Brachycephalic Syndrome in Pets

Brachycephalic breeds have short noses and muzzles.

Brachycephalic syndrome is a complex of various airway abnormalities common in certain breeds, including Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to name a few.   This syndrome literally means “short nosed and short muzzle”, which is commonly seen in these breeds.

The throat and breathing passages are undersized or flattened in many cases.  The excess soft tissues of the head increase resistance to the flow of air through the upper airways, nostrils, sinuses, pharynx and larynx.  Two of the most common clinical diseases seen are elongated soft palates, and stenotic or narrowed nares.  Because of these unique anatomic abnormalities, symptoms include noisy breathing, snuffling, snorting, excessive snoring, gagging and retching.  In severe cases labored and constant open mouth breathing may be seen.

Heat and exertional intolerance also frequently accompany the clinical signs.   Treatment includes avoiding overheating and excessive excitement and exercise.  It is especially important in summer months to maintain affected pets in as cool an environment as possible.   In severe cases, surgery is needed when abnormalities chronically interfere with breathing.  In these cases, a consultation with a board certified surgeon is recommended.

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