Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome and Chihuahuas

Chihuahuas – A Brachycephalic Breed

The Symptoms & Management of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Chihuahuas have been selectively bred over time to give them their short stature and flat faces that we’ve fallen in love with. Their flat faces put them into the Brachycephalic Dog Breed (BAS) category (along with other dogs such as Bulldogs & Pugs) due to the slight compression of the respiratory tract which has the potential to cause airway obstruction.

The extent of these respiratory differences between Chihuahuas and other canine breeds, and the level to which they cause airway problems is different between one Chihuahua to another. This can easily be managed with some advice that we will explain within this article.

BAS or Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

BAS is an obstruction to the airway caused by air turbulence in the upper respiratory system which has the potential to lead to more serious problems such as tracheal collapse.

Breeds with BAS will often have far greater problems with heat and strenuous exercise; and in more problematic cases, an increased chance of heat stroke can occur which may be life-threatening.

The diagnosis of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome should only be done by professionals and is to be based on the assessment of the respiratory tract to identify anything that isn’t normal.

A positive is that BAS can be managed, and early intervention often leads to much better outcomes.

Management Recommendations

These are the management recommendations professionals make to Chihuahua owners to manage the risk of Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome:

  • Exercise Recommendations

Over exertion can lead to overheating and breathing issues, this means exercising your Chihuahua should be done in as smart manner, this also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise your pup as conversely obesity exacerbates airway obstruction. Basically, Chihuahua should not being doing strenuous exercise in hot or humid weather; look into alternative options such as indoor exercise ideas within an air conditioned room.

  • Use of a Harness

A collar can put intense pressure on the neck area and increase the symptoms of BAS.  Always use a low-front harness that is recommended for these breeds.

  • Over-Heating

As a Chihuahua owner you probably already know that your dog is not able to regulate their body temperature as well as other breeds, what this means is that you should take extra measures to ensure they are not put into situations that they might overheat. Alternative options to outdoor exercise in the heat and/or humidity include indoor exercise and ensuring a cool temperature in your home and plenty of water.


Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome is an often misunderstood or totally unknown issue that affects many Chihuahuas and other flat faced dog breeds. As responsible dog owners we need to ensure we understand the correct management of the syndrome and educate other owners of the potential harm.