Brachycephalic Syndrome: Symptoms and Diagnosis

What is It?

A respiratory condition where there are upper airway abnormalities.

What Causes It?

Brachycephalic literally means “shortened head”. This condition therefore typically occurs in flat-faced or short-headed dogs. The smaller space in the skull causes these abnormalities.

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What Are The Symptoms?

Distressed breathing, abnormal breathing, overheating, fainting, unwilling or unable to exercise.

A dog with brachycephalic syndrome may have one or more of these issues which restrict intake of proper amounts of air:

  • Stenotic nares – abnormally small or narrowed nostrils
  • Extended nasopharyngeal turbinate – an extra-long ridge of a bone extending into pharynx
  • Elongated soft palate – partially blocks trachea
  • Laryngeal collapse – unable to open properly
  • Everted laryngeal saccules – small breathing sacs from larynx that are turned outward into airway
  • Hypoplastic trachea – abnormally small trachea

Is it Life Threatening?

Yes. Dogs that do not get enough oxygen are high risk.

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How is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of stenotic snares can be done by a vet with a physical examination of the nostrils. A more in-depth diagnosis of other issues in your dog’s mouth and throat will require general anesthesia.

What Are The Treatments?

If your veterinarian has placed your dog under general anesthesia and positively diagnosed airway blocks, they will likely recommend surgery to fix the issues while your dog is already under the medication. Surgery is typically the recommended treatment for any elements of brachycephalic syndrome.

The earlier you receive a diagnosis and proceed with surgery will greatly improve your pup’s life expectancy. However the success of the surgery and you dog depend on how many breathing abnormalities your dog had prior to the surgery.

There are efforts to manage symptoms, but they do not work towards a solution only a “band aid style” fix. These include oxygen therapy and corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

If your dog is overweight, weight loss is an important aspect of treatment. Keep an eye on how much exercise your dog can manage. Keep your dog in cool airconditioned and humidity-controlled areas during hot months. Keep your dog away from stressful situations.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pup’s condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian. Or, consult a virtual vet here.