Brachycephalic Airway Disease

As cute and full of character as Pugs are, they have a major anatomical flaw!  They are short nosed dogs and therefore all the respiratory structures literally don't fit properly, and this results in their breathing being obstructed.  Imagine going through life not being able to breathe properly!

This condition, called Brachycephalic Airway Disease (BAD), affects not only pugs, but also other breeds with short noses, such as bulldogs, shih-tzus, Boston Terriers, Pekinese and many other breeds.  Some breeds of cats can also suffer from BAD.  Affected dogs can exhibit signs from puppy-hood.  Signs include noisy breathing, snoring, exercise intolerance and difficulty breathing in dogs.  Dogs with BAD generally don't tolerate exercise, excitement, heat or stress well, and in very severe cases, collapse and death can occur.

The structural abnormalities that occur in BAD include:

  • Stenotic Nares (narrow nasal openings)
  • Excessively long soft palate
  • Everted Laryngeal Saccules
  • Hypoplastic (narrow) trachea

While affected dogs will never have normal airways, the good news is there are surgical procedures available to improve airflow in these dogs.  Stenotic Nares can be augmented to widen the nasal passage.  A long soft palate can be shortened to prevent it from obstructing the glottis when the dog breathes.  Everted laryngeal saccules can be removed.  In young dogs, it may be possible to combine these procedures with a neutering surgery to minimise the number of times the dog is anesthetized.  In fact, early surgical intervention is recommended to prevent exacerbation of the disease due to secondary changes in the airways.  Dogs with pronounced BAD should not be used for breeding, as there is a strong genetic component to the condition.  A harness should be used instead of a collar in these breeds, and stress, as well as overheating, should be minimized.

Is your dog a breed that has a short nose? Did you have any of these procedures performed to help it breathe? Tell us about it in the comments!

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