Special Problems of Flat-Nose or Short Nosed Breeds of Dogs Brachycephalic Syndrome

Many pet breeds are known for and even prized for their flat-nosed or short nosed appearance.  The demand for brachycephalic conformation as a breed standard persists despite health issues associated with the anatomic abnormalities.  These abnormalities result from congenital and acquired deformities due to the selection for head and facial bone shortening without a reduction in the volume of the tissues of the nose, pharynx and/or throat.  The American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom reported increases of more than 450% in registration of brachycephalic breeds from 2000-2010 indicating a large at-risk population. While this characteristic is especially prevalent among smaller breeds like Pugs, Pekingese, Boston terrier, Brussels griffon, French bulldogs and Lhasa Apso, it also shows up in large breeds like Boxers, Bull Mastiff, Chinese Shar-pei, Dogue de Bordeaux and English Bulldogs (most prevalent).

We are sorry to say that this feature is outweighed, from a veterinary standpoint, by the limits it places on a pet’s ability to breathe.  The combination of reduced nasal capacity and laryngeal obstruction from an enlarged soft palate cause wellness problems such as snoring, loud breathing, gagging, oxygen deprivation, difficulty breathing, exercise and heat intolerance, aspiration pneumonia and others.

Clients often believe their brachycephalic pet’s snoring is normal.  The veterinarian knows though that it is not normal and likely part of the syndrome.  It takes proper medical management and surgery to prevent a potentially life threatening situation.  It is much more difficult when your pet comes to us already in respiratory distress.  Here surgery could be necessary right away or very soon.

It may well take multiple surgical procedures depending on the doctor’s examination and tests that the doctor needs to do.  Also it’s possible the dog can go into respiratory distress after the surgery and a tube needs to be inserted in the trachea.  This could result in longer stays in the hospital or the owner will have to learn how to clean and take care of the tubing at home.

It is best to bring your pet in early if you notice any of the symptoms noted above.  It is much better if you bring your pet in early and have him evaluated rather than to wait until they are in respiratory distress or showing other dangerous symptoms.


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