Brachycephalic Syndrome

Associated Terms: Short-Nose Breeds, Stenotic Nares, Pinched Nose, Elongated Soft Palate, Soft Palate Elongation, Everted Laryngeal Saccules, Laryngeal Collapse, Tracheal Hypoplasia, Hypoplastic Trachea

Certain breeds of dogs and cats are prone to difficult, obstructive breathing because of the shape of their head, muzzle and throat. The most common dogs affected are the “brachycephalic” breeds. Brachycephalic means “short-headed.” Common examples of brachycephalic dog breeds include the English bulldog, French bulldog, Pug, Pekingese, and Boston terrier. These dogs have been bred to have relatively short muzzles and noses and, because of this, the throat and breathing passages in these dogs are frequently undersized or flattened. Persian cats also have a brachycephalic conformation.

The term Brachycephalic Syndrome refers to the combination of elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and everted laryngeal saccules, all of which are commonly seen in these breeds.

Some dogs with brachycephalic syndrome may also have a narrow trachea (windpipe), collapse of the larynx (the cartilages that open and close the upper airway), or paralysis of the laryngeal cartilages.

Stenotic Nares & Soft Palate Resection 

Soft palate abnormalities should be treated if they cause distress to your pet, become more severe with time, or cause life-threatening obstruction. If your pet shows gagging, coughing, exercise intolerance, or difficulty breathing, resection of the excess soft palate may be necessary. Soft palate resection (staphylectomy) is performed using a scalpel blade, scissors, or CO2 laser.  The palate is stretched and the excess tissue is removed with blade or scissors.

If the laryngeal saccules are everted, they may be removed at the same time as the soft palate resection, or they may be left in and allowed to return to a more normal position. Correction of stenotic nares, if present, helps improve breathing and is done at the same time.

-American College of Veterinary Surgeons