Incidence and management of post-operative respiratory complications in brachycephalic dogs (flat-faced breeds) Study

Brachycephalic dog breeds (those with very short muzzles, ie, flat-faced) such as British Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Pekingese are common pets. However, they suffer from anatomical abnormalities which cause upper respiratory tract obstruction called brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS). Common anatomical abnormalities in these breeds include stenotic nares (narrow nostrils), elongated soft palate, and hypoplastic (underdeveloped) trachea. Respiratory tract obstruction is very common in these dogs so veterinarians highly recommend surgical correction of components of BAS to improve the health and welfare of affected dogs.

According to RSPCA Science Update69 July 2020, the aim of this study was to describe the incidence of respiratory complications in brachycephalic dogs and common management strategies for post-operative respiratory complications.

Respiratory complications in brachycephalic dogs Study

This study used retrospective medical record data from 248 brachycephalic dogs treated surgically for BAS in a private US veterinary hospital. The data collected included demographic information, procedures performed, post-operative complications and treatment implemented, hospitalisation time, and need for further surgery.  The most common breeds treated surgically for BAS at the study hospital were Pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and British Bulldogs. The study population was made up of 48.4% males, 51.6% females with an age range of 31 days to 15.8 years. The most common abnormality identified and treated surgically was an elongated soft palate, but many dogs had additional abnormalities.

Post-operative respiratory complications were observed in 58 dogs (23.4%). These complications included: dyspnoea (shortness of breath), aspiration, and respiratory or cardiac arrest. The overall mortality rate was 2.4% (n = 6). Age and concurrent airway pathology significantly predicted the development of post-operative complications.

Dogs who developed post-operative complications were significantly older than those who did not, and the odds of developing complications increased (1.15 times) with each year of age. It was recommended that surgical intervention for BAS symptomatic dogs should be considered at an early age as an elective procedure to reduce the risk of post-operative complications. Due to the number of post-operative complications observed, close
monitoring for a minimum of 24 h following surgery by an experienced veterinarian or veterinary technician
is advised.


RSPCA Science Update69 July 2020.

Researchers: Lindsay B, Cook D, Wetzel et al (2020) Brachycephalic airway syndrome: management of post‐operative respiratory complications in 248 dogs. Australian Veterinary Journal 98(5):173-80.