What is brachycephalic breed syndrome?

Brachycephalic syndrome refers to the combination of the following:

  1. Stenotic nares are nostrils which have abnormally narrow openings, making it difficult for the pet to breath through their nose (Figure 1).
Stenotic nares with increasingly narrow opening from left to right, (Packer and Tivers, 2015)
  • Soft palate elongation is the condition where the soft palette extends more than 1 to 3 mm into the airway, such that it interferes with the movement of air of the lungs.
  • Laryngeal saccule eversion refers to the presence of tissue in front of the vocal cords is pulled into the trachea and partially obstructs airflow.

Which breeds are at risk?

Brachycephalic breeds such as the English Bulldog, Boston terrier, Shih-Tzu and Pekingese generally affected. Furthermore, dogs are more commonly affected than cats. Even though stenotic nares are present at birth, most animals come for evaluation between the ages 2 and 4 years of age.

What are the symptoms?

The patients usually have noisy, difficult breathing. Some may gag when swallowing. These pets also seem to prefer to sleep on their backs in order to aid breathing. Excitement, stress, increased heat and increased humidity frequently make the clinical signs worse. Furthermore, obesity will intensify the symptoms.

Diagnosis :

While stenotic nares are easily diagnosed upon physical examination, both the elongated soft palate and everted laryngeal saccules can only be diagnosed whilst the dog is under anaesthesia. Therefore, the best time to do this is alongside their spay/ neuter surgery. This is a result of a characteristic large tongue. The vet may also recommend x-rays to evaluate your pet’s lower airway and lungs.

Home management:

There are ways in which you can improve the quality of life for your pet at home. These include;

  • Weight reduction program for obese pets
  • Exercise restriction
  • Elimination of precipitating causes such as stress and excitement.


Treatment is almost always surgical which involves deep general anesthetic and refined surgical skills. Dr Sran has a lot of experience with this condition, having performed many surgeries with a very high success rate. If you are concerned, please do not hesitate to send a video clip of your pet before we see them. Please be aware that proper diagnosis does requires general anaesthetic. For long distance clients we can do the diagnosis on the same day of the surgery and proceed based on the findings.

Before and after stenotic nares resection performed by Dr Sran.

If you have any questions or would like to book surgery please contact us, via:

Phone: (604) 870-9333

Email: info@allwestvet.ca