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Brachycephalic airway syndrome in dogs


Brachycephalic syndrome is a medical term for a condition affecting dogs with a shortened skull which can lead to severe respiratory distress.

If your dog has brachycephalic syndrome you may notice he struggles with breathing, make a lot of noise when breathing and struggles with exercise.

"Brachy" means "shortened" and "cephalic" means "head". The skull bones of brachycephalic dogs are shortened in length, giving the face and nose a "pushed in" appearance. Due to the shorter bones of the face and nose, the anatomy and relationship with the other soft tissue structures are altered; some of these changes can cause physical problems for the affected dog.1

Examples of breeds that are brachycephalic include Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Chinese Pugs, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and Bull Mastiffs.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of brachycephalic airway syndrome in dogs includes:

  • Laboured breathing
  • High-pitched wheezing
  • Appear to tire easily
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Retching
  • Vomiting

Over time, dogs with this syndrome may develop other secondary problems, including inflammation of other structures in the airways. In the long term, the increased effort associated with breathing can put an increased strain on the heart.

Most dogs are diagnosed with brachycephalic airway syndrome between 1 and 4 years of age, with a range in ages from less than 1 year to as old as 11. Both males and females appear to be affected equally. Dogs with multiple abnormalities tend to develop problems at an earlier age.2

Short Term Prevention

It is especially important for brachycephalic dogs to avoid stress and heat. To prevent distress, take the following steps with your dog, but be sure to consult your vet if symptoms progress:

  • Avoid stress/heat
  • Use a harness instead of a collar
  • Avoid overfeeding
  • Maintain ideal body weight
Sourced from VCA Hospital website
Sourced from MSPCA website

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