What is Brachycephalic Syndrome?
If your dog has brachycephalic syndrome you may notice he struggles with breathing, make a lot of noise when breathing and struggles with exercise. It can cause your dog to suffer respiratory infections and problems along with heat regulation. Due to these concerns surgery may be necessary to help your dog live his best quality of life.
Brachycephalic syndrome in dogs is when your dog has a shortened skull in comparison to other breeds. Effects of this condition can include breathing difficulties, difficulties with exercise, and overheating to name a few concerns, and is breed specific mostly.
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Symptoms of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs
The symptoms are somewhat generalized, however are ongoing and do not seem to have a start or stop. Some of the symptoms are more specific to brachycephalic syndrome.
- Loud breathing
- Difficulty handling exercise
- Difficulty with heat tolerance
- Dyspnea (labored breathing)
- Gagging when swallowing
- Difficulty eating
- Cleft palate (brachycephalic breeds account for 30% of all cases)
- Cleft lip (brachycephalic breeds account for 30% of all cases)
- Narrow nostrils
- Elongated soft palate
- Everted laryngeal saccules (protruding masses that can interfere with breathing and eating)
- Laryngeal collapse (airway obstruction)
- Hypoplastic trachea (abnormal growth of the rings of the trachea)
Causes of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs
The cause of brachycephalic syndrome is the shortened head of certain dog breeds and the resulting consequences of this.
- Shih Tzu
- Boxer English Bulldog
- French Bulldog
- Boston Terrier
Diagnosis of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs
If your dog is one of the breeds mentioned above and you have noticed he is suffering from 1 or more of the symptoms of the syndrome, you may want to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. It will be important to share with your veterinarian what breed he is if you are aware and what specifically you have noticed.
Your veterinarian will want to examine your dog’s nostrils, his palate and his breathing among other things. Possible x-rays can be done in order to see the exact nature of his throat and palate concerns as well. Anesthesia may be needed to do a laryngeal exam. During this procedure the veterinarian will exam his mouth, his palate, his laryngeal saccules and the function of his larynx.
Your veterinarian will look for the presentation of narrow nostrils, elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules and hypoplastic trachea. If multiple or all of these symptoms are present, your veterinarian will be able to make the diagnosis and move forward with treatment.
Treatment of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs
Treatment options will vary depending on how severe your dog’s symptoms are and how much, if at all that they are interfering with his quality of life. Treatment may include surgery, or in some cases, no formal treatment is done.
Surgery can include correcting a cleft palate or lip, however prior to surgery alternative feeding options may be discussed with you by your veterinarian. This surgery does have a low success rate in puppies due to their ongoing growth and development. The surgery may be best left to dogs that are older than 20 weeks or even adults.
If necessary, some of the tissue in your dog’s nose can be removed to provide him with larger airways. Correcting his nostril size also helps with secondary airway concerns such as the saccule masses impeding his throat, collapse of his airway and trachea.
If your dog has an elongated soft palate that obstructs his airway, this can also be surgically corrected. This will allow your dog to breathe easier with fewer concerns of inflammation and swelling. The laryngeal saccules can be removed if they have impacted his airways as well. There is no surgical treatment for hypoplastic trachea.
Your veterinarian will discuss with you what surgeries, if any, will be necessary for your dog’s needs. It will be up to you and your veterinarian to determine if your dog’s quality of life is being negatively impacted by his brachycephalic syndrome symptoms. At times if your dog’s needs are being met and his quality of life is not suffering, the decision may be to not go forward with surgery.
Recovery of Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs
Follow up will be needed as directed by your veterinarian and will depend on surgery. The recovery time will vary depending on the severity and depth of surgery your dog receives. You will want to keep a close eye on your dog after surgery to monitor for swelling, inflammation, and bleeding.
The younger your dog is when he has surgery the better his odds are for a good prognosis long term. Surgical treatment has been found to have a long-term good outcome. Continued monitoring of your dog’s symptoms over time will be necessary. Your veterinarian will want to see your dog ongoing and to examine any new or reoccurring symptoms that may appear.