Brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS) is not difficult to diagnose. In most cases, a veterinarian can diagnose the condition based on observation of the dog’s breathing and a physical examination. Stenotic nares (narrowed nostril openings) are visibly obvious. Those, together with the characteristic inspiratory snorting sounds of predisposed breeds, are highly suggestive of BAS. A urinalysis and routine blood work (a complete blood count and serum biochemistry profile) frequently are also part of the initial data base. Dogs with BAS typically have no abnormalities on the results of these tests, unless they have some other disease or disorder.
To make a definitive diagnosis, the dog must be heavily sedated or placed under general anesthesia so that the attending veterinarian can make a thorough examination of the mouth (oral cavity), soft palate, voice box (larynx) and throat (pharynx). The veterinarian will be able to assess the presence or absence of laryngeal collapse, laryngeal saccule eversion and elongated soft palate during this oropharyngeal/orolaryngeal examination.
Radiographs (X-rays) of the dog’s head, neck and chest are also important to confirm the diagnosis of brachycephalic airway syndrome. Radiographs can disclose an overly long soft palate as well as a constricted or narrowed trachea. They also can reveal tracheal collapse, pneumonia and some other secondary medical conditions associated with BAS.
Aspiration pneumonia is a common sequella of BAS. Early surgical intervention is one of the most important factors in having a good outlook and prognosis for dogs that are diagnosed with this disorder.