Don’t Ignore Breathing Difficulties in Short-nosed Dogs

Unfortunately, the only thing normal about noisy breathing for dogs with “pushed-in” faces is that it is an expected response to a shortened upper jaw, which creates excess soft tissue in the back of the throat.

Some dogs are affected to the point where they experience brachycephalic (the scientific term for breeds with pushed in faces) obstructive airway syndrome or BOAS. If left untreated, problems can get worse to the point where an animal can collapse due to a lack of oxygen.

Owners of affected dogs may be putting them at risk if they do not recognize the problem and seek treatment, according to researchers Rowena Packer, Dr. Anke Hendricks and Dr. Charlotte Burn of the United Kingdom’s Royal Veterinary College.

In their 2012 study, the researchers discovered that owners of such dogs as pugs, English bulldogs, Pekingese, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih tzus and others were not aware of the signs of BOAS. In fact, 58% of surveyed owners said their dogs did not have breathing problems even when more than two-thirds of the dogs showed difficulties during exercise.

What to watch for
According to Packer, while it is not yet known which are the best predictors of BOAS, signs to look for include:

  • Increased and abnormal breathing noise that sounds like snoring, both when the dog is awake and asleep
  • A shortness of breath while exercising or playing
  • Effortful, labored breathing with obvious abdominal movements
  • Interrupting exercise, play or eating to catch their breath
  • Inability to exercise for reasonable periods of time without becoming out of breath
  • Difficulty cooling down after a walk; panting for long periods
  • Physical collapse while exercising
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or periods where the dog stops breathing during sleep
  • Restlessness and difficulty getting comfortable at rest, stretched out head and neck position, forelegs spread and body flat against the floor
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as difficulty swallowing, and bringing up food, stomach content or a lot of saliva.

“If you notice these signs, take your dog to your veterinarian for an assessment to learn whether they are compatible with the disease or due to a different problem,” says Hendricks.

“If left to develop,” says Burn, “BOAS can lead to secondary problems due to the effort required to breathe—putting pressure on the voice box, digestive system and heart. In addition, the more severe the breathing problems, the greater the severity of GI signs. They may reflect inflammation of the esophagus, stomach ulcers and, in some cases, hiatal hernias, when part of the stomach can become displaced into the chest cavity during breathing.”

Option for severe BOAS
If your veterinarian believes the dog may have BOAS that requires treatment, he or she may refer you to a veterinary surgical specialist. There, the dog’s airway is likely to be examined under general anesthesia to assess whether it shows the abnormalities associated with BOAS—an elongated soft palate, collapsing voice box and narrowed nostrils.

If present, these abnormalities would be surgically corrected, says Packer. That could mean, for example, that excess tissue in the nose and throat would be removed.

Surgery may improve clinical signs, she says, but the dog may never be “normal,” because of the head structure and is likely to remain susceptible to heat stress.

For severely affected dogs, where significant secondary problems have occurred—for example, severe laryngeal collapse—then treatment choices may be limited. In some cases, either permanent tracheostomy or euthanasia may be recommended.

“That is why it is vital,” says Hendricks, “that owners recognize the clinical signs of BOAS and perceive them to be a ‘problem’ as early as possible, so that these secondary changes can be avoided by early intervention.”

Options for mildly affected dogs
For all dogs, including those that have had surgery or have been determined by a veterinarian to only be mildly affected, owners can help with some lifestyle changes, says Burn. Owners should do the following:

  • Closely monitor the dog to keep it at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can exacerbate the condition.
  • Use body harnesses rather than collars on walks so the airway is not compressed by a neck collar if the dog pulls at the leash.
  • Avoid walking on hot or humid days. On particularly warm days, keep dogs calm and indoors in a cool, aerated room with access to water.
  • Avoid having dogs in particularly stressful or exciting situations.

 

Originally published by Healthy Pet.

Hot Weather Tips

“Most people love to spend the warmer days enjoying the outdoors with friends and family, but it is important to remember that some activities can be dangerous for our pets,” said Dr. Camille DeClementi, Senior Toxicologist at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “By following a few simple rules, it is easy to keep your pet safe while still having fun in the sun.”

Take these simple precautions, provided by ASPCA experts, to help prevent your pet from overheating. And if you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, get help from your veterinarian immediately.

Visit the Vet 
A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworm if they aren’t on year-round preventive medication. Do parasites bug your animal companions? Ask your doctor to recommend a safe flea and tick control program.

Made in the Shade
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.

Know the Warning Signs 
Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees. Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

No Parking!
Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. “On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time-even with the windows open-which could lead to fatal heat stroke,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Also, leaving pets unattended in cars in extreme weather is illegal in several states.

Make a Safe Splash
Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool-not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.

Screen Test 
“During warmer months, the ASPCA sees an increase in injured animals as a result of High-Rise Syndrome, which occurs when pets-mostly cats-fall out of windows or doors and are seriously or fatally injured,” says Dr. Murray. “Pet owners need to know that this is completely preventable if they take simple precautions.” Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.

Summer Style
Feel free to trim longer hair on your dog, but never shave your dog: The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. And be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.

Street Smarts 
When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your pooch’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.

Avoid Chemicals 
Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of pets’ reach as well. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance.

Party Animals
Taking Fido to a backyard barbeque or party? Remember that the food and drink offered to guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression and comas. Similarly, remember that the snacks enjoyed by your human friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol.

Fireworks Aren’t Very Pet-riotic
Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.

 

Article originally published by the ASPCA.