What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

Does your Boston Terrier frequently snore loudly or have noisy breathing?

If so, your Boston Terrier may have a condition known as Brachycephalic Syndrome.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

This article will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of Brachycephalic Syndrome and why brachycephalic breeds may be more prone to this condition.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome In Boston Terriers?

Brachycephalic Syndrome is a partial obstruction to breathing that arises secondary to anatomy abnormalities of the head and neck of certain dog breeds. Brachycephalic dog breeds like the Boston Terrier are at risk for developing Brachycephalic Syndrome.

Bostons were bred to have a flat face and short nose. Because of this, they are considered a brachycephalic dog breed. 

Brachycephalic Syndrome, a syndrome that occurs because of partial obstruction to the airflow into the lungs, this can arise in dog breeds with flat faces.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

What Is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, also known as Brachycephalic Syndrome, can occur in any brachycephalic dog breed. It occurs as a result of abnormalities in the anatomy of the flat-faced dog breeds.

This syndrome results from a partial obstruction in your dog’s breathing. The symptoms can range from mild noisy breathing to more severe difficulty breathing. 

It is important to note that not all brachycephalic dogs have Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.

What Causes Brachycephalic Syndrome?

Brachycephalic Syndrome occurs because of abnormalities in the head and neck of flat-faced dog breeds. 

Typically Dogs With Brachycephalic Syndrome Have One Or More Of The Following Abnormalities:

  • Stenotic nares: The nostrils are smaller than they should be.
  • Elongated soft palate: The soft palate is longer than normal, making it hard to breathe.
  • Everted laryngeal saccules: This tissue within the neck may obstruct airflow.
  • Hypoplastic trachea: The trachea is smaller than average, not allowing much airflow.
  • Laryngeal collapse: The cartilage of the voice box collapses, causing airway obstruction. 
What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

What Are Some Symptoms of Brachycephalic Syndrome?

Dogs with Brachycephalic Syndrome have to work harder to move air in and out of their lungs. 

The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine state that the symptoms of Brachycephalic Syndrome to watch out for include:

  • Snoring loudly
  • Noisy breathing
  • Panting loudly
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Retching
  • Regurgitation or Vomiting
  • Easily tiring during exercise

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult with a veterinarian.

What Does It Mean To Be Brachycephalic?

The term brachycephalic originates from Greek terminology and essentially means “short head.” Brachycephalic dog breeds typically have flat faces and shorter noses than other dog breeds.

The flat-faced dogs like Boston Terriers and Bulldogs are bred for these traits and are considered cute because of their short noses and squishy faces.

Why Is A Boston Terrier A Brachycephalic Dog Breed?

When looking at your Boston Terrier compared to other dog breeds, you will notice that his or her nose is shorter with a flatter face. The AKC breed standard for the Boston Terriers states that the “muzzle is short.”

The Boston Terrier was bred to have this flat face making it a brachycephalic dog breed.

While these features are part of what makes the breed look so cute and lovable, there can be some secondary issues that arise because of this.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

For A Better Comparison Here Are Some Brachycephalic And Non-Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

What Are Some Other Brachycephalic Dog Breeds?

Many different dog breeds are considered brachycephalic. Most dogs with flattened faces are considered brachycephalic. 

The Following Are Brachycephalic Dog Breeds:

  • French Bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • Shar-pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bull Mastiff
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Pug
  • English Bulldog

What Are Some Dog Breeds That Are Non-Brachycephalic?

Most dog breeds are not brachycephalic. These dog breeds have longer noses and do not have flat faces. 

A Golden Retriever is a non-Brachycephalic dog breed.
A Golden Retriever is a non-Brachycephalic dog breed.

Picture the following dog breeds and think about how their faces and nose length differ from the brachycephalic breeds:

  • Beagle
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Dachshund
  • Golden Retriever
  • Siberian Husky
  • Papillon
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Basset Hound
  • Australian Shepherd

How Do You Care For A Brachycephalic Dog?

The care for a brachycephalic dog is similar to the care of any dog. 

You want to ensure that your brachycephalic dog is getting a nutritious diet, free access to freshwater, and regular veterinary visits

There are a few other special considerations when caring for a brachycephalic dog. Here are four care items you should pay special attention to.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

1. Dental Care For Brachycephalic Dogs

Because of their flat faces, brachycephalic dogs can sometimes have teeth crowding because there is less room for the teeth. This can lead to dental issues.If your Boston lets you brush their teeth, I recommend brushing daily with a dog toothpaste and soft-bristled toothbrush. I brush my dog’s teeth daily with C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste

When brushing your Boston’s teeth, pay close attention to the outsides of the teeth; this is where most of the tartar builds up. 

The insides of the teeth do not typically need to be brushed because they do not get much tartar build-up. 

Need Help Figuring Out How To Brush Your Boston Terriers Teeth? Read this article by Boston Terrier Society, How To Brush Your Boston’s Teeth.

2. Exercising A Brachycephalic Dog

Be careful not to overexert your brachycephalic dog when exercising. It can be challenging for brachycephalic dogs to regulate their temperature so they can easily overheat if you exercise them too hard.

You may also consider using a harness instead of a neck lead. Harnesses are good for brachycephalic dogs because they do not put pressure on the neck and airway.

