Breathing Problems in Boston Terriers (Brachycephalic Syndrome)

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Boston Terriers’ adorable face is irresistible. The shape of their face and features of their head is called brachycephalic, and some difficulties may arise out of that cute face which is called brachycephalic syndrome. So, what are Boston Terrier breathing problems?

How can it affect their way of living?

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in a Boston Terrier?

Brachycephalic Syndrome disease in Boston Terriers is the obstruction of the airway due to their flat face and smooshed nose, which causes difficulty breathing, snoring, or coughing. Dogs, like Boston Terriers, were bred with a short head and face that is pushed inward. This is the reason why they are prone to brachycephalic syndrome.

Boston Terriers are part of the brachycephalic dog breeds. These are flat faced dogs that are highly prone to breathing difficulties due to their facial structure. Brachycephalic dogs such as English Bulldog and French Bulldogs can experience brachycephalic syndrome because of other reasons as well.

Woman carrying her Boston Terrier

Let’s jump through the causes, symptoms, and how to prevent brachycephalic syndrome disease in Boston.

Causes of Brachycephalic Syndrome Disease in Boston Terriers

Brachycephalic Syndrome can be triggered by different things, such as a sudden occurrence due to their genes, or it has been developing due to lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some of the causes of brachycephalic syndrome disease in your Boston Terrier.

  • Elongated soft palate: The soft palate is the soft tissue behind the hard palate on the roof of the dog’s mouth. If tip of the soft palate is too long in a brachycephalic dog, it partially blocks the airway and distracts the movement of the breathe in and out of the lungs
  • Stenotic nares: The dog’s nostrils should usually be wide enough to allow breathing in and out without straining. Brachycephalic dogs have flat faces, and the nostrils might be too narrow or pushed inward making it difficult to breathe through the nose. 
  • Hypoplastic trachea: Like the stenotic nares where the nostrils partially block the airway in brachycephalic dogs, the trachea might also become smaller and partially block the air passage, a problem known as hypoplastic trachea. Unlike the nostrils, where the dog can opt to use the mouth, the hypoplastic trachea is a more serious issue 
  • Everted laryngeal saccules are soft tissues around the larynx and vocal folds. The problem begins when part of the tissue near the vocal cords of brachycephalic dogs starts blocking the airway down the trachea
  • Laryngeal collapse: The cartilage of the voice box partially or completely collapses blocking the airway. Remember that laryngeal collapse can be serious and life-threatening as it can lead to severe respiratory distress. Most dogs with laryngeal collapse health problems requires surgical interventions

These abnormalities that cause brachycephalic airway syndrome may be inherited from the pet parents or may develop over time.

Symptoms of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome in Bostons

Through careful observation and monitoring, I can easily identify if my dog experiences brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. Most of the symptoms of brachycephalic airway syndrome are visible or audible. Here are the symptoms that brachycephalic dogs show when suffering from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, and it’s advisable to take note of them to know if your Boston Terrier has it.

Boston Terrier with brachycephalic syndrome
  • Breathing through their mouth
  • Noisy and rapid breathing
  • Panting heavily
  • Snoring loudly
  • Snorting or Coughing
  • Retching or Vomiting
  • Secondary changes and symptoms might include diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Severe cases can cause sudden fainting or collapsing after strenuous activities or extreme weather conditions

If the brachycephalic syndrome is not treated as early as possible, it can lead to other serious diseases and symptoms to this breed, such as:

  • Cyanosis, the tongue, and gums turn bluish due to lack of oxygen
  • Inflamed trachea and larynx
  • Inability to breathe, leading to heart failure
3 Common Boston Terrier Health Issues

How to Take Care of a Boston Terrier With Brachycephalic Syndrome

At one point in their life, whether mild or severe, a brachycephalic dog breed will experience difficulty breathing. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Boston Terriers are the third most dog breeds to have a brachycephalic syndrome. So, as owners of brachycephalic dog breeds, how do I take good care of the affected dogs?

Practice Healthy Lifestyle

Brachycephalic dog breeds should be kept in shape, not too thin nor obese. Consider regular exercises such as walking or running to help boost the strength and muscles of the brachycephalic dog. A 30 to 40 minutes of exercise is enough to keep these dog breeds active and healthy.

