Brachycephalic Breeds and Brachycephalic Syndrome

  • January 2015
  • Posted By Jesse Davicioni

Dogs with Short Faces


Pug, Boston Terrier, Pekingese, Boxer, Bulldog, Shih Tzu or any one of the other breeds with pushed in or short faces are termed Brachycephalic.
Brachycephalic dogs have been bred to have a normal lower jaw that is in proportion to their body size, and a compressed upper jaw. This cosmetic appearance has been produced through breeding, but has compromised these animals in many important ways, and you as an owner must be familiar with the needs of your pet.

The Respiratory System

The term Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) refers to the combination of elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and everted laryngeal saccules, all of which are commonly seen in these breeds.

Elongated soft palate is a condition where the soft palate is too long so that the tip of it protrudes into the airway and interferes with movement of air into the lungs.




Normal (left),  Stenotic (right)

Normal (left)
Stenotic (right)

 Stenotic Nares are malformed nostrils that are narrow or collapse inward during inhalation,

making it difficult for the dog to breathe through its nose.


Clinical signs of Brachycephalic syndrome

Dogs with this condition generally have a history of noisy breathing and snoring, especially upon inspiration (breathing inward).

Some dogs will retch or gag, especially while swallowing. Exercise intolerance, cyanosis (blue tongue and gums from lack of oxygen), and occasional collapse are common, especially following over-activity, excitement, or excessive heat or humidity.

Obesity will aggravate the problems. Many dogs with elongated soft palates prefer to sleep on their backs. This is probably because this position allows the soft palate tissue to fall away from the larynx.

Dogs with brachycephalic syndrome are at risk for 2 main issues:

1. Heat Stress- Because of all these upper respiratory obstructions, the brachycephalic dog pants inefficiently. This inefficient panting makes brachycephalic dogs the most likely candidates for heat stroke.

2. Brachycephalic syndrome can be progressive if it is not corrected at an early stage. Severely affected dogs can experience collapse of the larynx and require a permanent tracheostomy (a hole in the throat for breathing) or a tracheal stent to be placed.

So be careful! If you have a brachycephalic dog we advise to take great care of your dogs on hot days. Do not over exercise them and make sure you provide them ample shade and water.
If your dog has clinical signs of brachycephalic syndrome, we advise to have your pet checked as early surgical intervention will reduce the risk of heat stroke and tracheal collapse.


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