Symptoms of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

How Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome Affects Dogs

Brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS) causes obvious respiratory distress in most affected animals. The narrowed nostrils and trachea, together with the overly long soft palate, make it difficult for a dog to breathe in enough air to provide its tissues and cells with a sufficient supply of oxygen.

Symptoms of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

The symptoms of BAS are directly related to the increased airway resistance that is caused by the anatomical abnormalities of an elongated soft palate, stenotic nares and/or a constricted trachea. The noticeable signs of this syndrome usually are apparent at an early age. In some cases, the signs don’t become evident until the dog reaches middle-age. Affected dogs typically show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Narrowed nostrils (stenotic nares)
  • Panting
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Snoring (stertor)
  • Harsh sounds when breathing in (increased inspiratory sounds; snorting-like noise on inspiration; stridor)
  • Increased inspiratory effort
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis)
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Temporary cessation of breathing (apnea)
  • Sudden collapse

Dogs at Increased Risk

Brachycephalic breeds, which are predisposed to developing BAS, include English and French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Shih Tzus, Pekingese and King Charles Spaniels. Most dogs become affected by the time they reach 3 or 4 years of age. Boston Terriers and Pugs are particularly prone to developing laryngeal collapse secondary to BAS, because their laryngeal cartilages are unusually flexible. Obesity can greatly aggravate the symptoms of brachycephalic airway syndrome.

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