Brachycephalic Syndrome Symptoms in Short-Muzzled Dogs

· February 10, 2019
Short-muzzled dogs are at risk to develop brachycephalic syndrome. Early detection and constant monitoring from a veterinarian are essential so that your furry pal can comfortably cope with this serious health problem.

If you have a short-muzzled dog, you should know that he’s not exempt from developing brachycephalic syndrome symptoms. This is a pathological condition which is a consequence of certain anatomical anomalies that obstruct the upper respiratory tract. If discovered early, serious problems can be avoided. So, regular check-ups with your vet are important.

Some facts about brachycephalic syndrome

The particular anatomical anomalies of brachycephalic dogs often interfere with their normal breathing flow, as there’s less space for air to access their lungs. Also, because of this, less oxygen reaches the blood. This is due to their:

  • Narrow nostrils
  • Soft elongated palate (the part that separates the back of the nasal cavity from the mouth)
  • Everted laryngeal saccules, which obstruct the passage of air to the trachea
  • Tracheal hypoplasia (only in some breeds)
A Boxer looking past its short muzzle.

Brachycephalic syndrome symptoms

If you see any of these signs in your dog, take him to the vet so they can determine if they are brachycephalic syndrome symptoms:

  • Hypersalivation
  • Presence of white foam in the saliva
  • Strange noises and difficulty breathing (open mouth, constant panting, exaggerated use of the abdominal muscles)
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fainting
  • Bluish skin or discoloring of it and of the mucous membranes –this is due to deficiency of oxygen in the blood (cyanosis)
  • Regurgitation
  • Vomiting

Without treatment the dog will eventually suffer from:

  • Severe heart problems
  • Hiatal hernias
  • Edema of glottis (severe inflammation of the mucous membranes found inside the throat and the upper part of the larynx).

Breeds at greater risk 

Although not all short-muzzled dogs suffer from brachycephalic syndrome, some breeds are more prone to it. Here are some of them:

  • English bulldog
  • Pug
  • Boxer
  • Pekingese
  • Boston Terrier
  • Shitzu
  • Lhasa-Apso
  • Saint Bernard
  • Mastiff
  • Maltese
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • King Charles Spaniel
English Bulldog puppies playing.

How to improve the life of a dog with brachycephalic syndrome

Both high temperatures and stress, or plain, simple excitement can make it difficult for your dog to breath. And it will worsen if the animal is overweight.

So, if your dog is suffering from brachycephalic syndrome symptoms, keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid exposing him to intense physical activity and high temperatures –they’re very susceptible to heat stroke
  • Use a harness instead of a collar during walks and always carry water
  • Keep his nose free of mucus
  • Give him access to an area with mild temperatures and humidity, inside the house
  • Watch him while eating to make sure he doesn’t choke, especially if he’s the highly anxious kind
  • Monitor his weight closely and keep it optimal

Surgery can correct anatomical anomalies

In some cases, surgery will be needed for a dog with brachycephalic syndrome in order to improve its quality of life. Surgery may include widening the external nostrils, or snipping and snaring everted laryngeal saccules.

Widening the narrow holes of a dog’s snout is a simple procedure and it often improves the symptoms of this syndrome. This surgical intervention can be performed after the dog’s third or fourth month of age.

In the case of soft palate disorders, correcting the length will reduce the pressure of the structure of the pharynx and larynx during inhalation.

Don’t hesitate to consult with your veterinarian so they can recommend the best options for your four-legged friend in order for them to be healthier and happier.

  • Mellema, M. S., & Hoareau, G. L. (2014). Brachycephalic syndrome. In Small Animal Critical Care Medicine, Second Edition. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4557-0306-7.00018-0
  • Koch, D. A., Arnold, S., Hubler, M., & Montavon, P. M. (2003). Brachycephalic syndrome in dogs. Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arabjc.2012.10.006