BOAS – What is it, and what can you do to help?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “brachycephalic” means “shortened head”, and refers to breeds with distinctives squashed facial characteristics, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Examples include the French bulldog, pug, Shih Tzu and boxer.

These breeds are intentionally bred to look a certain way, but an unfortunate side effect of this is that a very flat face can give your pet extremely narrow airways, making it hard for them to breathe normally.

Not all flat faced dogs suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), but if you can hear your pet making snorting or gurgling noises then this is a sign that they may be suffering from chronic breathing issues.

If you were already aware of the risks associated with a short snouted pet then you may very well have already had your dog evaluated by your vet. BOAS can vary significantly in severity, and while surgery is not needed for all dogs, it’s best to visit your vet when your dog is a puppy to see whether this might be necessary for your pet.

Aside from the extreme option of surgery, here are some preventative measures you consider to help your flat faced breed.

1) Parents – if you’re considering adopting a flat faced breed, make sure you meet both of the parents (a responsible breeder will always let you do this) and check that they both breathe well, with as little noise as possible.

2) Weight – keeping your pet lean and fit will greatly reduce the risk of BOAS.

3) Temperature – keep your pet cool by avoiding long bouts of exercise, and schedule walks for cooler parts of the day (i.e. morning and evening). Brachycephalics have far less tolerance to warm weather than other dogs because they have to pant more to reduce their temperature (hard to do when their airways are partially obstructed).

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  1. Thank you for keeping me informed. You are using my correct e-mail address, but my husband (Barrie) died just over a year ago, so please would you address your emails to me, Janet.

    I now have only one Traditional Rag-Doll cat, Oscar – who is enormous. His litter brother, Jasper, died this year, exactly a year to the day that my husband died last year!

    1. Hello Janet,
      I am very sorry that we have not updated your account details after your husband passed away, I have informed our customer service team who will rectify it. Also sorry to hear about Jasper but do keep an eye on Oscar’s peeing habits as male cats (who are possibly portly rather than just a big cat) are more prone to urethral blockage. If you ever see Oscar trying repeatedly to go to the loo to urinate, especially if he seems in pain, you need to see your vet asap. It is highly likely not to happen but just wanted to make sure you were aware 🙂 Many thanks, Andrew

  2. what makes you think that a vet can diagnose BOAS when the Cambridge University Vets will not test Bulldogs until they are at least 12 months old. There are too many vets already carrying out unnecessary surgical interventions on puppies without you advising people their pups may need surgical intervention at a young age.

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for your comment on when BOAS can be diagnosed.
      I am certainly not advocating surgery on puppies, more that puppies are monitored to see what can be primarily done about keeping the weight under control and assessing what degree of BOAS is present, if any.
      It is always best to be forewarned and prepared and raising the awareness around BOAS for all current and prospective owners is certainly worth doing.
      Thank you, Andrew

  3. We have a Shih Tzu who is nearly 10 yrs old and although you do hear the odd “snort” I would say there has been no significant breathing problems – long may it last – I realise as she gets older it may or may not be a problem in the future for now though it’s thumbs up!!!

    1. Hello Sandra, well if you have only heard the odd ‘snort’ and your Shih Tzu is nearly 10yo then I would agree with your thumbs up! 🙂
      All the best, Andrew

  4. Dear Sirs,
    I rescue Persian cats, and all have this problem. I usually take them from the breeder once they have completed being used for breeding. that is usually around the age of 3/4 years. They have all had a snoring problem but I have never had any other problems at all. I have to say my cats are house cats and are kept in all of the time, which is what they are used to. That suits me as I do tend to worry if out of sight.
    Is there any thing I should watch out for so that I am alert and ready for a vets visit?

    1. Hello, thank you for your post and for the work you do with Persians. The main thing to look out for would be any sign of open mouth breathing >> if this occurs at any time, you need to see your vet asap. Cats just do not open mouth breathe unless really stressed or in respiratory distress. I hope you have a great week, Andrew

  5. Reading this makes me wonder if it is at all ethical to allow these breeds with hideous and unnatural brachycephalic features who are prone to respiratory disorders and other health issues simply because we think they look cute. Isn’t the the very definition of animal cruelty?

  6. Hi Andrew,
    I know they are not a completely flat faced breed but can cavalier King Charles spaniels suffer with BOAS as they are a short snout breed and both of mine tend to snort. Much worse is the snoring when they are asleep, it doesn’t sound obstructive but my gosh for such a little dog it is extremely loud.
    Any advice would be great, thanks

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