Snoring or snorting is considered to be a cute characteristic of flat-faced dogs and is accepted as normal, says Dr Stella Pantazopoulou, Practice Manager and Veterinary Surgeon at the City Vet Clinic, but that’s a misconception. It’s a result of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, or BOAS, a health condition that describes a narrower than normal upper respiratory tract (from nose to trachea) in brachycephalic dog breeds, or flat-faced dogs such as English and French bulldogs and pugs.
“About 50 per cent of brachycephalic dogs are born with elongated soft palates,” she says. “If the soft palate, the structure at the back of the oral cavity, happens to be longer than normal, then it covers part of the larynx and prevents normal and easy breathing in these dogs. Smaller than normal nostrils and hypoplastic trachea are also part of this syndrome.”
GN Focus talks to Dr Pantazopoulou to know more about the syndrome and its treatment.
Why are flat-faced dogs at higher risk of BOAS in the UAE?
Flat-faced dogs are at higher risk due to high temperatures in the UAE, especially during the summer. Dogs regulate their temperature using their paws and mouth, as they lack sweat glands on their body. Consequently, a narrow airway system, like that in brachycephalic dogs, can cause problems to the normal air flow and contributes to development of higher body temperature. Every summer we treat flat-faced dogs suffering from difficulty in breathing and heatstroke at our hospitals.
What can pet owners do to prevent the syndrome?
Owners of flat-faced dogs should be extra careful during summer and never leave their dog unattended outdoors. They should walk their dogs for a short time very early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature is lower. Good hydration and frequent water intake is a must. Even a simple allergic reaction due to any reason should be taken seriously. An allergic reaction can cause inflammation and swelling of the mucous membranes along the whole respiratory tract and make their narrow airway system even narrower. In such cases they should immediately visit the closest vet for first aid.
How is BOAS treated?
The best preventive treatment is surgical correction of specific anatomical abnormalities. A dog with BOAS might have either narrow nostrils or elongated
soft palate or both of them. We usually perform soft palate resection and rhinoplasty at our clinic.