Tag Archives: panting

Anatomy 101: brachycephalic dogs

I was at a lunch last week and I was talking about brachycephalic dogs.  One fellow asked, ‘brachy what?’

Brachycephalic dogs are dogs with a short muzzle and generally flat face.   “Brachy” means “shortened” and “cephalic” means “head.”

These features make them very cute. But, this head structure doesn’t leave a lot of room for the nasal passages and palate, which are parts of the anatomy that help breathing.

Most of us who either own a brachycephalic dog or who have seen one at the dog park or elsewhere can identify the ‘brachy snort’ – the sound of a dog that is struggling to breathe.

We all know that dogs help to control their temperature on hot days through panting.  Unfortunately, brachycephalic dogs are inefficient panters and so these dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke.  They are generally not good outdoor dogs during summer because of this.

Some dogs also suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome.  This syndrome is actually a group of upper airway abnormalities.  Brachycephalic syndrome is also known as congenital obstructive upper airway disease and in extreme cases, a veterinary surgeon may do surgery to help correct the abnormalities.

The abnormalities associated with the syndrome include:

  • stenotic nares, which are nostrils that are narrowed
  • elongated soft palate, which is a soft palate that is too long for the mouth and so the length partially blocks the entrance to the back of the throat
  • a hypoplastic trachea, an abnormally narrow windpipe
  • nasopharyngeal abnormalities,  the bone in the dog’s nasal cavity grows incorrectly and this can stop air flow.  This bone helps direct airflow and also helps with heating and humidifying inhaled air.

Because of their breathing difficulties, a brachycephalic breed must be fit and trim no matter what their life stage.  Obesity is a real threat to these dogs.

Since breathing difficulties become worse with strenuous exercise, it’s critically important to balance the dog’s caloric intake with their exercise and look for small opportunities to exercise the dog without causing stress.

Common brachycephalic dog breeds include:

·         English Bulldog

·         Pug

·         Shih Tzu

·         Pekingese

·         Boston Terrier

·         Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

·         Shar Pei

·         Lhasa Apso

Signs of anxiety in your dog

Earlier this week, I took a call from a dog owner interested in what dog massage could do to assist her dog in managing its anxiety.   As we talked, I could see that the dog was manifesting some of the typical signs of anxiety.  These include:

  • excessive panting
  • restlessness
  • a change to elimination habits
  • self-mutilation, often leading to problems such as lick granuloma
  • depression
  • change in personality, sometimes leading to aggression when the dog is highly stressed
  • trembling
  • reduction in coat condition, and general signs of being unwell

Our dogs often show similar symptoms to us when major stress is an issue; however they can’t talk about it like we can.   It is up to us as dog owners to pick up on the changes in our dogs and be open minded to figure out the causes.

Luckily, this owner knows what started the problem and so we are already halfway there to designing a treatment regime for her dog.

Massage therapy is useful for dogs suffering from anxiety because I can help calm the nervous system, giving the dog a ‘time out.’  I will also show dog owners useful acupressure points to assist with calming and we will work together on a regime that helps the dog to overcome its fears.  Anxiety problems rarely develop overnight, and so it takes a bit of time to help the dog recover.

For acute conditions of stress and anxiety, I’ve previously reviewed D.A.P.  Read that item here.