Factors That Influence Breathing In Flat Faced Dogs

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

The snoring and snorting of our short nosed pups can be endearing and definitely sets them apart from many other breeds. However, dogs that are brachiocephalic or have a short, flat face are prone to breathing issues that can challenge their health and well-being. Having some insight into this potential and making some accommodations for our Snore Babies can go a long way in helping them to lead healthy and active lives.

The reason breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Frenchies make so much noise with their snouts is because of the shape of their head and the relationship to the throat. There are 3 common defects that together are known as Brachycephalic Syndrome which include: elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and everted laryngeal saccules. A dog does not have to have all 3, but may have a component of the syndrome.

Elongated Soft Palate

The throat consists of a hard palate (aka the roof of the mouth) and going down towards the back of the throat – the soft palate. The soft palate is made up of muscle fibers and is very flexible. This helps protect the airway in the acts of swallowing and sneezing, so that things other than air do not enter the airway (most helpful). Often in flat-faced dogs, the soft palate is longer than the space available for it and basically creates a situation of too much tissue near the trachea, or airway. This tissue can bunch up and impede the airway from proper air flow. So, instead of protecting the airway during specific times, it “falls” into the space on a continual basis or with certain positions of the dog’s head and blocks off the airway. In addition to an elongated palate, the flatter and shorter the skull, the smaller the actual airway can be and then the problem is magnified.

Normal vs Abnormal Soft Palate in Dogs
Soft Palate in Dogs

Stenotic Nares

Nares are just nostrils in the dog world and stenosis is a narrowing. Flat faced dogs tend to have very narrow openings or small nostrils in which to take air in. This causes increased pressure, as if you were trying to breathe through a straw. This smaller opening causes less air to be able to be taken in with each breath.

Normal vs stenotic dog nares