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Boas in flat-faced dogs

BOAS in Dogs: Causes of Breathing Problems in Flat-Faced Breed Dogs

4 min read
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Flat-faced dogs are lovely and come with amazing personalities and give cute snuffles but unfortunately, they can sometimes struggle to breathe because of the anatomy of their heads. The breathing difficulties in these breeds have a name: brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome or dog BOAS for short. Keep reading to find out what BOAS is and how you can help your dog.

What is BOAS in dogs?

Woman with Pekingese dog at home

BOAS affects flat-faced dogs and refers to lifelong breathing difficulty caused by their short noses and narrow nostrils and windpipes. This means that they breathe through small, compressed passages, causing many dogs with BOAS to have to pant to get all the air they need.

It’s important to note that not all short-nosed dog breeds are affected by BOAS, although breathing is normally a common struggle for these pooches.

Which breeds are affected by dog BOAS?

Brachycephalic syndrome appears more commonly in flat-faced dogs such as:

The Respiratory Function Grading Scheme for Breathing Problems in Flat-Faced Dogs

Pug puppy

The Kennel Club UK has created a scheme that allows pet owners and dog breeders to book an assessment for BOAS in Bulldog, French Bulldog, and Pug dog breeds. This helps owners find out if their dog is affected by BOAS and allows breeders to lower the risk of producing dogs with BOAS. To get your dog checked out, head over to their website to book an appointment.

What are the symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome in dogs?

BOAS in dogs manifests through a range of breathing problems including:

  • panting
  • wheezing
  • noisy breathing including snorting and snoring
  • rapid breathing
  • blue gums
  • needing regular breaks during walks
  • inability to exercise normally
  • overheating in the summer resulting from an inability to properly cool off
  • physical collapse

Make sure you visit your vet if any of these symptoms suddenly appear. Breathing problems in flat-faced dog breeds need to be resolved urgently as low oxygen levels can put your pet’s life in danger.

Can BOAS in dogs be treated?

Depending on the severity of the breathing problems, your vet might recommend a weight loss regimen or surgery.

Weight loss for dogs with brachycephalic syndrome

If your dog is overweight, losing a few pounds can make an enormous difference. They’ll have less weight to carry around which could improve their breathing. Diet changes as well as a carefully designed exercise routine will help your dog keep their weight under control.

Surgery for dogs with BOAS

Surgical procedures might also be recommended to help your dog breathe better. If your dog’s nostrils are tight, a surgery to widen them can be performed. Another type of procedure in these cases is to shorten the elongated palate to allow more air to reach the windpipe. You should know that every surgery involves risks and your vet will talk you through all the options and what to expect.

Managing BOAS in dogs

Help them stay cool in hot and humid weather

Sweating helps us humans cool off, but this is not an option for our canine friends. Instead, dogs use panting as a mechanism to avoid overheating. Due to the unique shape of their heads, short-nosed breeds will often struggle when breathing and so it’s a good idea to avoid taking them out in hot weather. For example, during the summer you can aim for early mornings or late evenings when the temperatures are not as high. Take a bottle of water with you, just in case your dog needs to cool off.

Keep an eye on their weight

Obesity can lead to breathing difficulties no matter your dog’s breed, but it’s especially dangerous for pooches that already find breathing challenging because of their short noses. For this reason, its best to always be mindful of your dog’s body condition score and to make sure it doesn’t get too high. Always talk to the vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet and make sure you get the go ahead for including more exercise in their routine.

Exercise your dog carefully

Exercising your dog helps keep your best friend fit and gets rid of those extra pounds. However, pet owners who have a cute flat-faced dog in their family need to be extra careful when it comes to the intensity and duration of their exercise sessions. Even if you’re just going out for a simple walk, make sure the distance is not too long for your dog to handle and take plenty of breaks.

Use a harness, not a collar when your dog is on a lead

Collars can restrict the airflow, especially when attached to a lead. So, it’s always better to use a harness when you plan to keep your pet on a leash while out and about.

Brachycephalic syndrome can be tough news for pet owners, but luckily there are ways to improve your dog’s quality of life.

If you want to find out more about your dog’s health, check out our guides on common health issues in Pugs as well as on the health problems French Bulldogs are prone to.