Brachycephalic. What Does This Mean?

If you’ve never heard of the term brachycephalic before, it can sound like a scary disease, sickness or disorder but the word means “short-headed.” Some examples of this brachycephalic canine are Bull Mastiffs, Pugs, English & French Bulldogs, Boxer and Shih Tzus amount other dogs. It isn’t limited to just these breeds it can also be applied to mixed breeds that have inherited the trait from their brachycephalic ancestors. These dogs tend to have extremely shortened snouts which make them seem flat faced, which differentiates them from breeds which have shorter snouts.

Not all brachycephalic dogs will exhibit outward symptoms to the same degree, but all are affected in some way.

There are four upper airway abnormalities that cause brachycephalic airway syndrome, and it is possible for a dog to have one or more of these abnormalities:

  1. Stenotic nares: small or slender nostrils, which restricts airflow when the dog inhales.
  2. Elongated soft palate: The soft tissue on the roof of the mouth called the soft palate tends to be too long and extends into the back of the throat, which then blocks the trachea.
  3. Hypoplastic trachea: the windpipe or trachea can be narrower in diameter than normal
  4. Everted laryngeal saccules: these are small sacs located just inside the dog’s larynx. These can be turned outwards when the dog struggles to breathe through the slender nasal airways or elongated soft palate. Although this is usually caused by one of the above abnormalities, it can lead to additional obstructions of the airway. Dogs that suffer from brachycephalic syndrome tend to have a history of snoring or loud breathing. Because of this, some dogs can be susceptible to heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Since these conditions can be intensified by obesity, it is important to feed a moderate calorie diet.

When getting these cute, short-snouted dogs, keep in mind their respiratory limitations and, if you have any questions, always consult your veterinarian.

Written by: Sara Currie, CRC

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