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Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs

By: Dr. David Diamond

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Diagnosis

The diagnosis is often made based on the breed of dog and the clinical signs. Other diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • A complete physical examination, including auscultation (listening) of the chest with a stethoscope, to help exclude other causes of respiratory difficulty

  • Thoracic radiographs (x-rays) to determine if heart or lung disease is present

  • Visual inspection of the nostrils to determine the presence of pinched nostrils

  • Examination (under sedation) of the mouth and larynx to diagnose an overlong soft palate and/or laryngeal saccules that are turned outward

    Treatment

    Mild cases are usually managed conservatively without surgery. Although mild cases or sudden bouts of airway obstruction may be managed medically (by tranquilization, administration of oxygen, hospital use of anti-inflammatory steroids), the risk for progression of severe airway disease exists. Close monitoring of your dog for worsening of clinical signs is imperative.

  • Surgical management before severe clinical signs develop is relatively easy and carries a much more favorable prognosis than attempted treatment later when the signs are more severe. Possible surgeries (depending on which abnormalities are present in your dog) include removal of a portion of the nostril to allow increased airflow, shortening the soft palate and removal of the everted laryngeal saccules.

    Home Care

  • If medical management is pursued closely watch your dog for worsening of clinical signs.

  • Prevent your dog from becoming obese as this will make it more difficult for him to breathe easily.

  • Avoid excessively stressful situations, such as exercise during hot, humid weather.

  • Avoid using a neck collar – use a harness instead.

  • If your dog has trouble breathing, becomes cyanotic, or collapses, visit your veterinarian immediately.

  • If surgical therapy is done no special care may be required once healing is complete; however, you should continue to monitor your dog for recurrence of clinical signs.

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