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Respiratory Problems

Brachycephalic breeds are characterized by brachycephalic respiratory syndrome, which affects the different areas of the respiratory tract. Fortunately, most dogs do not suffer from all aspects of the syndrome but you should be aware of which your particular pet may have.

Stenotic Nares This is a fancy name for narrowed nostrils. The brachycephalic dogs begin by having very small nasal openings for breathing. If this is severe, surgical correction is possible.

Elongated Soft Palate  It is difficult to fit the soft tissues of the canine mouth and throat into the brachycephalic’s short face. As a result, the soft palate that separates nasal passage from oral cavity flaps loosely down into the throat, creating snorting sounds. Virtually all Brachycephalic dogs suffer from this, so keep in mind, complications from respiratory distress can happen with little warning and can result in death. Excess barking or panting may lead to swelling in the throat that can, in turn, lead to trouble.

Tracheal Stenosis  The brachycephalic’s windpipe may be dangerously narrowed in places. This condition creates tremendous anesthetic risk and should be ruled out by chest radiographs prior to any surgical procedures.

Heat Stress Because of all these upper respiratory obstructions, the brachycephalic dog is an inefficient panter. A dog with a more conventional face and throat is able to pass air quickly over the tongue through panting. Saliva evaporates from the tongue as air is passed across and the blood circulating through the tongue is efficiently cooled and circulated back to the rest of the body.

In the brachycephalic dog, so much extra work is required to move the same amount of air that the airways become inflamed and swollen. This leads to a more severe obstruction, distress, and further over-heating. Brachycephalic Dogs Are the Most Likely Candidates for Heat Stroke Altogether, the upper airways of the brachycephalic dog compromise his or her ability to take in air. Under normal conditions the compromise is not great enough to cause a problem; however, an owner should take care not to let the dog become grossly overweight or get too hot in the summer months. Be aware of what degree of snorting and sputtering is usual for your individual pet plus, should your pet require general anesthesia or sedation, your veterinarian may want to take extra precautions or take radiographs prior to assess the severity of the syndrome. Anesthetic risk is higher than usual in these breeds, though under most circumstances the necessary extra precautions are readily managed by most animal hospitals.