What is brachycephalic airway syndrome (BOAS)?

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is the name for a group of airway conditions and abnormalities that occur in short-nosed dogs. These include a narrow airway and small nostrils.

While the condition can affect some cats, it’s much more common in particular breeds of dog, including Pugs, French and English Bulldogs and Pekingese. These breeds are affected by BOAS because of their compacted skeleton shape and excessive soft tissue (which causes the skin folds on their faces).

What are the symptoms of BOAS in dogs?

BOAS has a considerable impact on a number of aspects of an animals’ life, affecting everything from sleep to exercise. While it might be seem common for certain breeds of dog to simply be loud or laboured breathers, it shouldn’t be the norm.

Common symptoms of BOAS in dogs include:

  • Loud breathing or snoring
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive panting
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Coughing or choking

In order to diagnose the condition, your specialist will listen to your pet’s breathing and might do a throat examination. In some cases we may use advanced imaging like CT scans to form an accurate diagnosis.

What’s the treatment?

The main way to treat BOAS in dogs is via surgery. The operation seeks to widen the nostrils, remove soft tissue from the airway and shorten the soft palate to a more normal length.

Another way to help manage BOAS symptoms is through weight management, as obesity can significantly exacerbate them. Anti-inflammatory medication can also offer some short-form relief for respiratory difficulties, but is not recommended in the long-term.


vet holding a dog


What’s the prognosis?

If treated promptly, most dogs with BOAS will see significant improvement to their breathing and the way they can exercise. However, because surgery cannot entirely create a normal airway, they will still be prone to heat stress.