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Is There Surgery for Dogs With Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

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Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

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Certain dog breeds, such as French Bulldogs or Pugs, have distinctly flat faces that give them an overall friendly and adorable appearance. However, this particular feature is the result of genetic selection, and it can cause health problems that impact these dogs’ quality of life, such as brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS) 1. This complex canine disease is characterized by stenotic nares (malformed nostrils) 2 and an overly long and thick palate. Fortunately, surgery is available to relieve the clinical signs and improve the quality and life expectancy of these dogs.

Here’s what you need to know about surgery for dogs with BAS, the risks involved, and the post-operative prognosis.

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What Is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

BAS is a condition that affects dogs with short noses and flat faces, such as Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and Bull Mastiffs. This condition is caused by a combination of upper airway abnormalities that make it difficult for these breeds to breathe properly.

The malformations seen in dogs with BAS may include an elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, a small trachea, a collapsed larynx, or paralysis of the laryngeal cartilages. These anomalies make it difficult for these dogs to breathe, especially during exercise or in hot and humid weather conditions.

Dry brachycephalic dog nose with narrow nostrils of a French Bulldog
Image Credit: Firn, Shutterstock

What Are the Clinical Signs of Brachycephalic Syndrome?

Dogs with BAS may experience respiratory problems like noisy breathing, snoring, difficulty breathing, gagging, and exercise intolerance. In severe cases, dogs may even collapse or pass out due to excessive heat or activity. Obesity will also aggravate respiratory problems. These issues are often accompanied by digestive disorders (regurgitation, vomiting).

What Is the Surgery for Brachycephalic Syndrome?

Several different surgical procedures 3 can be performed to correct the upper airway abnormalities associated with this syndrome and therefore, help affected dogs breathe better:

  • The airflow in stenotic nares (closed nostrils) can be improved by removing a wedge of tissue from the nasal cavities.
  • An elongated soft palate can be surgically shortened.
  • The everted laryngeal saccules can be removed to clear the obstruction in the larynx.

These interventions are performed with high-tech equipment, enabling this surgery to be performed with great precision, without bleeding, and reducing postoperative inflammation.

Image Credit: Yakov Oskanov, Shutterstock

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How Risky Is Surgery for Dogs With Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

Surgery for dogs with BAS can be risky, as these pups may be more prone to complications due to their respiratory issues. However, the risks associated with surgery can vary depending on the specific procedure and the individual dog’s overall health.

Make sure to follow your veterinarian’s post-operative instructions, and monitor your dog closely for any signs of complications. If any concerns arise, contact your vet immediately for further evaluation and management. That said, the prognosis of dogs that undergo this surgical procedure is quite good.

What Is the Life Expectancy of Dogs With Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

The life expectancy of dogs with BAS can vary depending on the severity of their respiratory disorders. Generally speaking, breeds that have BAS generally have a shorter lifespan (about 8.6 years) than most other breeds. However, surgery and post-operative care can help prolong and improve their quality of life.

French Bulldog snuggling beside owner
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

Brachycephalic dogs may have difficulty breathing after limited physical exertion, especially in hot, humid weather. This leads to a decrease in their quality of life and a shorter life expectancy.

Fortunately, surgery can help improve their breathing problems. Dogs that undergo surgery may have a better prognosis and longer lifespan than those that do not receive treatment. Ask your veterinary team for advice if you think that this surgery could benefit your short-nosed canine companion.

Featured Image Credit: VesnaArt, Shutterstock

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