air it breathes in. They may, however, obstruct the airflow if they are too long.

Elongated soft palate: A dog that has an elongated soft palette can have their windpipe partially blocked causing an obstruction.

Laryngeal collapse: When there is chronic stress 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 within the larynx which may be sucked into the airway causing an obstruction.

Hypoplastic trachea: If a dog is experiencing hypoplastic trachea it means that 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, a further obstruction is caused by the bronchi weakening and collapsing. When your dog's intestinal fluids flow back into their 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 will vary depending on the abnormalities that are affecting the dog.

While stenotic nares can be identified through a straightforward physical examination, other abnormalities are a little more challenging to identify and will need to be performed while the dog is under general anesthesia. Your veterinarian might also advise using a chest x-ray to aid in the diagnosis, depending on the problem at hand.

How successful is surgery for brachycephalic airway syndrome in dogs?

As with most conditions affecting dogs, the sooner that they are diagnosed the sooner they can be treated which usually results in a better prognosis. 

With brachycephalic airway syndrome, the most common form of treatment is surgery to correct the abnormality and improve the airflow and breathing abilities of the dog.

There is a chance that the incision site may swell after surgery and so your vet will monitor your dog closely to ensure that their breathing continues to be unaffected throughout recovery.

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.

Do you have a brachycephalic dog that experiencing symptoms such as those listed above? Our experienced vets can help. Book an appointment at Des Moines Veterinary Hospital today.

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