Boston Terrier Breathing Problems and Symptoms

For years, my family has been dedicated to raising Boston Terriers, giving us firsthand experience with Boston Terrier breathing problems and their unique needs. They make fantastic pets and are very devoted to every member of the family.

As a brachycephalic breed, Boston Terriers often face breathing challenges, a common issue in these dogs due to their unique facial structure. Most commonly, this is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in which part of the airway is blocked due to an abnormality in the anatomy. They can also experience inverted sneezing.

Continue reading for an in-depth exploration of Boston Terrier breathing problems, a critical aspect of caring for this beloved breed. We are going to discuss Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome and inverted sneezing in great detail as well as treatment options.

What Are the Reasons for Boston Terrier Breathing Problems?

All Boston Terriers are brachycephalic, which means they have flat noses, narrow airways, and long palates. This feature makes them more likely to suffer from breathing problems than other breeds. 

Brachycephalic dogs have narrow nostrils, causing them to have to breathe through their mouths more than their noses. Additionally, this limited airflow makes it more difficult for them to cool down from panting.

Severe cases of brachycephaly may require surgery to widen the nostrils or airway. This would be more likely to happen early in the Boston Terrier’s life due to birth defects. However, it could still be required later due to complications of long-developing health problems. 

As Boston Terriers age, their susceptibility to breathing problems increases due to potential inflammation in their nose and airways, further impacting their respiratory health. Common signs of inflammation include struggling to exercise, experiencing fainting spells, and having trouble taking a breath.

boston terrier puppy

Understanding Brachycephalic Syndrome in Boston Terriers

Boston Terriers are distinguished by their flat faces and short noses, traits that define them as a brachycephalic breed. This unique physical structure, while endearing, predisposes them to Brachycephalic Syndrome, leading to narrowed airways and potential breathing difficulties.

Anatomical Challenges of the Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier’s anatomy presents several idiosyncrasies contributing to Brachycephalic Syndrome:

  • Stenotic Nares: These overly narrow nostrils restrict airflow, complicating nasal breathing.
  • Elongated Soft Palate: The soft palate may be excessively long, obstructing the airway and causing breathing issues.
  • Everted Laryngeal Saccules: Tissue within the throat that can obstruct airflow when inverted.
  • Hypoplastic Trachea: A narrower trachea impedes airflow, intensifying breathing difficulties.

Progressive Nature of Brachycephalic Syndrome

It’s crucial to understand that Brachycephalic Syndrome can progressively worsen, especially as Boston Terriers age. Watch for increased snoring, labored breathing, and difficulties in physical activities, all signs of the syndrome’s progression.

Recognizing the anatomical challenges and the progressive nature of Brachycephalic Syndrome is essential for Boston Terrier owners. This understanding is key to managing these challenges and ensuring a healthier life for these beloved dogs.

How to Care for Your Boston Terrier

Because your Boston Terrier is a brachycephalic dog, you will need to take extra steps to care for them to ensure they remain healthy.


Never over-exercise your Boston Terrier. This can lead to a serious situation in which your dog experiences breathing difficulties along with collapsing or fainting. For this breed, you’ll want to limit overexcitement as well as exercise.

Walk at a gentle pace, taking plenty of breaks so that your Boston Terrier gets plenty of opportunities to rest and cool down. Using a harness is a better option than a leash as it will not put undue stress on the dog’s windpipe.

Safety in Hot Weather

Your Boston Terrier is prone to heat intolerance so make sure you limit their exercise when the weather gets too warm. When the days are too hot, either keep them inside or walk them very early or very late to avoid the extreme heat of the day.

Additionally, you never want to leave your dog unattended outside. Keep a supply of fresh water available at all times. Make sure you watch your Boston Terrier for signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, which can include heavy panting, rapid heartbeat, and extreme thirst.

They are more prone to heat stroke than other dogs because they do not pant as efficiently.  

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Weight Control

Letting your Boston Terrier get overweight or obese can seriously complicate their brachycephaly. This can include respiratory problems such as noisy breathing as well as an intolerance to exercise.

You’ll want to supply your Boston Terrier with a food that is primarily made of high-quality protein. You can also supplement their diet with coconut oil that will naturally suppress the appetite, boost the metabolism, and aid in weight loss.

Traveling Safely

You will need a well-ventilated carrier for your Boston Terrier. It will need to be spacious enough to make them feel comfortable and secure. If at all possible try to avoid having your dog travel in the cargo hold of an airplane as this is deadly for brachycephalic dogs.

