Breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in short-nosed breeds

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Re­gionalex­tra -

BRACHY­CEPHALIC ob­struc­tive syn­drome is a syn­drome of prob­lems af­fect­ing dogs of the short­nosed va­ri­ety.

These dogs have been bred to have short noses, but this comes at a cost.

Changing the evolved anatomy of an an­i­mal through suc­ces­sive breed­ing for a sin­gle char­ac­ter­is­tic can lead to other, less de­sir­able traits be­ing formed.

With this air­way prob­lem, pup­pies are born with nos­trils that are not big enough for air to get through, forc­ing them to breathe through their mouths.

They are also born with a thick, ob­struc­tive tongue, an elon­gated soft palate and a wind­pipe that is too small for the amount of air need­ing to pass through it.

Own­ers com­monly no­tice the snor­ing sound that oc­curs when their dog is breath­ing in.

This snor­ing sound hap­pens be­cause the roof of the mouth (the soft palate) is ab­nor­mally long and lies over the top of the lar­ynx (voice box), also caus­ing ob­struc­tion to breath­ing.

One way of imag­in­ing what these prob­lems feel like for a dog, is to try and breathe through a straw.

With the ab­nor­mally in­creased pres­sure on the air­ways with each in­take of breath, over the years a dog will cause fur­ther dam­age to its up­per air­ways.

Such changes in­clude thick­en­ing, swelling, loos­en­ing of the tis­sues of the lar­ynx and even­tu­ally col­lapse of the lar­ynx caus­ing an in­abil­ity to breathe.

Sur­gi­cal cor­rec­tion to open up the nos­trils and to shorten the soft palate can im­prove breath­ing in younger dogs of these breeds.

Ide­ally this should be done be­fore too many other changes have oc­curred.

When older, we can still sur­gi­cally help many dogs but we of­ten need to re­move some of the loose tis­sues ob­struct­ing the lar­ynx as well.

If left too long and a dog’s lar­ynx col­lapses, surgery is un­likely to help.

If dogs con­tinue with this prob­lem, they are at high risk of over­heat­ing in hot weather and they are at risk of col­lapsed lar­ynx and in­abil­ity to breathe.

If you are con­cerned your dog may be at risk, please get them as­sessed by a vet so we can try to help them live a long and com­fort­able life.

Dr Mea­gan Lee BVSc, vet­eri­nar­ian

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