• Brachycephalic Syndrome

    Back in October 2014, our bulldog Wellie was diagnosed with Aspiration/Pneumonia. Aspiration/Pneumonia is a condition where vomit, food, foam, or liquid is inhaled back into the lungs causing a bacterial infection.

    He spent two days in a veterinary hospital, on two different antibiotics that needed to be administered intravenously. He was also getting nebulizer treatments, and spent some time in an oxygen room. Yeah, it was that bad.

    Just so you understand how fast it came on- we waited only 3 hours from the start of symptoms thinking it was just an upset tummy. We also saw three different vets in the previous week and a half that lead up to this, but no one heard anything odd in his lungs.

    Aspiration/Pneumonia is a potentially fatal condition, and the odds are not favorable. It was either God, or pure luck (depending on what you believe,) that we caught it as soon as we did.

    The other thing with this is they need to find the underlying cause, or there's a high risk of it repeating. Based on everything I told the vet, he thought it could be an elongated palate issue. Something very common in Bulldogs.

    December 2014:
    Wellie went in for his nare, palate, saccules and neuter. Blue went in for his nare and neuter. Blue had his palate and saccules done when he was 9 months old. Back then, I didn't notice much of a difference.

    January 2015:
    With Blue, I've noticed the difference the nares made much more than his palate. Blue pants less now and has more stamina. When he does pant (due to running or playing hard,) he calms down almost instantly once he stops. That's the part which really amazes me with Blue. In the past, it took a good 20-30 minutes for the panting to stop once play was over. Now, less than a minute.

    But the difference we see in Wellie is nothing short of a miracle. He no longer gags or regurgitates while eating or playing. He barely snores anymore, and he doesn't pant from play or walking. It's just amazing what the surgery did for him.
    In fact, we believe it saved his life.

    Both my Bulldogs have Brachycephalic Syndrome that hindered their quality of life. With Wellie, it caused a nearly fatal condition.
    So if anyone was wondering if it makes a change, it absolutely can and did in my dogs, especially Wellie.

    The following article gives a basic understanding of Brachycephalic Syndrome and the treatment options available.
    It is not a medical faq, so please do not use the information presented here to diagnose your dog or treat your dog. Only your vet can do that!

    Brachycephalic Syndrome- What is it? Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Tips.

    For those of us with Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs or any short nosed breed, we understand there are certain precautions that we need to take to keep them happy, healthy and most of all- safe.

    Because of their physiology, they over heat sooner, tire easier, snore more, and just donít have the stamina to keep up with their longer muzzle brethren. Simply put, theyíre just more prone to respiratory problems.
    This is all due to Brachycephalic Syndrome.

    Brachycephalic Syndrome is a combination of various conditions in our bulldogs: Stenotic Nares (which just means pinched/narrow nostrils), elongated soft palate, and everted saccules. While there are other conditions that can be a part of Bracycephalic Syndrome, this article will only focus on the above abnormalities. More information however can be found here: https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/br...halic-syndrome

    The Symptoms:

    Symptoms often include, but are not limited to: Severe panting, labored breathing, Blue tongue/gums, overheating, fainting, snorting, loud snoring and sleep apnea. The cause is simple, they canít get enough oxygen. Because of this, itís very important to keep them cool -they cannot be over exerted. So if youíre looking for a dog to jog with, please look at other breeds.

    Another common symptom is gagging and/or regurgitation. This is very common in dogs with an elongated soft palate and can lead to Aspiration/Pneumonia, a potentially fatal condition.


    Stenotic Nares: They can be diagnosed upon a visual inspection by your vet. In fact, you can probably see it as well. Is the opening of your dogs nostrils very narrow? If so, they probably have stenotic nares.

    Elongated Palate and Everted Saccules: In order to diagnose this, your dog needs to be put under anesthesia. For this reason, itís best to have it done while theyíre going in for another procedure such as a neuter. A vet can make an educated guess based on symptoms, but thereís no definitive diagnosis without anesthetizing your pet.


    For Stenotic nares, a very simple procedure is performed to widen the nostrils. Thatís all. Cosmetically, your dog will look the same so please donít let that be a deterrent if your bulldog needs this. (Yes, Iíve ran into bulldog owners who are scared this will alter the look of their dogs!)

    Here's how the nares are done via laser (safe to watch for those of us with weak stomachs )

    For Elongated Palate: A scalpel or C02 Laser is used to for soft palate resection. All this means is they make a long palate shorter so it doesnít block airflow.
    ** It's worth noting, many vets prefer using a laser as opposed to a scalpel. The laser cauterizes the wound and reduces bleeding. If your vet uses the scalpel method, I would ask them "why?" **

    Everted Laryngeal Saccules: Are usually also removed. Theyíre tissue within the airway that when everted, get pulled into the trachea and partially obstruct airflow (please see link above for more info.)

