Smooshy faced (brachycephalic) dogs are just so darn cute with a wiggly body outwardly matching their lovable personality. However – this cute squishy face comes at a cost.
This defining structure means their whole respiratory structures leading from the head to the lungs are shorter and much more distorted than in other longer faced doggy breeds. Dogs that fall into the flat faced breed variety are called “Brachycephalic” or (Short Head) breeds.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Shi Tzus
- French Bulldogs
- English Bulldogs
- Boston Terriers and
- English Toy Spaniels
Because of the distorted airways, many of these delightful souls suffer from laboured breathing throughout their whole life. This is simply the result of how they’re put together. This in turn often leads to secondary health issues because of their hearts and lungs having to work so much harder than that of their long faced friends.
While the cute little sounds of snorts and snoring may seem endearing, in reality it is what breathing sounds like for an animal that doesn’t breather easily or freely.
This is why so many more precautions need to be taken with these breeds.
Brachycephalic Breeds and Heat
Dogs use breathing to cool down on hot days or after exercise. You’ll see this often – dogs panting heavily with their tongues hanging out. This rapid exchange of air between the lungs and the outside environment helps keep dogs cool. Brachycephalic dogs can’t do this. While they would love to, their respiratory structures simply can’t accommodate it. For them – it’s like breathing in and out through a straw when they heat up or when exercising. In other words – they struggle.
So What Can You do to Make their Life Less Stressful?
What you can do for them includes:
- Keep them at a healthy weight. Being overweight only adds extra burden to their lungs and heart
- Exercise them only during the cooler parts of the day and NEVER on a hot day
- Keep them inside and cool on hot days – preferably in an air-conditioned room
- Use a harness instead of a collar. Collars around their throat place extra pressure on their windpipe making it even harder to breathe
- Avoid situations that can make them overexcited or fearful such as off lead dog parks and other areas where they are at risk of being chased by other dogs
Veterinary Preventative Care
Yes – you guessed it. These guys will need extra veterinary care because of their breed specific health issues. And if you take out Pet Insurance, be aware, the premiums will cost more. That’s because these dogs are classified as high risk breeds.
Corrective (Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome) Surgery
The upper airway abnormalities that occur in this syndrome include stenotic nares, an elongated soft palate, a hypoplastic trachea and everted laryngeal saccules. An individual dog with brachycephalic syndrome may be affected with a combination of one or more of these abnormalities.
Any of these upper airway abnormalities can cause increased airway resistance, making it harder for your dog to breathe. Most dogs with this syndrome are able to breathe more easily through their mouth than their nose. Generally, the more abnormalities present the more severe the symptoms.
Brachycephalic surgery addresses these issues – Stenotic Nares (Widening the nostrils) Elongated soft Palate (Shortening) and Larygeal saccules (Removal)
How is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome Diagnosed?
Oftentimes this is only diagnosed once dogs have been presented with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, fainting episodes or collapse.
Is there any Treatment available for Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?
Corrective Surgery is still the best option as any medical management does not address the underlying structural abnormalities.
The earlier the abnormalities are corrected, the better the outcome will be as over time other secondary issues will develop which further compromise your dog’s health.
Our Recommendations for Brachycephalic Airway Disease
If you own one of these breeds then we highly recommend a full medical workup to determine the best corrective actions to take BEFORE you have a problem such as a collapse or secondary issues develop. The younger your dog is – the more he or she will benefit in the long term.
This will include X-Rays of your dog’s chest and airway structures, oral examinations and blood tests. Oral examinations of the soft palate and laryngeal saccules will require either heavy sedation or General Anaesthesia. Due to the fact that these breeds are at greater risk during anaesthesia, we recommend performing any necessary surgery at the same time.
This means your dog only has one anaesthetic and not two.
If you have any more questions about Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome Diagnosis or Surgery – feel free to reach out to us via email or Facebook Messenger.