Pay close attention to the type and amount of food that they eat. Since this is a companion dog breed, they spend most of their time napping and eating. Make sure to only give the right amount and type of food to your brachycephalic dog.

It’s not advisable to allow these dog breeds to have free access to unlimited food or they will be overweight which is not good for their flat faces. Brush its teeth to prevent tartar build up or debris that might affect the dog’s breathing.

Facial Care

Your brachycephalic dog will probably have some crevices all over his face and short nose. As the pet parents, remember to clean those folds as it helps to keep these dog breeds free from inhaling too much dirt and hosting too much bacteria. Even if these dogs have squishy faces that cause obstruction, cleaning the nostrils of your brachycephalic dog regularly can help them breathe.

You can use pet wipes to clean the face of your Boston Terrier.

Keep Them Indoors During the Hot Weather

To reduce the chance of heatstroke or breathing difficulty in brachycephalic breeds, you should keep them inside the house during humid and hot weather. A walking exercise can still be done early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is not that harsh already. It’s also advisable to allow these breeds to have a cool place in the house to stay after exercises.

Always Provide Clean Water to Drink

Your Boston should have free access to clean water, especially after an exercise. Water can help them cool their body down, hence, preventing heat stroke disease or overheating which can lead to breathing issues and vomiting that can cause further dehydration. 

Boston Terrier puppy

Understand the Signs of Heat Stroke

Although you can try to keep your Boston Terrier indoors and give it drinking water during hot weather, it doesn’t rule out the risks of heat stroke depending on the extent of the brachycephalic syndrome. 

Understanding the following signs of heat stroke can help you know when it’s around the corner and get in touch with your veterinarian in advance. 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heavy panting
  • The body feels abnormally hot to the touch.
  • General symptoms of weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Severe cases of heatstroke can make the dog collapse.

How to Diagnose Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers

Generally, there is a wide range of respiratory diseases in Boston Terriers, and breathing distress doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is suffering from the brachycephalic syndrome. When you notice signs of difficulty breathing, it is advisable to contact a veterinarian to help you determine whether it’s a brachycephalic syndrome. Usually, the veterinarian will carry out the following examinations:

  • Usually, the vets will inquire about the signs you have seen and the history of the respiratory health of the dog.
  • The specialist will perform a physical examination to determine the narrowness of the nostrils to see whether the dog suffers from the stenotic nares problem.
  • If the veterinarian suspects the Boston Terrier might be suffering from everted laryngeal saccules or an elongated soft palate, they may sedate the dog and do a computerized tomography to check the condition of the airways or manually examine the soft palate.
  • The veterinarian might also recommend an X-ray of the lungs and chest, especially if the treatment involves surgical procedures.

Treatments for Boston Terrier With Brachycephalic Syndrome

Identifying the main cause of the syndrome can result in an accurate treatment. If the brachycephalic syndrome is mild, the vet may advise you to limit your dog’s activities and exercise, maintain their lean body, and give them a cool place to stay.

If the syndrome is moderate to severe, you might need the intervention of veterinary surgeons to help remove the airway obstruction. The surgical procedures will be based on the cause of the brachycephalic syndrome and the extent of the obstruction. However, the main goal is to open up the airway and remove any obstruction. 

Your Boston Terrier needs close monitoring after the surgery, or else postoperative complications may arise.

Related Question

How Much Does Brachycephalic Surgery Cost?

The cost of brachycephalic surgery ranges from $200 to $1500 depending on the cause of the syndrome and the type of surgery that is needed to be performed. For the elongated soft palate surgery, the estimated cost is $500-$1500, while the stenotic nares surgery can cost from $200-$1000.

Why Do Boston Terriers Must Not Ride in a Cargo?

Boston Terriers should not ride in cargo because the plane’s changing altitude can cause breathing problems to them. If it’s inevitable to bring your Boston Terrier on a plane ride, make sure to keep them in a carrier under your seat or beside you. Give him some toys and blankets to feel comfortable.

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Boston Terriers are brachycephalic dogs and whether you like it or not, they may experience brachycephalic syndrome. This can be caused by a narrowed or blocked airway resulting in breathing difficulty, panting, and acute fainting. Brachycephalic dogs should be taken good care of and the right treatment should be administered accordingly.