The Brachycephalic Challenge

If you have a French Bulldog, pug or any other short-faced dog you need to do the Brachycephalic

Challenge before summer.

I would like to set a test for all owners of brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs.

Can your dog walk around a footy oval in less than 10 minutes? If the can’t, they need to have their airway assessed and may benefit from surgery.

Every summer we see multiple dogs for heat stroke. Short-faced dogs such as pugs and French bulldogs represent a large portion of these cases due to having severe BOAS.

BOAS is a group of conditions which come about from certain breeds having abnormally short faces. We tend to see issues such as narrow nostrils, long soft palates, everted laryngeal saccules, narrowed tracheas (windpipe) and other related problems.

Over summer, dogs suffering from BOAS can develop severe breathing and overheating problems due to their conformation.

We all know that to cool down, dogs pant. When we have a shortened face, the panting isn’t as effective as there is less tissue for the air to flow over. A short-faced dog might only have 1/3 of the cooling ability of a “normal” dog, so it can be very hard to cool off by panting.

When a dog starts panting, it has two bad side-effects on brachycephalic dogs.

Firstly, the act of panting uses a lot of muscles. Using these muscles creates more heat for the dog to try to remove. If the cooling mechanism is not very effective the dog will pant harder, produce more internal heat from the muscle contractions, and continue to get hotter. This creates a vicious circle of panting and heating which can rapidly lead to heat stroke and even death.

Secondly, the panting creates a lot of suction at the back of the throat. This suction can pull the long soft palate into the larynx, making it very hard to breathe. It can also cause some glands in the larynx to pop out, adding to the obstruction. The narrowed nostrils common in short-faced dogs can further contribute to the amount of suction at the back of the throat.

To improve the airways of affected dogs, we normally perform a combination of surgical procedures. We will open the nostrils, shorten the soft palate and remove excess tissue in the larynx.

These procedures can be challenging to perform, but it is much easier to perform these procedures in a planned, controlled manner rather than as an emergency once the dog is experiencing severe problems. We also find that the problems tend to become worse with age and harder to treat successfully, so we recommend early intervention when it is needed.

If you have a short-faced dog, please take the time this weekend to walk around a football oval. If your dog can’t make it around in less than 10 minutes, you need to make an appointment to see us to assess the airway and plan surgery if needed.

It may just save your dog’s life.

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