Brachycephalic Respiratory Syndrome
“Brachys” have abnormally narrowed or small nostrils; the narrowing restricts the amount of air that can flow into the nostrils. They have a soft palate that is too long for the length of the mouth; the excess length partially blocks the entrance to the trachea at the back of the throat.
Brachy dogs have 42 teeth like every other breed of dog, but because of the pushed in nature of the upper jaw, those teeth get crammed into a relatively small area. Brachys can end up with teeth at a lot of odd angles as well as overlapping teeth.
Then there is an elongated soft palate, which involves a big flap of skin at the back of the throat that causes a lot of the characteristic snorting and other respiratory sounds often heard in brachy breeds.
Often the windpipe in these pets is very narrow in places, which leads to a condition called tracheal stenosis, or narrowing of the trachea. This problem can lead to tracheal collapse, as well as problems with anesthesia.
Dogs with elongated soft palates generally have a history of noisy breathing, especially upon breathing inward. Some dogs will retch or gag, especially while swallowing. Many will exhibit exercise intolerance, most cannot tolerate extreme heat or cold as their air passage ways are too short to warm their breath or cool them by panting. Brachys prime candidates for heat stroke.
Unfortunately, brachycephalic pets also have their share of eye problems. The way their heads are constructed means their eyes often don’t fit properly in their heads. The eye sockets are shallow, which makes the eyes more pronounced, giving these breeds their sort of bug-eyed or bulgy eyed appearance.
But if a brachy pet gets a blow to the back of the head, or really any kind of head trauma, it can dislodge an eye. These breeds are at high risk of having an eye pop out of the socket. Obviously if this happens, you need to call your vet or an emergency clinic right away because immediate surgery will be required.
Special attention should be paid to the face. Tears can collect in the eye folds and wrinkles leading to yeast infections. Gently wash the folds and wrinkles frequently. Witch hazel can be used. Be careful not to get it in to eyes.
For more detailed information including treatments and surgeries for these conditions please view the sources below.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs By Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH