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Brachycephalic Syndrome and Your Pug

The Pug is an adorable small-breed dog known for its friendly personality and wrinkled face. These little dogs are filled to the brim with love and affection, not to mention a charming personality. Unfortunately, the Pug is also one of many short-faced breeds that suffers from brachycephalic syndrome, a condition that can actually be very dangerous for your dog.

What is Brachycephalic Syndrome?

The first thing you need to know about brachycephalic syndrome is that it isn’t actually a disease – it is a group of conditions and anatomical abnormalities that contribute to breathing problems in short-faced breeds like the Pug. Because Pugs have shorter bones in their face and nose, their anatomy becomes crowded and that can lead to problems. The anatomical abnormalities that fall under the heading of brachycephalic syndrome include the following:

  • Stenotic nares
  • Elongated soft palate
  • Hypoplastic trachea
  • Everted laryngeal saccules

Stenotic nares are simple small or abnormally narrowed nostrils – because the nostrils are so small, the Pug may have trouble taking in enough air. An elongated soft palate is the soft tissue at the back of the dog’s throat which sometimes blocks the entrance to the trachea, cutting off the dog’s air supply – this may not be a problem while the dog is awake but it frequently causes snoring and pauses in breathing during sleep. A hypoplastic trachea is simply a trachea that is abnormally small and laryngeal saccules are tiny pouches located inside the larynx which can sometimes be sucked into the airway, obstructing airflow.

Tips for Managing Your Pug’s Condition

For short-faced breeds like the Pug, symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome are not a matter of “if” but of “when”. All brachycephalic breeds experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing, reducing exercise or heat intolerance, snoring, gagging, coughing, or retching at some point in their life. In many cases the symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome are made worse by hot weather or exercise. Obesity can also worsen the symptoms of this condition in short-faced breeds like the Pug.

The treatment and management options for brachycephalic syndrome in Pugs vary depending on the severity of the condition and the type of anatomical abnormalities the dog has. In mild cases where the dog only exhibits intermittent symptoms, managing the condition by limiting exercise and avoiding hot, humid conditions may be perfectly adequate. In more severe cases, however, medications may be needed to provide relief from symptoms, though surgery is usually the only permanent solution.

If you have a Pug of your own you should be on the lookout for symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome and you should speak to your veterinarian about what you can do to protect your dog. Always keep a close eye on your dog during exercise and in hot conditions because mild symptoms can quickly become severe or life-threatening.

Photo credit: tjortenzi2012/Flickr