You’ve done the research. You already know that your squishy-faced (brachycephalic) furbaby has different needs. As any loving paw-rent would, you do the very best you can to keep your lovable furbaby happy and healthy.

Your veterinarian may have already told you that your dog has something called “Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome” or better known as BOAS. Your veterinarian might also have mentioned that BOAS surgery can help your furbaby live more comfortably, since he/she will be able to breathe better.

For some paw-rents, surgery can be very scary, especially when it’s elective. Here’s a summary of what you need to know.

What is Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)?

Brachycephalic breeds are dog breeds with a short muzzle. Some of the breeds that are considered brachycephalic include:

  • French Bulldog
  • Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Pekingese
  • Shih tzu
  • Japanese Chin
  • Boxer
  • Boston terrier

BOAS refers to the unique way being squishy-faced (brachycephalic) affects breathing.

Signs of BOAS include:

  • Noisy breathing, especially with exercise
  • Snoring
  • Snorting
  • Tired easily with exercise
  • Collapse
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Retching
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitating

Most Frenchies, Bulldogs and Pugs have a degree of BOAS because of:

  1. Size of their nostrils (very small opening)
  2. Length of their soft palate (the piece of tissue that hangs over the back of their throats)
  3. Small size of their trachea (windpipe)

The smaller nostrils reduces the amount of air that can flow through the nose, while the floppy soft palate prevents air from getting through the mouth. Given the nose and the mouth are the primary ways air gets in, BOAS can be very dangerous.

What are the risks with BOAS?

There are several dangers to consider with brachycephalic breeds. Imagine struggling to breathe your whole life. We recommend BOAS surgery to certain patients because it can help them breathe a lot better and reduce the life-threatening conditions including:

  • Aspiration pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Heatstroke and organ damage
  • Collapse
  • Regurgitation and problems eating
  • Oesophageal reflux
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (complete airway obstruction/no breathing during sleeping)
  • Death (in some severe cases)

How do you fix BOAS?

Unfortunately, BOAS can only be fixed surgically. However, with any brachycephalic breeds, there are a few key points to remember:

  1. Weight control – weight loss is so important to reduce the severity of BOAS
  2. Avoid hot humid weather – this can cause overheating
  3. Avoid stress
  4. Avoid over-exercising
  5. Keep cool indoors in summer

We refer BOAS surgery to a surgical specialist because of the risk of complications. The specialist will need to assess the degree and severity of BOAS, then assess which components which need to be treated.

Surgery can involve:

  1. Nostrils: Trimming the nostrils to help widen them.
  2. Soft palate: Trimming the elongated soft palate. If the soft palate is thickened, a folded flap palatoplasty (to shorten and thin the soft palate) may be used.
  3. Laryngeal saccules: Trimming of the laryngeal saccules which block the trachea (windpipe).
Before nostrils enlargement
After nostrils enlargement

What are the risks with BOAS surgery?

Post-operatively there are risks:

  • Airway swelling: If this happens, a temporary tube (tracheostomy tube) may need to be placed into the trachea (airway) to help breathe. This risk is minimised by thorough post-operative monitoring at a 24/7 emergency hospital. Your fur-baby will need to stay the night in the hospital following a BOAS surgery for this reason.
  • Aspiration pneumonia: If your furbaby regurgitates under anaesthetic it can cause an infection in the lungs. This risk is minimised and controlled by fasting and anti-nausea medication given before, during and after surgery.

Why does my furbaby need extra medication for surgery?

Because all our squishy-faced furbabies have special needs, to avoid anaesthetic complications, they require special medications before, during, and after surgery. Most of these medications relate to how BOAS can cause tummy issues, which can be very dangerous during surgery and recovery.

That’s why we tailor an anaesthetic protocol for any bulldog at My Vet Animal Hospital – we want to make sure each furbaby is getting the right medication for the right length of time at the right doses.

Do you have any questions? Feel free to call us on (02) 8484 2020 or send us an e-mail!

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