Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

The dog breeds with the “short face” are called brachycephalic dogs. The shortened nose has created some anatomical changes that can affect breathing, temperature regulation and lead to degenerative changes to the larynx, trachea and respiratory “tree” that are irreversible and difficult to treat which can affect the quality of your pet’s life.

If your dog has breathing difficulty when it is young, it is possible to have surgical corrections to improve the ease of breathing and prevent many of the degenerative changes that are associated with gasping for oxygen. Surgery may also prevent life threatening emergencies such as laryngeal oedema where the larynx becomes so swolen the airway is occluded or fatal hyperthemia from overheating in summer or during exercise because your brachycephalic dog cannot circulate air normally during panting to keep cool.

How do you know if your dog is having breathing difficulties? The video below shows a typical obstructive breathing pattern causing stertorous breathing and snoring.

What causes this snoring? Most of the brachycephalic dogs have an elongated soft palate? What is an elongated soft palate? The membrane at the back of your mouth between your nose and your mouth is the soft palate. In many breeds like the Pug and the Bulldog the soft palate extends past the back of the nose and actually covers the epiglottis at the entrance to the airway. It makes it difficult for air to enter the windpipe (trachea).

As well as potentially life threatening conditions such as heat stroke and airway obstruction, this condition will lead to degenerative changes to the cartilage of the larynx, the trachea and the bronchi. Collapse of the larynx, a collapsing trachea and chondromalacia of the lower airways will lead to a lifetime of frustrating respiratory disease and chronic coughing.

Here is what early laryngeal collapse looks like in the larynx of a brachycepha