How Much Exercise Does A Boston Terrier Need? In this article, Boston Terrier Exercise, Boston Terrier Society covers great exercises you can do with your Boston and how long to exercise your dog.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

3. Facial Skin Care for Brachycephalic Dogs

Pay special attention to the facial folds and creases, especially if they tend to get a lot of discharge. 

You can try pet facial wipes that are safe for use around the eyes to wipe the folds daily.

Does Your Boston Terrier Have Tear Stains? Learn how to remove tear stains from your dog’s face, How To Remove Tear Stains.

4. Traveling With Your Brachycephalic Dog

You should consider driving with your brachycephalic dog instead of flying. 

High altitudes on airplanes can lead to breathing issues for brachycephalic dogs, and many brachycephalic dogs have died while traveling on airplanes.

If you absolutely must travel with your brachycephalic dog on an airplane, make sure that you keep your pet with you in the cabin in a carrier under the seat.

Are You Looking To Take Your Boston Terrier On A Plane? Read this guide on how to fly with your Boston.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

Are There Things I Should Do Differently With A Brachycephalic Dog Than You Would A Non-Brachycephalic Dog?

Brachycephalic dogs who are overweight may be more prone to having symptoms secondary to their short faces.

While it is important for all dogs to stay in an ideal weight, it may be particularly important for you to keep your brachycephalic dog at an ideal weight because excess weight can cause more difficulty breathing for flat-faced dog breeds.

Brachycephalic dogs are also at risk for overheating and developing heat stroke, so it is important to be aware of this and keep your dog cool. 

Why Do Brachycephalic Dogs Overheat?

Brachycephalic dogs have shorter faces, which can lead to more difficulty breathing, especially in high heats. 

Brachycephalic dogs can be more prone to developing a heat stroke because they do not pant very efficiently.

Follow the six items listed below to help protect your Boston or other brachycephalic dog breeds during the warmer parts of the year.

1. Beware Of High Heats

Heatstroke occurs when the body overheats and does not properly cool itself. This life-threatening condition can occur if a brachycephalic dog is left outside in the heat for too long or left within a hot car for too long.

2. Know The Signs Of Heat Stroke In Boston Terriers

You should immediately contact your veterinarian and get your dog to the veterinary clinic if you see these signs of heatstroke in your Boston Terrier.

Signs Of Heat Stroke:

  • Disoriented
  • Heavy Panting
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Feeling extremely hot to touch
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

3. Keep Indoors During Hot Hours

Your Boston should be kept inside during the hottest hours of the day to reduce the risk of heatstroke. 

If you do need to take your Boston outside when it is very hot, never leave them unattended and keep the trip outside short.

Walks are best left for during the cool morning hours and the late evening hours.

4. Keep The Weight Down

Staying within a normal weight can decrease the risk of heatstroke. Overweight dogs are more prone to developing heat stroke.

5. Always Provide Access To Water

Your Boston should always have access to plenty of water. Water helps keep your Boston cool and will decrease the risk of overheating.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?
Donnie & Bella

6. Never Leave Your Boston Unattended In A Hot Car

Cars can get hot very quickly. If you leave your Boston in a car unattended, your dog could quickly overheat and develop heatstroke, which can be potentially fatal. 

Sadly, I have seen a few dogs in my veterinary career that have died because they were left in a hot car.

How Is Brachycephalic Syndrome Treated?

Mild symptoms of Brachycephalic Syndrome can be treated by limiting your pet’s exercise, especially when it is hot, keeping them in a cool environment, and dieting if your pet is overweight.

More moderate to severe symptoms of Brachycephalic Syndrome will likely need more aggressive treatment, including surgery. 

To treat this syndrome, veterinary surgeons will correct the stenotic nares by surgically removing part of the nose to open up the airway.

Also, the surgeon will shorten the elongated soft palate and possibly remove the laryngeal saccules.

The goal of the surgery is to open up the airways more so your Boston will be able to breathe better.

What Is Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers?

How Much Does Brachycephalic Surgery Cost?

The cost of the surgery to correct Brachycephalic Syndrome varies greatly based on the veterinarian that performs the procedure and which procedures will be performed. 

Estimates from Embrace Pet Insurance suggest that the average is between $200 to $1,000 for stenotic nares surgery and $500-$1,500 for soft palate surgery

If you were to have both of these procedures are performed by a board-certified surgeon, expect to pay between $1,500 to $3,000 on average.

Many times, this procedure needs to be performed by a board-certified veterinary surgeon, and your dog will need to stay in the hospital for a day or two after the procedure for monitoring.

You can get a more specific surgery estimate for your dog by speaking with your veterinarian.

Are you worried about the cost? Check out Pet Assure pet savings plans. With Pet Assure, you can save 25% off nearly all things related to your vet visit, immediately. There are no pre-existing conditions exclusions. Learn more here, Pet Assure.


Brachycephalic dogs are well-known for their squishy, flat-faced cuteness. Because these dogs were bred to be flat-faced, some brachycephalic dogs may develop Brachycephalic Syndrome, a condition that causes obstruction of the airflow to and from the lungs.

Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers is characterized by symptoms including noisy breathing, snoring, or difficulty breathing. 

Brachycephalic dogs, including those with Brachycephalic Syndrome, are more likely to overheat and develop heatstroke, so care should be taken to ensure your Boston can stay cool and well-hydrated at all times.

Though Brachycephalic Syndrome can be serious, fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to treat your Boston Terrier, including weight loss, exercise restriction, and surgical procedures.


Other Boston Terrier Health Articles You Should Check Out

Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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