Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs

Overview of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs

Brachycephalic syndrome is a group of conditions that cause resistance to airflow through the upper respiratory tract (nose, larynx) in short-nosed breeds of dogs. This syndrome is caused by anatomic abnormalities related to the shortened bones of these dogs’ compressed faces without the same proportionate shortening of the overlying soft tissues. The excess soft tissue leads to airway compromise.

Brachycephalic breeds of either sex, such as the English bulldog, Boston terrier, pug and Pekingese, are most commonly affected.

Stenotic nares (pinched nostrils), overlong soft palate and everted laryngeal saccules are the most common conditions encountered in dogs with this problem. Although the abnormalities are present at birth, clinical signs of respiratory difficulty often begin in early middle age.

Increased airway resistance from brachycephalic syndrome over a long period of time can lead to progressive respiratory difficulty. The larynx and trachea become weaker as the large negative pressure of the increased effort on inspiration continually draws them in. Eventually they may collapse causing critical airway obstruction, cyanosis (blueness to the color of the oral membranes), and possibly death.

What to Watch For

Signs of brachycephalic syndrome in dogs may include:

Diagnosis of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs

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

Treatment of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs

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.

Home Care

In-depth Information on Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs

Related diseases or disorders that mimic the signs of brachycephalic syndrome:

In-depth Information on Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed in cases of upper respiratory obstruction, including:

In-Depth Information on Treatment

Treatment for upper respiratory obstruction may include one or more of the following:

Surgical corrections include: