Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (what is it, treatment, and prevention)

Estimated Reading Time: 2 min | Last Updated: June 28th, 2022

Do you have a brachycephalic dog or cat, like a French bulldog or pug? If you do you may have heard of the term Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). But what is BOAS, what the signs your pet has the syndrome, and is there treatment? We’ve put together all the information you need to understand this condition.

What causes Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

Coming from the Greek words for short and head, brachycephalic dogs and cats have short and wide skulls, short muzzles, and flat faces. While their features have made them much-loved, it has caused many health issues. Due to their shortened head shape, their noses, throats and airways are commonly undersized or flattened. However, their nostrils, soft palate and tongue, and other soft tissue in this area, must fit into a significantly smaller space compared to other breeds leading to overcrowding. This overcrowding of soft tissue obstructs the flow of air into the the lower airways and lungs, causing respiratory distress. Over time this airway obstruction causes further inflammation and swelling of the airways leading to more severe airway obstructions and secondary complications.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) refers to the respiratory disorders commonly affecting brachycephalic dog and cat breeds. The syndrome is also known as brachycephalic respiratory syndrome, brachycephalic syndrome, and congenital obstructive upper airway disease.

It is life-long condition which progressively becomes worse usually affects brachycephalic breeds early in life. The majority of sufferers are diagnosed between two to three years of age, with both male and female appearing to be equally affected. However, dogs and cats with multiple abnormalities tend to develop problems at an earlier age.

BOAS respiratory disorders

There are five respiratory disorders that form part of BOAS that brachycephalic dogs and cats can suffer from. They may suffer from one or more conditions.

  • Stenotic nares – narrow or small nostrils which restricts the amount of air than can enter the nostrils, making breathing through the nose very difficult
  • An elongated soft palate – the soft palate (the soft part of the roof of the mouth) is too long for the length of the mouth which means it extends into the throat partly blocking the entrance to the trachea and interfering with air flow
  • Hypoplastic trachea – the trachea, otherwise known as the windpipe, may be significantly narrowed in places
  • Everted laryngeal saccules – the two ventricles or saccules (smalls  pouches of tissue) located near the larynx over time will turn inside out due to increased effort to breathe obstructing the throat and flow of air
  • Laryngeal collapse



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