Dental Care

Teeth crowding can be a problem for some Boston Terriers because of their flat faces and little room for the teeth to grow in and this can lead to dental issues. It’s important to brush your dog’s teeth daily if they will let you, paying close attention to the outsides of the teeth.

How Do You Treat Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome?

The mildest symptoms of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome can be treated by limiting exercise. This is especially the case if the weather is hot. You will also want to put your Boston Terrier on a diet if they are overweight.

Symptoms that are more moderate to severe require more aggressive treatments. This may include surgery. 

Your veterinarian may have to surgically remove part of the nose to enlarge the nostrils. They may also remove the laryngeal saccules and shorten the elongated soft palate. The ultimate goal is to open up more of the airway, allowing your Boston Terrier the ability to breathe.

Comprehensive Treatment for Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Boston Terriers

Addressing Mild Symptoms: For mild symptoms of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, lifestyle modifications are key. Limiting your Boston Terrier’s exercise, especially in hot weather, is crucial. Keeping them in a cool environment and ensuring they maintain a healthy weight are effective preventive measures.

When Surgery Is Necessary: Moderate to severe symptoms often require more intensive treatment, including surgery. Surgical interventions may involve enlarging the nostrils, removing obstructive tissue in the laryngeal saccules, and shortening the elongated soft palate. These procedures aim to enhance your Boston Terrier’s airway, significantly improving their breathing.

Financial Considerations: The cost of surgery varies, with estimates from veterinary professionals suggesting an average of $500 to $1,500 for soft palate surgery and $200 to $1,000 for stenotic nares surgery. If both procedures are needed, expenses can range from $1,500 to $3,000. It’s important to discuss with your veterinarian for a specific estimate tailored to your dog’s needs.

Inverted Sneezing in Boston Terriers: In addition to Brachycephalic Syndrome, Boston Terriers may experience inverted sneezing – a series of rapid inspirations that sound like snorts. While startling, this condition typically causes no lasting harm and doesn’t require treatment. However, understanding its nature can help you respond calmly during an episode.

By following these guidelines and regularly consulting with your veterinarian, you can ensure the best possible care for your Boston Terrier, enhancing their quality of life despite their breathing challenges.

My Boston Terrier Seems to Be Gasping for Air, What’s Going On?

Inverted sneezing is a common term for inspiratory paroxysmal respiration. What happens is an irritation to your Boston Terrier’s soft palate causes a throat spasm. This, in turn, results in a series of rapid inspirations that sound like snorts or like your dog is gasping for air. 

Because of your Boston Terrier’s brachycephalic anatomy, they are prone to inverted sneezing. It leaves no lasting damage but can be scary while it’s happening because it looks like your dog is desperate for air. There is also no treatment for this condition.

Frequently Asked Questions About Boston Terrier Breathing Issues

What Causes Breathing Problems in Boston Terriers? Boston Terriers are brachycephalic, meaning they have flat faces and short noses, which can lead to narrow airways and other anatomical features causing breathing difficulties.

Can Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome Be Treated? Yes, treatment ranges from lifestyle changes for mild cases to surgical interventions for more severe cases. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for managing this condition.

Is It Normal for Boston Terriers to Snore? While snoring is common in Boston Terriers due to their brachycephalic nature, excessively loud or labored snoring may indicate underlying breathing issues and should be evaluated by a vet.

How Can I Help My Boston Terrier Breathe Better? Avoiding overexertion, keeping them cool, especially in hot weather, and ensuring they maintain a healthy weight are key steps. Use a harness instead of a collar to avoid pressure on the neck.

Are There Special Considerations for Exercising a Boston Terrier? Yes, exercise should be moderate and not too strenuous. Avoid intense activities, especially in hot or humid conditions, and always provide plenty of breaks and water.


All Boston Terriers are brachycephalic but not all of them will experience Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. They can, however, have breathing problems related to their flat faces and shorter noses.

Boston Terriers are prone to experiencing Brachycephalic Syndrome. Due to partially blocked airways, they have difficulty breathing and need special care. In addition, they can also experience what is commonly known as inverted sneezing.

Following the care guidelines for brachycephalic dogs, which apply to Boston Terriers, you will be able to keep your dog happy and healthy. Avoid exercising in the heat, keep your dog at a healthy weight, and don’t let them over-exercise.

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