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Dear Daisy Dog

Charles, our English bulldog, snorts, gags and snores. When he takes even a short walk, he has trouble breathing. Our veterinarian recommended surgery to enlarge Charles’ airway. How effective and safe is this surgery?

Daisy Responds

Charles suffers from brachycephalic syndrome, a condition that afflicts many a bulldog as well as some of my pug and Boston terrier friends.

These breeds share a trait that predisposes them to breathing difficulties: a short (brachy-) head (-cephalic) with a flat face.

Many dogs with this head structure have tiny nostrils, an overly long soft palate that partially obstructs the trachea (or windpipe), abnormalities of the larynx (or voice box, which sits at the top of the trachea), and an underdeveloped trachea.

These physical characteristics combine to make it difficult for Charles to inhale air into his lungs.

Treatment includes maintaining a slim physique, keeping your home cool so Charles doesn’t get overheated, giving anti-inflammatory medication when needed – and sometimes surgery.

The surgical procedure usually involves widening the small nostrils, shortening the elongated soft palate and correcting some of the laryngeal abnormalities.

In a recent study of 62 brachycephalic dogs that underwent surgery, 94 percent enjoyed good to excellent outcomes.

Some of the veterinary surgeons used lasers, while others used scissors and sutures. The two techniques were equally effective and safe.

Unfortunately, two dogs died during surgery. Otherwise, complications were rare.

Several of my dog friends who had the surgery breathe much more easily now. I hope Charles fares as well.

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