Short-nosed dogs and cats are susceptible to a condition known as brachycephalic syndrome. Brachycephaly can cause serious breathing problems, which can be life-threatening.
Four major physical characteristics of brachycephaly are:
- an extended soft palate (soft tissue in the back of the mouth)
- stenotic nares (pinched or narrow nostrils)
- a hypoplastic trachea (narrow windpipe)
- everted laryngeal saccules (deformed tissue in front of vocal cords)
A brachycephalic skull is relatively broad and short. For dogs, this means they have a short nose or flat face. Some common dog breeds with this condition are Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, and Pekingese.
An animal with these abnormalities may not be able to breathe deeply or fast enough to expel carbon dioxide. That makes breathing more difficult, especially during exercise, stress, or heat conditions. This leads to a faster heart rate and breathing rate. This vicious cycle can quickly become life-threatening.
Due to their higher danger of dying while flying, many commercial airlines won’t carry brachycephalic dogs.
Brachycephalic Syndrome Treatment
When a dog has brachycephalic syndrome, oxygen, cool temperatures, sedatives, and in certain circumstances, more sophisticated medical interventions, like intubation, are usually beneficial.
Surgery is used to expand the nostrils, trim extra tissue from an elongated soft palate, or remove everted laryngeal saccules (small bags of tissue positioned in front of the vocal cords).
Potential risks of surgery include bleeding, discomfort, and inflammation during and after surgery. Some veterinary surgeons are apprehensive about doing soft palate surgery. Surgical lasers significantly reduce these risks.
Brachycephalic cat breeds include Persian, Himalayan, Burmese, British Shorthair, and Exotic Shorthair.