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Certain short-nosed breeds of dog, such as the English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Pekingese, and Boston Terrier, are prone to difficult and loud breathing patterns because of the shape of the head, muzzle, and throat. Since these dogs have been bred specifically for the short-nosed (or brachycephalic) face, the throat and airways are frequently undersized or flattened. This condition is called Brachycephalic Syndrome. Some Persian cats can also have this condition.

Brachycephalic syndrome consists of three conditions commonly seen in short-nosed breeds: 

  • Elongated soft palate: the soft palate is too long causing the tip to protrude into the airway and interfere with air movement.

  • Stenotic nares: the nostrils are malformed so that they are too small or collapsed inwards which narrows the airway and makes it more difficult for these dogs to breathe through their nose

  • Everted laryngeal saccules: tissue that sits just in front of the vocal cords gets pulled into the airway and partially obstructs airflow. This is often secondary to increased pressures while breathing due to stenotic nares and elongated soft palate.


Some dogs may also have a narrower trachea than is ideal for their body size or a condition called collapsing trachea.


What is involved with surgery to correct an elongated soft palate and stenotic nares?

The CO2 laser is used to perform both of these corrective surgeries. The elongated soft palate surgery involves removing the tip of the soft palate back to the point of the tonsils. The shortened soft palate will no longer protrude into the airway. The corrective surgery for stenotic nares involves the removal of part of the outer fold of each nostril. This procedure will widen the nostril opening allowing your dog to breathe more easily through their nose.


When should corrective surgery be performed?

It is recommended that these procedures be performed earlier in life, often at the time of spay or neuter. This may prevent the condition of everted laryngeal saccules which involves more advanced corrective surgery at a referral hospital.


Do both procedures need to be performed?

In many cases, both procedures will benefit your dog’s breathing to some degree even if done separately. Having both procedures performed will increase the improvement to your dog’s breathing and will decrease the risk of everted laryngeal saccules. Both procedures do not have to be performed at the same time. We recommend waiting 4-6 months between surgeries if you would like to do them at separate times to allow for full healing and recovery.


Will my dog’s breathing sound normal after the surgery?

Your dog’s breathing will likely be improved and sound easier and quieter after the surgery. However, due to the body structure of many brachycephalic dogs and the likelihood of a small or collapsing trachea, your dog’s breathing may still be louder than a non-brachycephalic dog.


Will my dog look different after the surgery?

Correction of the stenotic nares will alter the appearance of your dog to a slight degree. The nostrils will appear wider and more open than before surgery. There may be a slight loss of pigmentation at the edge of the incision. Normal pigmentation typically returns within six months.

Before Surgery
After Surgery


What should I expect on the day of my dog’s surgery?

On the day of surgery, we ask that you bring your dog to the clinic between 8-8:30AM. We do allow check-in the night before surgery if this is more feasible for your schedule. Please let us know at the time you schedule your dog’s surgery if you would like to drop your dog off the night before. Your dog should be fasted for at least 8 hours and no water after midnight the night before surgery. You should bring any medications that your dog is taking so that the medications can be continued while at the clinic.  When you bring your dog for surgery, the office staff or a technician will have you sign an admissions form and provide a contact phone number for the day. It is very important that you be accessible via this phone number in case the veterinarian needs to contact you in regards to your dog.


Your dog will have a quick exam to check their vital signs when they arrive for surgery. If your dog requires any bloodwork prior to surgery, we will perform it at this time. Surgeries are typically performed in the late morning and early afternoon. Each pet has a customized anesthetic protocol designed for their specific breed and health condition. After your dog’s surgery is complete, a veterinarian or technician will call to let you know how the surgery went and when to pick up your dog.  Generally, all surgery patients go home the same day as their surgery.


How is my dog monitored during surgery?

The heart rate, respiratory rate, and SpO2 (or blood oxygenation level) is monitored during surgery. In addition, a veterinary technician and veterinarian are present at all times while your dog is anesthetized.


Is my dog given pain medication after the surgery?

Yes, your dog will receive an injection of pain medication during their surgery which will last for 24 hours.


What special care does my dog need after surgery?

You should monitor your dog’s breathing for 24-48 hours after going home for any discomfort, increased airway noise, or coughing. If correction of stenotic nares was performed, you may notice a clear to slightly bloody discharge from your dog’s nose for 24-48 hours. Your dog may also have some mild sneezing. If you notice continued bloody discharge from your dog’s nose, labored breathing, lack of appetite, or other abnormal activity, please contact the clinic right away.

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