What is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?
In order to better understand the term bracephalic we can break the word down into two separate parts. The first part of the word, brachy, means shortened and the second part, cephalic, which means head. Based on this, the term brachycephalic as a whole means shortened head. Which is exactly how you would describe these breeds of dog. These are the types of dogs that those smooshed in faces that many of us adore. Unfortunately, these unique characteristics also can have an adverse effect on 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.
Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
Some of the brachycephalic breeds of dogs seen today are:
- Bulldogs (French and English)
- Boxer Dogs
- Boston Terriers
- Chinese Shar-Pei
- Shih Tzus
- Bull Mastiffs
Concerns in Brachycephalic Dogs
Some of the main concerns in dogs with shortened snouts 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: Nasopharyngeal turbinates are ridges of tissue-covered bone that help to warm and humidify the air that the dog breathes in. However, when these are too long they can cause a blockage affecting the airflow.
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 Conditions Affecting Dogs With Brachycephalic Syndrome
Brachycephalic airway syndrome has also 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.
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.
Diagnosing Brachycephalic 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 diagnosed with a simple physical examination, other abnormalities are a bit more complex and difficult to diagnose and will require the dog to be placed under general anesthesia. Depending on the issue at hand your vet may also recommend the use of a chest X-ray to help with the diagnosis.
Is surgery the right answer for brachycephalic syndrome in dogs?
As with most health concerns, the sooner conditions are diagnosed in brachycephalic dogs, the sooner treatment can begin. This allows for the best possible outcome.
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.