Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.

Dr Amy McPherson.

Brachycephalic means ” short headed”.

Some of the most common brachycephalic breeds include the Pug, French bulldog, English Bulldog, Pekingese, Boston terrier and even Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and some mastiffs.

These dogs have been bred to have relatively short muzzles and noses and because of this, the upper airways are compressed causing obstruction of airflow through the upper airways.

The condition worsens with age and may lead to secondary changes.

The most common problems seen with brachycephalic dogs include:

  1. Stenotic nares- the nostrils are too small to allow adequate passage of air making breathing through the nose difficult.
  2. Elongated soft palate – the soft palate is excessively long allowing it to sit within the opening of the trachea (windpipe), hence obstructing normal airflow. This causes turbulent airflow resulting in increased respiratory noise and snoring.
  3. Tracheal hypoplasia – the trachea (windpipe) is too small.
  4. Enlarged tonsils – due to chronic inflammation.
  5. Swollen laryngeal saccules – these saccules sit on the floor (lower side) of the larynx just in front of the vocal folds. Because of the increased effort with breathing these saccules may become swollen resulting in obstruction of airflow. Swollen laryngeal saccules is the first stage of collapse of the larynx- a very serious condition.

If routine corrective surgery is addressed at an early age (ideally less than 2 years old) then we see less secondary changes, animals usually require less complicated surgical procedures, and long term outcomes are improved. Early intervention is therefore strongly recommended.
Please give us a call at the clinic if you would like more information about airway surgery at Willunga Veterinary Services.