This week we will touch on the importance of recognizing dogs and cats with Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome. Several breeds predisposed to this condition include, but are not limited to, French and English Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Persian and Himalayan cats.
Brachycephalic Syndrome refers to the respiratory distress that most of these breeds have as a result of their airways being redesigned.
These animals are bred to have a normal lower jaw and a shortened upper jaw which gives them the much loved appearance. This appearance comes at a cost to your breed and it is important to realize that many animals need surgical correction of these airway defects to live a fulfilling life.
There are four physical characteristics that are seen with almost every animal of the brachycephalic breeds:
Stenotic nares – said simply, means little tiny nostrils. If you take a look at your Frenchy or Persian kitty closely, you will see that his/her nostrils are much smaller than most which means they cannot breathe in as much air. These can be surgically enlarged to decrease distress.
Elongated soft palate – the easiest way to illustrate this is if you take your index finger and walk it backward along the roof of your mouth. Toward the back you will feel where the hard palate turns into the soft palate. In Bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds, this soft palate extends too far backward and causes obstruction of the windpipe (trachea). A small bit of skin actually extends into the trachea and limits the amount of air that flows past it. This extended soft palate can be surgically removed, opening up the airway.
Tracheal stenosis – the trachea of many of these breeds is compressed and narrowed causing restricted airways. This problem causes extreme risk for anesthesia and cannot be surgically treated in many cases.
Everted laryngeal saccules – the larynx experiences much more stress than other breeds and these tiny sacs become irritated and pop outward into the airway. These also, can be surgically removed.
If your dog or cat snores it’s very likely they have compromised airways. It is not normal.
These animals also suffer heat stress because they cannot pant efficiently. The normal process of cooling air down by passing over the tongue is limited and therefore the blood is not able to be cooled as efficiently. These breeds also tend to have eye problems and dental problems caused by overcrowding of teeth.
Louis is a bright- eyed, spunky two year old French Bulldog belonging to a wonderful loving owner in the Madison Park area. At his first exam at approximately one year old, Louis was found to have “inspiratory stridor”, meaning a snoring kind of sound occurred when he breathed and slept.
Louis’ owner had noticed that he seemed really “mellow” for his age which is often the case for animals with compromised airways. They are not getting enough oxygen and cannot exert themselves as much as other animals their age. A surgeon was brought into the hospital to enlarge his nostrils, reduce his soft palate and remove his laryngeal saccules.
We could tell the difference even while Louis was recovering from surgery. He was obviously breathing easier and went home a happier dog. His owner reported a big increase in his activity level and a decrease in his snoring immediately (sometimes she was less than enthusiastic about his increased energy level, but glad for Louis!). Louis is now a rambunctious, active two-year old who sleeps easier with his newly improved airway.
Please consult your veterinarian at your dog or cat’s exam if you have reservations about their breathing habits. Education and prevention is key.
Do you have questions about your snoring pet?