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Brachycephalic Syndrome – The Bane Of The Pushed In Face Dog’s Existence!

Brachycephalic Syndrome In Sub Nosed BreedsIt is a common presentation.  You can hear the dog enter the waiting room from the back treatment area as he/she grunts, coughs, and gags their way in the veterinary clinic.  The mere act of walking from one point to another is excruciating as the dog struggles to get air.  They are usually sweet, purchased for an exorbitant amount of money because of their demand driven by their cute, snub nosed faces.  They often live what is becoming an inhumane existence where every breath is a struggle and the dog can barely go for a walk, let alone enjoy any real exercise.

We are talking about brachycephalic dogs breeds that include Pugs, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, and Shi Tzu dogs.  Their increasing popularity has driven an explosion of puppy mill and back yard breeders that breed these dogs with no ethical breeding standards nor care for the suffering of the dogs they produce.  They have no reason to, as people keep flocking to purchase these dogs for $2000-$3000 or more with no end in sight.

The result of this unscrupulous breeding is an upper airway system that is obstructed throughout the entirety of the upper respiratory tract that has lead to an actual branded disease complex known as Brachycephalic Syndrome.  This disease has the following major inherited comformational components:

  •  Stenotic (narrowed) nares (nostriils)
    • In some cases, the nostrils are so narrow that they appear as mere slits in the front of the nose.
    • A surgical procedure that widens the openings is available that provides mild relief but often not overly impression with so many other components to Brachycephalic Syndrome.
  • Shortened, tortuous sinuses
    • With the sinuses having been bred down to a tiny snub nose that is crammed into the face, the sinuses of these breeds are shortened and laden with drastic angles.  This passage of air as a result becomes turbulent and uncomfortable, often producing a wheezy sound that propagates air very poorly.
    • There is no treatment for this.
  • Elongated soft palate
    • Behind the hard palate in the middle of the roof of the mouth, resides the soft palate which is a fat pad of soft tissue in the back of the throat.  Brachycephalic breeds commonly have an elongated soft palate that protrudes to the extent that it flaps around the throat and partially obstructs the glottis, the opening that allows inhaled air to propagate into the main airway to the lungs called the trachea.  It is not uncommon for this excess of soft tissue to lead asphyxiating episodes where the dog simply cannot take in air.
    • A surgical procedure called a soft palate resection where a section of excess soft tissue is surgically removed from the soft palate can provide some relief for this condition.
  • Stenotic (narrowed) trachea
    • The trachea is the main airway that delivers inhaled air to the lungs.  Many brachycephalic dog breeds have a trachea that is narrowed.  It is not uncommon to see a a dog trying to breath through a trachea of a size that would be more appropriate for that of a dog half its size.  Picture breathing through a straw and that will give an idea of what this may feel like.
    • A surgical procedure where a synthetic stent can be placed to widen the diameter of the the trachea can offer relief to some of these dogs, but the surgery is costly and carries a fairly substantial degree of risk.

So the next time you see one of these dogs grunting, snorting, and hacking along, do not view these noises as cute little breed quirks, but instead human created anatomical characteristics that make the very act of breathing – something most of use take for granted – a constant struggle for most of its life.  Do not laugh when the dog snores so loud it could wake a hibernating bear, and wakes in mid sleep gasping for air.

Brachycephalic Syndrome is a tragedy and failure of humanity and veterinarians are left scrambling to do our best to clean of the mess.  Making matters worse, for some reason, many owners of these dogs have the impression that the breed standard for these dogs in addition to struggling to breath is that they are supposed to be morbidly obese.  Obesity in turn multiplies the negative effects of Brachycephalic Syndrome and multiplies them at least 10 fold and more than 70% of these dogs are kept severely overweight.

The situation has reached a point where in the UK, a growing group of veterinarians organized by Vet Help Direct is using the power of petition to pressure breed clubs and legislators to act to mandate reasonable breeding standards for these dog breeds at the minimum with even calls to cease breeding them altogether.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality throughout a number of subjects and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

One thought on “Brachycephalic Syndrome – The Bane Of The Pushed In Face Dog’s Existence!

  1. We are talking about brachycephalic dogs breeds that include Pugs, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, and Shi Tzu dogs.

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