What is a Brachycephalic Cat and What Should You Know?

Animals that have a shortened, or compressed muzzle and head have more challenges than animals with the typical shaped head and face. The biggest challenge for animals with short muzzles and compressed faces can have difficulty breathing. It makes it difficult for air to pass through their breathing passages. Animals with this shape of a head are known as Brachycephalic animals.

The condition of Brachycephalics have the potential of developing a number of problems, including collapsed nasal passages, stonotic nares (small nostrils), elongated soft palate (excessive tissue in the back of the throat), everted laryngeal saccules (tissue within the voice box), and can eventually lead to the collapse of the voice box.

Are cats naturally born with Brachycephalic syndrome?

Cats have the possibility of being born with a tendency to have a collapsed nasal passage, elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and there’s a chance of developing a narrow trachea. When a cat lives with these types of problems, prolonged breathing in this way has the ability to cause an elevation in pressure in the cat’s head as well as in their throat. When this happens, it can cause a thickening of the mouth (which is an excessive pharyngeal folds), and ultimately a collapse of the larynx.

Stenotic Nares

Stenotic nares is when the cartilage of the nose openings are too thick and narrow, which obstructs the process of normal oxygen inhalation.

Long soft palate

The soft palate is really a long, continuous muscle in the back of the throat that separates the nasal passages and the mouth. When this is too long, it extends into pharynx/larynx and causes an obstruction to the airflow.

When these abnormalities happen and the high pressure builds, it can cause the soft tissues to thicken and elongate. Eventually the pharyngeal folds develop a narrowing, which will start to block the passage of air. The tonsils will become more prominent and will cause an even further narrowing of the airway and the larynx will start to collapse. Because of this, the pressure that is needed to breathe, will intensify and the dog will suffocate.

Signs of Brachycephalic syndrome

The signs of this condition are pretty obvious. You’ll notice your cat having noisy breathing, he may retch or gag, and exercise will be difficult. From lack of oxygen, your dog may start to turn blue and they may pass out. Cat with this condition will also have trouble handling heat and humidity and have trouble sleeping due to difficulty breathing in certain positions. You may see your cat sleeping on its back since it helps to open up the soft palate.

Diagnosing Brachycephalic

Depending on the breed of cat, the vet will already have a good idea if this is a good possibility. He will take a history on the cat and take notes on the symptoms the cat has been displaying. If you suspect your cat of having this condition, your vet will give your cat a full exam of his airway and throat. The exam may require your cat to be put under sedation in order to clearly view the airway.


Cats that tend to have trouble sleeping and eating as well as they display problems breathing when they get excited or during exercise, they are typically good candidates for treatment, which typically requires the removal of the elongated soft palate, done by the use of a laser or with scissors. If the condition is serious enough, however, it will require surgery. After surgery, you can expect that your cat will have a sore throat and may have difficulty eating for a few days, and may experience gagging.

For the most part, the prognosis for a cat after this type of treatment is good. Most cats have good results and will have an easier time breathing so they can live a better, much more comfortable life.

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