    Swollen Tonsil removal: Swollen tonsils can also obstruct airflow and are sometimes removed while the Palate/Saccules are being done.

    Video below shows Chesty, this is what he sounded like prior to his palate surgery. You can hear it best about 25 seconds in.

    After Surgery treatment:

    Your vet will generally prescribe pain killers, ant-acid medications, and depending on your pets history, other drugs to help stabilize their digestive tract.
    You will also need to feed them a soft food diet for about two weeks while the palate heals.

    The prognosis is generally good, and you can usually start to hear the difference in your pets breathing within a few days. After theyíre fully healed, you should notice an increase in stamina.
    Unfortunately there is a % of dogs that this may not help. Vets cannot say exactly why, but age and health play a large role.

    When To Have It Done:

    My vet believes itís best to do it while theyíre young so as not to put stress on their other organs. Other vets believe the dog should be fully grown so thereís less of a risk for the palate to grow back.
    Recently, a long time member was told by her veterinarian that if the nares are done at around 4 months, you may be able to avoid palate surgery down the road.

    Either way, if your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms noted above, get to a knowledgeable vet and discuss your concerns.


    As with any surgery, there are risks. This is especially true for Bulldogs. So itís extremely important to have it done by a veterinarian who is very familiar with the breed, anesthesia and the surgery.

    Certain precautions can be taken for a successful procedure, but you need to be aggressive and ask about the following:

    The type of anesthesia used. Isoflurane and Sevoflurane seem to be the most popular for Brachy breeds. This is a very informative link from Tufts University that provides information on breed specific anesthesia
    Also, the proper way for a bulldog to come out of anesthesia is very important (yes thereís a way, itís very sloooooooooooooooooooooowly. They should be alert and swallowing.)

    Another thing to ask is, will your pet be constantly monitored, and is the vet equipped for any unforeseen event such as an emergency tracheotomy. You would be surprised at how many vet offices are not.

    When we chose to do it with our bulldogs, we did it in a veterinary hospital that was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    The vet who did it specializes in soft tissue surgery, is board certified and has done countless of these procedures before.
    She was also very well aware of the risks anesthesia posed to Bulldogs.

    We went over everything step by step. From pre-surgery care, to who would be performing the anesthesia, to post-op care.
    Thereís a very real risk of the palate swelling after surgery so you absolutely need to ask and ask, and ask more questions until you are 100% comfortable.

    The other thing I would recommend is to introduce yourself to the vet techs. In our case, they already knew us and our dogs.
    But if we were new clients, Iíd insist on meeting them face to face.
    It changes the dynamic once they know you and may even provide better care for your pets. Either way, it canít hurt.

    Not all of us have had a wonderful outcome.
    There have been some with no change at all. Others where the palate swelled causing a second emergency surgery.
    Itís important the reader understand all sides and risks and speak with their vet about it.

    More info. can be found here: FAQ: Nare/Palate Surgery for Brachycephalic Syndrome: Your Experience? http://www.englishbulldognews.com/fo...xperience.html

    Please start a thread in the forum if you have any questions. Many experienced members here can help.

    Comments 14 Comments
    1. 2BullyMama's Avatar
      2BullyMama -
      great information -- thanks for the article!
    1. harveyspecter's Avatar
      harveyspecter -
      thank you for the info.
    1. dolphin's Avatar
      dolphin -
      great article!
    1. bullmama's Avatar
      bullmama -
      A wealth of information, thank you so much for this article!
    1. cefe13's Avatar
      cefe13 -
      @Blueberrys Mom Thanks - great article!
    1. ddnene's Avatar
      ddnene -
      Great job, and very informative…
    1. nycbullymama's Avatar
      nycbullymama -
      Thanks everyone
    1. Manydogs's Avatar
      Manydogs -
      Excellent and very informative article! Thank you!
    1. ChrisRN's Avatar
      ChrisRN -
      Nice article!
    1. Rebecca Giardina's Avatar
      Rebecca Giardina -
      This was a wonderful read! My dog's nare's and palate surgery start in 90 minutes!
    1. mackbob's Avatar
      mackbob -
      This is an excellent post! Thank you!
    1. BulldogBabies's Avatar
      BulldogBabies -
      This is awesome information! I think you just may have provided more information than anything else I've come across. Thanks!
    1. Pennyblossom's Avatar
      Pennyblossom -
      As we are getting ready to get evaluated for surgery as our baby has been diagnosed this was very helpful. Thank you.
    1. VictoryJune's Avatar
      VictoryJune -
      My 5 month old puppy (Tillie) sleeps while sitting upright. I am wondering if this behavior is caused by breathing issues and if this surgery would help her. She seems active and all other behavior normal for a bulldog.
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