Everything You Want to Know About Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Everything You Want to Know About Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

(by Corinna Underwood)

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) refers to a series of abnormalities that commonly affect dogs with flat faces and short noses. Types of brachycephalic dogs include English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs, Shih-Tzus, and Boston Terriers.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

BOAS occurs because these breeds have shortened skull bones that cause changes in the anatomy of particular soft tissue structures connected to the nose and throat. Often, these conformations can cause physical problems for your pet.

Anatomy of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

BOAS usually refers to any of these three common disturbances:

  • An elongated soft palate: The soft palate is located at the back of the roof of the mouth. It connects the bone to the soft tissue. Because the dog’s soft palate is excessively long, it protrudes into the airway. This prevents the normal flow of air into the lungs.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

  • Stenotic nares: This refers to narrowed or pinched nostrils. Because the nostrils collapse inwards as the dog inhales, it makes it difficult for the dog to breathe through its nose. Dogs with BOAS will often predominantly breathe through their mouths.
  • Everted laryngeal saccules: With this condition, the tissue to the forefront of the vocal cords is drawn into the windpipe, causing partial airway obstruction.

Symptoms of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

If your companion is one of the breeds commonly affected by BOAS, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Labored breathing
  • Snorting or wheezing
  • Frequent coughing
  • Gagging
  • Loud snoring
  • Difficulty eating
  • Sleep apnea

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

In some cases, secondary conditions may be associated with BOAS. These include:

  • Bronchial collapse
  • Problems with the gastrointestinal tract
  • Acid reflux
  • Chronic gastritis

How Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome is Diagnosed

If your pet is a breed that is commonly affected by BOAS and you are noticing some of the symptoms above, you should consult your vet as soon as possible. He or she will discuss your pet’s medical history and perform a physical examination.

Further tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis, such as:

  • An examination of the throat, larynx, pharynx, and soft palate under general anesthesia
  • A CT scan of the head, formation of the skull, and nasal cavities
  • X-rays of the chest and abdomen to check for any secondary conditions

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Does My Dog Need Nose Surgery?

Dr. Jeff Werber is a nationally renowned veterinarian and small animal surgeon based in Los Angeles, California. He strongly recommends surgical treatment for your dog if they’re suffering from BOAS. Not only will it improve your pet’s quality of life, but it will also give them a longer life expectancy. 

“We do surgery (for BOAS)… I use a laser, and we can shorten that elongated soft palate, we can remove the tonsils, and the saccules if needed, and of course, the stenotic nares. We do these surgeries very often and it helps them tremendously.” Dr. Jeff explains.  

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

What to Expect From Surgery for Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

If surgery is performed early enough, it can prevent your dog from developing secondary conditions associated with BOAS. During surgery, your vet will remove any excess tissue that is impeding airway flow. The procedure usually includes:

  • Widening of the nostrils
  • Shortening of the soft palate
  • Removing the saccules

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Many dogs will need all three procedures.

Post-Surgery Care 

After surgery, your pet will be given pain medication to make them comfortable, and monitored in the clinic for up to 24 hours. 

Once you bring your dog home from surgery, be sure they get a full week’s worth of complete rest. That means no activities that could get them breathing hard, and walks should be kept very short. You will most likely also need to feed your pet only soft food for 2-4 days after surgery – your veterinarian may also recommend low-fat dog food to help promote recovery. 

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

After two more weeks, you should begin to notice drastic improvements in their BOAS symptoms, and some will have disappeared completely. Specifically, they should be able to breathe more easily, and they should no longer be snorting or suffering from sleep apnea.

Your pet should now be able to enjoy more exercise, which means leading a healthier life. Remember, your pet needs to maintain a healthy weight, as obesity can cause BOAS symptoms to return.

If you live in or around the Los Angeles area and you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from BOAS, call Dr. Jeff at 424-835-0576 for a consultation.