What is BOAS?

BOAS stands for Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. It is a deformity that compromises the upper airways and often affects flat-faced/short-headed (brachycephalic) dogs and cats.

Brachycephalic breeds include French Bulldogs, Pugs, British Bulldogs, Pekingese, Shih Tzus and Persians.

These breeds have become very popular in recent years and unfortunately many owners are not aware that the ‘cute’ way they look and ‘piggy’ sounds are a result of serious and often life-threatening health problems. BOAS is a life limiting condition and animals that suffer with it have a very poor quality of life.

BOAS is one or a combination of the following abnormalities:

1. Elongated or Thick Soft Palate

Brachycephalic dogs often have an unnaturally thick or overly long soft palate. This is the fleshy part located on the roof of the back of the month. When this is elongated or thick it extends into the opening of the airway causing breathing difficulties. Affected dogs may snore or wake up suddenly gasping for breath. Complete obstruction of the larynx by the elongated soft palate is the cause of all too frequent sudden death in Bulldogs.

2. Stenotic Nares (Narrow Nostrils)

Stenotic nares are overly narrow and often collapse inward when the dog breathes, making breathing through the nose difficult. Severely affected dogs can often be seen panting and breathing through their mouths.

3. Congested Nasal Turbinates (Crowded Nose)

Congestion of the nasal turbinates occurs when the network of bone, cartilage and soft tissue that forms the turbinates are squashed into a small space. Affected dogs have to breathe through a narrow and crowded nasal passage. Low and/or high-pitched noises and nasal flaring can be a sign of this.

4. Hypoplastic Trachea (Narrow Windpipe)

Hypoplastic Trachea is when the trachea loses its structural support resulting in a narrow windpipe. This makes breathing a lot more difficult and may initiate the start of a chronic cough and respiratory difficulty.

Brachycephalic Animals

How do we treat BOAS?

Although any surgery carries more risk for animals suffering with BOAS, surgical correction is often the best or only option. Surgical results are variable and depend on the severity of the disease. Sometimes it will not ‘cure’ the animal but will improve their quality of life. We may discover they need additional surgery whilst we are performing the initial BOAS surgery, or a further procedure at a later date.

1. Elongated or Thick Soft Palate

If the soft palate extends 3mm or more past the tip of the epiglottis, then it is considered to be elongated. Removal of a section of the elongated palate by electrosurgery to restore normal airway function whilst maintaining a normal swallowing reflex is the most crucial part of BOAS surgery.

2. Stenotic Nares (Narrow Nostrils)

Stenotic nares surgery involves removing a portion of the nostril. This allows more air to flow into the nose. Whilst conducting this procedure we are able to assess the animal’s soft palate and will inform you if soft palate surgery is required.

3. Congested Nasal Turbinates (Crowded Nose)

Laser-assisted turbinectomy which is performed under endoscopic guidance using a diode laser can be performed. Unfortunately there are only a few clinics that can perform this worldwide.

4. Hypoplastic Trachea (Narrow Windpipe)

Unfortunately this condition cannot be treated. Animals suffering from this will often be severely affected by the lack of airflow and will need lifestyle management.

Non – Brachycephalic Animals

Owning a brachycephalic dog...

If you already own a brachycephalic dog, you may have noticed one or more of the signs of BOAS listed below. These are all signs to watch out for and could indicate that your dog needs BOAS surgery. If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our vets.

Does your brachycephalic dog?
  • Breathe loudly
  • Snore
  • Pant (even when resting)
  • Struggle to exercise
  • Struggle to keep up with other dogs
  • Keep stopping when exercising
  • Find it hard to cope in hot weather
  • Sneeze excessively
  • Vomit or regurgitate
  • Cough
  • Get blue gums
  • Collapse
Thinking of buying a brachycephalic dog?

If you are set on owning a brachycephalic dog, we recommend that you research the breed and all common and possible health issues fully.

We also recommend that you only buy from a Licensed Breeder and/or Kennel Club Assured Breeder. These can be found via your local Council’s website or on the Kennel Club website:

Quarry House Vets