Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, or BAS (also known as Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome, or BAOS), is a disease process seen in canine breeds such as the Pug, Boxer, Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, and Shih Tzu, and feline breeds such as the Himalayan, Persian, and Exotic.

The brachycephalic (Latin for “short-headed”) appearance of these breeds is a result of decades of selective breeding to produce desired traits such as large round eyes, short noses, large heads and faces in proportion to body size, and audible breathing noises. The resulting changes in these pets’ anatomy can lead to severe respiratory disorders, which can become debilitating and even life-threatening over the course of the pet’s life. These disorders include Elongated Soft Palate, Stenotic Nares, Everted Laryngeal Saccules, and a narrow trachea.

Elongated Soft Palate is essentially a soft palate so long it can interfere with air flow in front of the epiglottis, the entrance to the trachea. Part of the audible breathing sounds these pets make comes from this excess tissue getting in the way of the pet’s airway.

Stenotic Nares are a reduction in the size of these pets’ nasal opening. The appearance looks like slits rather than larger round holes seen in humans, and can also contribute to these pets’ audible breathing as they try to force air past the narrow nasal passages with each breath they take.

Elongated Soft Palate and Stenotic Nares together reduce the diameter of the pet’s airway, making the air flow to and from the lungs turbulent while making the simple minute-to-minute act of breathing a constant struggle. The increased respiratory effort and turbulent air flow lead to chronic changes in the pet’s airway over time, such as the development of Everted Laryngeal Saccules (swollen masses of tissue in front of the pet’s vocal cords which further obstruct the airway) and a narrowed trachea which may even collapse later in life. Clinical signs include trouble breathing, coughing, trouble sleeping and exhaustion, and exercise intolerance and lack of play. A lack of exercise often leads to weight gain in these animals, which further exacerbates the respiratory difficulties. More extreme cases include a bluish tinge to the mucus membranes instead of a normal pink color, keeping the head and neck extended to keep the airway open, hyperthermia stemming from difficulty keeping cool through proper panting, gasping and uneven irregular breathing, gagging and choking, and collapsing. Shortened life spans and sudden death have also been seen.

At Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness and Laser Surgery Center, we offer one of the best possible means of surgical intervention for BAOS. CO2 laser surgery can excise the Elongated Soft Palate of these pets with reduced or no bleeding, improving airway flow by as much as 75%. The laser also opens Stenotic Nares to further improve the airway. Both of these surgeries are performed on the same day and typically do not employ stitches. If present, severe cases of Everted Laryngeal Saccules can also be reduced or removed entirely with the laser at this time. However, the mere intervention of Soft Palate excision and Stenotic Nares correction may be enough to reverse the eversion of Laryngeal Saccules on its own.

The best time to perform these procedures is while these pets are still young, preferably at six months of age, before time allows the turbulent air flow to cause permanent changes to the pet’s airway such as tracheal narrowing and Everted Laryngeal Saccules. We often recommend these procedures be performed at this age with a pet’s spaying or neutering surgery to reduce the number of anesthetic events the pet requires.

If you have or are considering obtaining a brachycephalic breed as a pet, please have your pet evaluated early by your veterinarian for Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome and discuss with your vet if such interventional surgery is right for your pet. Such an early intervention can help your pet lead a longer and more comfortable life with less potential cardiopulmonary complications, without significantly altering its outward appearance.

If you have any questions about our services, please contact us today at (631) 696-2400.