Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, English Toy Spaniels, Boston Terriers,
Chow Chows, and other dogs with broad skulls and
short muzzles frequently show some degree of airway obstruction, known as brachycephalic syndrome,
manifested by mouth breathing, snorting, and
snoring. These difficulties become more pronounced when the dog is exercising
or is overheated, and tend to get worse as the dog grows older.
The obstructed breathing in these dogs is caused by deformities that include
collapsed nostrils, an elongated soft palate, and eversion of the laryngeal
saccules. These deformities often occur together. Collapsed nostrils and
elongated soft palate are congenital. Eversion of the laryngeal saccules is
In puppies with stenotic nares, the nasal
openings are small and the nasal cartilage is soft and floppy, causing the
nostrils to collapse as the puppy breathes in. This produces varying degrees of
airway obstruction, manifested by mouth breathing, noisy breathing, and
occasionally a nasal discharge. In severe cases the chest is flattened from
front to back. These pups fail to thrive and are poorly developed.
Treatment: Stenotic nares can be treated successfully by surgically
enlarging the nasal openings. This is accomplished by removing a wedge of nasal
skin and cartilage. Not all
dogs with stenotic nares require surgery. In some dogs the cartilage firms up
satisfactorily by 6 months of age. If there is no urgency in symptoms, your
veterinarian may delay treatment to see if this happens.
Elongated Soft Palate
The soft palate is a flap of mucosa that closes off the nasopharynx during
swallowing. Normally, it touches or slightly overlaps the epiglottis. In dogs
with an elongated soft palate, the palate overlaps the epiglottis to a
considerable degree, partially obstructing the airway during breathing. This is
manifested by snorting, snoring, stridor, gurgling, and gagging. The obstruction is
worse with exercise. In time, stretched ligaments in the larynx lead to labored
breathing and laryngeal collapse.
Treatment: An elongated soft palate is treated by surgically shortening the
palate so that the edge opposes or slightly overlaps the epiglottis. Results
are good if the operation is done before destructive changes occur in the
Eversion of the Laryngeal Saccules
Laryngeal saccules are small mucosal pouches that project into the larynx.
In long-standing upper airway obstruction the saccules enlarge and turn out
(eversion), narrowing the airway even further.
Treatment: Everted laryngeal saccules often accompany an elongated soft
palate. If present, they should be removed. This operation is done at the same
time as shortening of the palate. Your veterinarian may refer you to a surgical
specialist for these surgeries.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"