Snorting, snoring, and sneezing, OH MY!


Dr. Jessica Downing

As many of you know, I have two Boston Terrier doggie children, Ernest and Boon (and now a human child on the way)! Being that they are Boston Terriers, this puts them in the brachycephalic class of dog breeds. Brachycephalic technically means short and broad headed (basically all of those cute breeds with short noses and smooshed faces). Besides the Boston Terrier, other breeds included in this category are Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, Boxers, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Brussels Griffons, Lhasa Apsos, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Mastiffs and Chow Chows. Unfortunately, that smooshed face we love so much can come with upper airway problems known as brachycephalic airway syndrome and can lead to difficulty breathing. It is very important to be aware of the problems that this class of dogs can have so that you can know the signs to watch for and seek veterinary attention if needed.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome can include up to five different airway problems. The first is stenotic nares – this basically means that your dog’s nasal openings are very tiny which make it difficult for them to inhale adequate amounts of air in. This can become especially dangerous when your pet is excited or overheated. The second problem that brachycephalic dogs can be born with is an elongated soft palate. This can lead to a lot of snorting, reverse sneezing, and difficulty breathing. Even though some snoring and snorting can be cute, excessive amounts can be a serious problem for your pet. The third possible abnormality is a hypoplastic or small/underdeveloped trachea. This can also cause your pet to have difficulty inhaling the proper amount of air/oxygen. The fourth and fifth portion of this syndrome can be everted laryngeal saccules and laryngeal collapse. These changes are usually a sequel to the other problems aforementioned in this paragraph. Over time, the other respiratory issues put more strain on the nasopharyngeal region and can lead to one or both of these problems. Symptoms of this syndrome include: exercise intolerance, coughing, gagging, stridor/stertor (increased respiratory sounds) and cyanosis.

Because our beloved babies can be born with these respiratory issues, it is very important that we are aware and prevent certain circumstances which can exacerbate their trouble breathing and lead to some scary life and threatening situations or even death. The most important thing that you can do is to prevent your pet from becoming overheated and over exerted. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can occur very quickly in this category of dogs which can lead to lack of oxygen. Summer is right around the corner and we all know those 100 degree temperatures will be here soon, so walk and play with your pets in the cooler morning and evening hours and make sure they have plenty of fresh water and shade. It is also important that we prevent our furry friends from becoming over weight as this can also make breathing issues worse.

If your pet suffers from this syndrome and you are interested in possible treatment, most of which are surgical, please contact our office today and set up an appointment to discuss these options. I do not wish to scare you out of getting one of these precious babies – after all, they are my favorite class of dogs! Every breed has its own list of congenital abnormalities that they can be born with. Just be aware so that you and your pet can have a happy, healthy summer and good long term quality of life.