Everything You Need to Know About Brachycephalic Dogs

I’m pretty sure you may be one of those few people who haven’t heard of brachycephalic dogs up till now. Upon hearing this term, you might think that it refers to a canine disorder that your companions may get. However, the term brachycephalic dogs already apply to most of the popular and loved dog breeds. So what exactly are brachycephalic dogs?

The Meaning of Brachycephalic Dogs

Brachycephalic means being short-headed according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. The term refers to dog breeds that have an appearance of short snouts. Brachycephalic dog breeds often include the French and English bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, Pugs, and bullmastiffs.

Some brachycephalic dogs often inherit the trait from ancestors that suffer from the same situation. The same situation occurs for mixed breeds that have brachycephalic dogs as ancestors. The difference between brachycephalic dogs lies in their short snouts which tends to make them appear flat-faced.

Why Do Brachycephalic Dogs Exist?

brachycephalic dog

You might be baffled as to why brachycephalic dogs are so popular despite them being much prone to health problems. Well, PLOS One published a study regarding brachycephalic dogs while suggesting two theories. One theory suggests that some breeds had developed this trait for them to be better at fighting as the short snouts give them stronger jaws.

This advantage is believed to be useful in both fighting and hunting. The second theory suggests that ancient dog owners preferred short-nosed dogs as this reminds them of the shape of the human infant’s heads.

Another reason why most people want to adopt these dogs maybe because they are considered cute and they have traits that are considered appealing for dog lovers. Some owners do also believe that the health challenges the brachycephalic dogs have are a small price to pay if you would take into consideration the companionship they offer.

Special Health Concerns Present in Brachycephalic Dogs

Although not all brachycephalic dogs have a particular associated health problem, there may still be a few risks for their condition. Because of the shape of their head and nose, a condition commonly called brachycephalic airway syndrome takes place. There are a total of four abnormalities present for this syndrome, some brachycephalic dogs may have one, some may have all four of them.

The abnormalities include:

  • Stenotic Nares – This condition is particularly known for dogs having small or narrow nostrils. The narrow pathway restricts the flow of air from the nostrils when the dogs breathe through their noses.
  • Elongated Soft Palate – The palate is the soft tissue found on the roof of the mouth. This condition suggests that the soft palate becomes too long which will extend up until the back of the throat. This naturally causes the blockage of the trachea.
  • Hypoplastic Trachea – This condition refers to having a narrow diameter of the trachea or the windpipes, which restricts the air being consumed by the body.
  • Everted Laryngeal Saccules – The laryngeal saccules are small sacs that are located on the inside of the dog’s larynx. The saccules are turned outwards or everted whenever the dog suffers from breathing through the narrowed nostrils and elongated soft palate. This abnormality leads to an additional obstruction regarding the dog’s airway.

How to Know if Your Dog Is Suffering from Brachycephaly

Brachycephalic dogs are often noticeable and here are some ways on how to know or signs that your dogs are brachycephalic.

  • Have a persistent history of loud snoring and noisy breathing.
  • Sensitive gag reflex to be more exact, they are prone to reverse sneezes or tracheal collapse.
  • Gums and tongue often turn blue
  • Overexertion or excitement that leads to the dog’s collapse.
  • Low tolerance for vigorous exercises.
  • Highly susceptible to heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
  • Sitting up or they keep their chin in an elevated position while sleeping
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Continued open-mouth breathing

Possible Treatments for Brachycephalic Dogs

For Soft Palate Abnormalities, it should be treated immediately as it may cause distress for your pets over time. Severe cases of soft palate abnormalities include gagging, coughing, exercise intolerance, and difficulty breathing.

Soft palate resection or staphylectomy either using a scalpel blade, CO2 laser or scissors is the most common treatment for severe cases. Staphylectomy is the process of removing the excess tissues while the palate is stretched.

For the Everted Laryngeal Saccules, correction of stenotic nares is the most recommended therapy. This can also be done during the removal of the soft palate. By doing so, the dog’s breathing will improve.

Some short-term treatments of the flare-ups that might cause respiratory diseases include corticosteroids which are commonly prescribed by veterinarians. The corticosteroids will reduce inflammation and provide oxygen for the dogs. Severe cases of brachycephaly will require surgery that includes the improvement of their airflow.

The conditions may also worsen due to the obesity of the dogs. Thus, a proper weight-loss meal plan is recommended as the first line of treatment, especially for overweight dogs. Naturally, monitoring exercise levels for dogs while reducing their stress can manage mild cases of brachycephaly.

Aftercare and Outcomes

After surgery, it is best to always monitor your pet’s condition closely. Some may suffer from inflammation and bleeding days after the surgery. This can make breathing difficult as the bleeding can obstruct the airway. On most occasions, a tube is maintained through the incision found in its neck by the trachea. The tube is placed up until the swelling in its throat subsides so that the pet can breathe normally again.

Most pets are observed for at least 24 hours in the hospital after the surgery. Some issues like post-operative coughing and gagging are one of the most normal reaction after the dog undergo surgery. For young animals, the prognosis is quite good as they generally breathe much easier with a reduced percentage of acquiring respiratory diseases. The activity levels of your pets will also improve.

Brachycephalic dogs may be of high risk with health conditions but this does not hinder the fact that they are some of their breeds are one of the most loved dog breeds around the world. With proper care and a visit to the local veterinarian, rest assure that you can stop the impending severity of this condition.

About PetsGuided Team

We are a team of petsperts who love our younger brothers and aim to provide actionable advice so you can improve their (and your) life. We want all pets to be healthy and happy and therefore our mission is to help pets owners care better for their pets.

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