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Surgical Correction of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Updated: Apr 4

There are certain short-nosed breeds of dog, such as the English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Pekingese, and Boston Terrier, that inherently have difficulty breathing because of the shape of their nose, face, head, and airway. They have a condition called Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.

“Brachy” means short and “cephalic” refers to the head. These smushed faced dogs have a very short nose and mouth compared to their head. This results in difficulty breathing compared to other dogs. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome has several common traits:

Elongated soft palate: the soft palate is too long, partially obstructing the flow of air into the airway in the back of the throat.

Stenotic nares: the nostrils are too small. This also obstructs the flow or air making it difficult for these dogs to breathe through their nose.

Everted laryngeal saccules: This is tissue that sits just in front of the vocal cords that gets sucked into the airway over time.

There are a few other problems associated with dogs’ breathing which are not normally corrected surgically.

How can we help dogs an elongated soft palate and stenotic nares?

Corrective surgery is required to relieve these dogs of respiratory distress. We use CO2 laser surgery to correct these problems. To fix the soft palate, we place the patient on their chest and open the mouth to be able to visualize the interaction of the palate and the airway. We remove the excess tissue that is interfering with airflow. Surgical laser is ideally suited for this as it cauterizes as it cuts, making the procedure safer, reducing bleeding and pain, and promoting faster healing.

The corrective surgery for stenotic nares involves the removal of part of the outer fold of each nostril. This procedure will widen the nostril opening allowing your dog to breathe more easily through their nose.

What is the ideal age to have this procedure done?

Any age is a good age to help a dog breathe easier. But the younger pets will have the benefit for longer. It is pretty easy to tell, even in puppies, which ones will struggle to breathe. If your pet is one of them, we recommend that the surgery be done when they are young. They will heal faster and will have less time to develop some of the other, secondary changes in the airway as a result of struggling to breathe. The time of spaying or neutering would be ideal.

Why should I do this to my dog?

The simple reason is that the benefits for the dog are greater than the risks of the surgery. They have the potential for a much more comfortable life. In the hot Arizona desert, these smushed face dogs are not able to effectively control their body temperature with panting compared to other dogs. Our pet parents that have had us perform this procedure for their dogs report that their dog is much more quiet, comfortable, and has more tolerance for playing and exercising.

Please ask us about this procedure so we can assess your pet and make a plan to improve their life.

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