Beyond the Snuggles: Keeping Your Shih Tzu Breathing Easy with BOAS Awareness

shih tzu

Beyond the Snuggles: Keeping Your Shih Tzu Breathing Easy with BOAS Awareness

Shih Tzus, with their irresistible flat faces and overflowing personalities, have become beloved companions in countless households. However, their unique physical characteristics, particularly their shortened airways, can sometimes lead to a respiratory condition called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). This blog delves deeper into BOAS, its impact on Shih Tzus, and how Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic can help your furry friend breathe easier and live a happier life.

Understanding Brachycephalic Anatomy:

The hallmark feature of brachycephalic breeds like Shih Tzus is their adorable “pushed-in” face. This signature look is a result of selective breeding over generations, leading to a shortened skull and facial bones. While this contributes to their cuteness, it also compromises the space available for crucial airway structures like the nose, trachea (windpipe), and larynx (voice box).

The Domino Effect of Narrowed Airways:

These narrowed airways become a major obstacle for smooth airflow. Imagine trying to breathe through a narrow straw. That’s essentially the challenge Shih Tzus face with BOAS. During inhalation, the soft tissues in the upper airway can collapse inwards, further restricting airflow. This can manifest in a range of symptoms that can worsen over time:

Snoring and Wheezing: These are the most common signs, caused by the turbulent airflow within the narrowed airway. While occasional snoring might seem harmless, persistent snoring is a red flag for BOAS.

Reverse Sneezing: This distinct episode involves rapid forceful inhalation through the nose, often accompanied by snorting or gagging sounds. While startling, it’s usually harmless but can be a sign of irritation or excess mucus in the airway.

Exercise Intolerance: Breathing difficulties limit a Shih Tzu’s ability to engage in physical activity. They may tire easily during walks, exhibit excessive panting even at rest, or show reluctance to play due to shortness of breath.

Heat and Stress Intolerance: Brachycephalic breeds struggle to regulate their body temperature because of limited airflow. Hot weather and stressful situations can exacerbate their breathing difficulties. Be vigilant on hot days and avoid stressful environments.

Cyanosis: In severe, neglected cases, the lack of oxygen can cause the gums and tongue to turn blue. This is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention.

Early Detection is Key:

Early diagnosis of BOAS is crucial for effective management and preventing complications. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your Shih Tzu, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Diagnosis typically involves a combination of:

Physical Examination: The veterinarian will assess your Shih Tzu’s overall health, breathing patterns, and any anatomical abnormalities.

Imaging Techniques: X-rays or CT scans provide detailed visualization of the upper airway anatomy and any potential obstructions.

Bronchoscopy: In some cases, a thin, flexible scope might be used to directly examine the inside of the airway for abnormalities.

Living Well with BOAS:

While there’s no cure for BOAS, several strategies can significantly improve your Shih Tzu’s quality of life. These proactive measures focus on managing the condition and preventing further complications:

Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Excess weight puts additional strain on the airway. Work with your veterinarian to establish a healthy weight management plan for your Shih Tzu.

Environmental Management: Keep your Shih Tzu cool and comfortable. Utilize air conditioning during hot weather and avoid strenuous activity on hot days. Keep walks short and cool during the midday sun.

Harnesses over Collars: Collars can put pressure on the trachea and restrict airflow. Opt for a well-fitting harness for walks and playtime.

Dietary Adjustments: Smaller, more frequent meals can help with digestion and reduce pressure on the airway. Discuss dietary options with your veterinarian to ensure your Shih Tzu receives all the necessary nutrients.

Surgical Intervention: A Breath of Fresh Air

In severe cases where lifestyle modifications alone are insufficient, surgery may be recommended. At Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic, we understand that pet owners may be apprehensive about surgery. However, minimally invasive BOAS surgery, pioneered by our very own Dr. Sam Kovac, can significantly improve your Shih Tzu’s breathing and quality of life. If you are uncertain whether your dog requires corrective BOAS surgery to improve their breathing or not, you can book a Free Breathing Assessment for your pet.

Why Choose Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic for Your Shih Tzu’s BOAS Treatment?

At Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic, we understand the unique needs of brachycephalic breeds. Here’s why we’re the perfect partner in helping your Shih Tzu breathe easier:

Minimally Invasive BOAS Surgery: Led by Dr. Sam Kovac, a pioneer in minimally invasive BOAS surgery, we offer advanced surgical techniques to improve airflow without extensive procedures.

Proven Track Record: Our team has successfully performed hundreds of BOAS surgeries in Sydney, with excellent patient outcomes.

Individualized Approach: We prioritize your pet’s well-being. Unlike the “one-size-fits-all” approach, we develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your Shih Tzu’s specific needs.

Dedicated Anesthesia Care: A dedicated veterinary anaesthetist is present throughout your pet’s surgery, ensuring their comfort and smooth recovery.

Focus on Recovery: We go the extra mile to ensure your Shih Tzu recovers quickly and comfortably after surgery.

Learn More: For a deeper understanding of BOAS in Shih Tzus and treatment options, visit BOAS surgery.

Don’t let BOAS limit your Shih Tzu’s happy life. Contact Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic today by giving us a call at 1300 DOC SAM (1300 362 726) or visit to schedule a consultation and discuss your pet’s needs.