What is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

Two French Bulldogs

July 22, 2022

Whilst certain dogs are bred for their appearance, their overall structures are being changed to meet a desired look. But is this affecting their health the more it is being done?

In This Blog:

What is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

The word brachycephalic describes the condition. Brachy means ‘shortened’, cephalic means ‘head’ which together means shortened head which is the cause of this problem.  Dogs which are bred with a flat face and a shorter muzzle will suffer with this due to their airways not being properly developed.

A shortened head means that everything else must be decreased in size too, including their nostrils and their trachea (windpipe). Which can lead to further complications with their health.

Dogs which are affected with this can struggle with exercise or anything intense which increases their respiratory rate. They can also find it increasingly hard in the warmer periods throughout summer.

Symptoms Of Brachycephalic

A dog suffering from Brachycephalic will struggle to breathe during exercise and depending on how affected they are, they can even struggle with daily tasks such as climbing the stairs.

Symptoms can start as mild as snoring, making snorting noises, and louder breathing. However, more concerning symptoms include collapsing, difficulty in eating, and heat stroke throughout summer.

Dogs which suffer with Brachycephalic syndrome can deteriorate quickly throughout the summer as the heat increases. When the heat increases, a dog will pant in order to cool themselves down, but a dog with this syndrome will struggle to do this as they will not be able to pant as efficiently as a normal dog. Which means they will be unable to cool themselves down proficiently and will lead to heat stroke if it is allowed to worsen.

When they are unable to pant properly, this is a sign that the trachea is dangerously narrow and is not allowing a large volume of air to pass through.

This is not only concerning when they are panting as this is used as a mechanism of cooling down. But this also adds a much greater risk if they ever need surgery as dogs with a narrow trachea pose a dangerous risk whenever they are put under general anaesthetic.

You may also find that a dog suffering with brachycephalic will have a poor quality of sleep.  Whilst sleeping, they suffer like a human would with sleep apnoea.

As their breathing capability is reduced, they will often choke whilst breathing in their sleep which will wake them up. They will fall back to sleep and the same process will repeat throughout the night, resulting in sleep deprivation.

Having to deal with heat stroke affecting your dog might be more common if they suffer with brachycephalic. If your dog is suffering from a heat stroke, the symptoms may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Heavy panting
  • Collapsed
  • Staggering
  • Increased pulse and respiratory rate
  • Constantly thirsty

Heat stroke can turn dangerously quite quickly and can lead to death if they are left without veterinary help. It is important to get them the treatment they require immediately.

Always keep them at a recommended weight and never allow them to become overweight. This increases their breathing rate and will cause excessive panting, along with putting a strain on their overall body.

Which Dogs Can Suffer With Brachycephalic?

Dogs which suffer with Brachycephalic will have a short muzzle and a flat face. Popular breeds which suffer with this syndrome include:

  • Boxers
  • Pugs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Chow Chows
  • Boston Terrier 

The degree in which they are affected depends on how much they have been bred for their looks and specifically their short face.

The bulldogs and the pugs may have a flatter face than most which may put them at a higher risk of deteriorating and developing more concerning symptoms.

Can Brachycephalic Be Cured?

Before anything can be done for your dog who is suffering from Brachycephalic syndrome, they must lose enough weight to be classed as healthy.

An otherwise healthy dog apart from being overweight is at risk when they are put under general anaesthetic, let alone a dog which has difficulty breathing and overweight.

If your dog is showing mild symptoms of just snoring, snorting, and loud breathing, you may be able to just monitor their condition with a calm lifestyle, minimal intense exercise, and avoiding anywhere which may be hot or sunny.

If your dog’s condition worsens, then surgery may be the only other option to allow your dog to live a comfortable life.

Tests can be carried out before determining which treatment plan will best suit your dog. These can start off with a simple blood test which can lead on to an assessment of their heart, and X-Rays of their chest.

Stenotic Nares (Narrowed Nostrils)

This is where the surgeon will remove a piece of cartilage from their nose which should hopefully improve their airway through their nose. This piece of cartilage can either be from the front of the nose or from the side which will help open up their nostrils more.

Elongated Soft Palate

This surgery will be performed when the dog’s soft palate, which is the muscular part on the roof of your dog’s mouth, goes beyond their epiglottis.

The epiglottis stops any food or water from entering down their windpipe and if it becomes too big, it will cover the windpipe and restrict their breathing.

When this surgery is performed, a laser is used to remove the excess tissue of the soft palate. Once this is performed, you should hopefully notice a positive difference in your dog’s day-to-day life.


This procedure involves the removal of your dog’s tonsils. A surgeon will only recommend doing this if they feel it is the appropriate course of action and no other treatment course will be as successful.

Dogs with shorter muzzles tend to have swollen tonsils and this can affect their regular breathing, and this will have to be dealt with before things escalate.

Laryngeal Sacculectomy

Removal of the laryngeal saccules allows more space for air to reach their lungs. Dogs which suffer with Brachycephalic can suffer from everted saccules where the tissue near the larynx obstructs the airway as the dog breathes and pulls them in.

The dog will be put under general anaesthetic and the saccules will be found and remove with a scalpel. Providing the dog recovers correctly, they should find breathing easier.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to say whether each dog with a flatter face and shorter muzzle will suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. Every dog is different and may have been bred to be flatter in the face than other puppies of that same breed.

It is always important to remember to treat Brachycephalic dogs with more care and attention than normal dogs as they have a lot more health risks against them. Sadly, their life expectancy is much shorter than a standard dog due to the complications they face.

Love every dog, no matter the issues and hopefully they will manage through life just fine and have a long and happy time with their loving family.

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