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Clairmont Animal Hospital Blog

Thin Air: Protecting Brachycephalic Breeds From The Heat

Pug on the baechOf the most popular dog breeds in the Atlanta area, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs round out the top five. Perhaps it is their unique charm and inexplicable cute factor that endear them to owners and dog lovers alike, but this can often come at a cost. Indeed, the anatomy of these special brachycephalic breeds can cause problematic breathing, a matter made worse by the scorching temperatures of high summer.

Clairmont Animal Hospital understands the importance of protecting brachycephalic breeds from the heat, and hope we can all increase the safety and comfort of these unique pets.

Up Close and Personal

Brachycephalic dogs and cats have shortened skull bones giving their faces a sort of wide, “smooshed in” appearance. Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, and Boxers (among others) also have shortened facial bones and nasal structure that affects the soft tissue, resulting respiratory issues.

Upper Airway Abnormalities

Brachycephalic airway syndrome deals with the following types of abnormalities that alter airway pressures:

  • Stenotic nares – Present at birth in affected pets, stenotic nares are the result of a malformation in the cartilage of the nose.The narrow or small nostrils drastically decreases air intake through the nose. Removing a wedge of tissue from the nostrils is typically effective.
  • An elongated soft palate – The excess tissue can block the back of the throat and the trachea. This can be surgically shortened.
  • Hypoplastic trachea – A smaller than normal trachea can narrow the airway.
  • Inverted laryngeal sacs – These small pouches can actually get sucked into the airway and obstruct respiration. It’s possible to remove the saccules surgically.

All of these can be present in a single pet, and the intensity of each component can vary. Smaller nostrils increase resistance, normal breathing becomes more difficult over time, and the larynx can eventually collapse. That’s why protecting brachycephalic breeds remains a top priority for us.

Mouth Breathers

Naturally, pets with this syndrome find it easier to breathe through the mouth rather than the nose, and often make noise when breathing, sleeping, exercising, and when excited. Protecting brachycephalic breeds includes:

  • Limiting vigorous activities and stimulation
  • Regulating weight (obesity can increase the intensity of symptoms)
  • Conserving energy in hot or humid conditions (panting to cool down can be extremely dangerous)
  • Maintaining cool temperature in air conditioning
  • Minimizing stress
  • Using a properly fitting harness in place of a leash

Retching, coughing, gagging, or vomiting in conjunction with obvious exhaustion or collapse after movement, signal that it’s time to seek help. Older pets are at a higher risk of problems associated with the syndrome.

The Fix

Whether your pet comes in for a routine examination, or fainting spells precipitate a visit, we can diagnose and treat the problems facing him or her.

Sometimes certain medications help respiratory distress, but corrective surgery of the stenotic nares significantly improves the flow of air. Luckily, our own Doctor Smith is well-versed in this procedure, often in conjunction with soft palate repair, for the best results.

Protecting Brachycephalic Breeds

If brachycephalic airway syndrome is ignored, compromised breathing may negatively affect the heart over time and result in inflammation of other airway structures.

While stenotic nares cannot be prevented, early diagnosis and surgical correction will improve normal respiration. We encourage you to contact us regarding protecting brachycephalic breeds, or if you have questions concerning the health and happiness of your pet.