Will offer BOAS grading

Is your dog suffering from respiratory problems? Or maybe there is more breathing and panting than normal? A-Vet now offers BOAS grading based on the Norwegian Kennel Club's screening program. 

What is BOAS grading?

BOAS (brachyocephalic obstructive airway syndrome) is a pathological disorder in short-nosed dogs and cats that wheeze and pant and make a lot of noise due to a narrow upper airway. Symptoms can range from light snoring sounds to pronounced breathing problems and loss of consciousness.

In cooperation with the Norwegian Pug Club and the Norwegian Bulldog Club, the NKK has initiated a grading system for the English and French Bulldog breeds and Pugs to improve the quality of life and health of these breeds.

A-Vet uses BOAS grading from the Norwegian Kennel Club's screening program. The program is developed by the University of Cambridge, and so far includes the breeds Pug, French Bulldog and English Bulldog.

What other breeds may be affected?

There are many breeds that are short-nosed with a broad skull that can fall under the same category:

  • Affenpinscher
  • American Bulldog
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • bull mastiff
  • Cane Corso
  • Chihuahua (apple-headed)
  • Chow Chow
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • English Mastiff
  • French Bulldog
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Japanese Chin
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Rottweiler
  • Shih Tzu
  • Valley Bulldog

The particular head shape of these breeds makes them more prone to congenital breathing problems. They may have narrow nostrils, long and thick soft palate (which can also block the larynx), collapse of the larynx or underdeveloped trachea.

Who can grade?

Only veterinarians who have attended NKK's course in BOAS grading have access to write official NKK-BOAS certificates and register BOAS grades in DogWeb. With us, Elisabeth Bjørnestad is an approved BOAS - veterinarian. The dog can be tested from 18 months of age and the certificate lasts for 2 years.

Symptoms of BOAS

The following are not normal, even in a brachycephalic (short-scaled) dog or cat, and should be recognised as symptoms of BOAS:

  • Respiratory sound
  • Snoring and wheezing sounds when a dog breathes
  • Blocked or narrow nostrils
  • Symptoms from the stomach or intestinal tract
  • Vomiting, regurgitation of food or saliva
  • Sleep problems and breathing problems during sleep.
  • Some dogs choose to sleep with their head up, with a toy in their mouth, or they stop breathing several times during a sleep period due to airway obstruction (blockage).
  • Heat intolerance: The dog shows signs of overheating in warmer weather. Signs of overheating include excessive panting, increased temperature (if you can measure it), rapid pulse, distant gaze, vomiting/diarrhea, excessive thirst, dark red tongue, severe drooling, unsteady gait. Seizures and loss of consciousness may occur. In the worst case, death.
  • Reduced exercise capacity due to breathing problems
  • Bluish discoloration of the skin or mucous membranes (cyanosis) or loss of consciousness (syncope)

How does BOAS grading work?

The grading is based on the dog's respiratory sounds, inspiratory effort, and any dyspnea/cyanosis/syncope is assessed by observation and auscultation both before and immediately after a stress test.

What can the owner do himself?

By keeping your dog slim and in good physical shape, you can prevent some of the BOAS problems. However, avoid exercising your dog in hot weather and protect it from overheating. Whether a dog is lean or not is assessed by a so-called body condition score (BCS). Dogs with a BCS equal to or higher than 7 are overweight and at increased risk of BOAS.
If your dog or cat has breathing problems from a young age, it is important to have it examined by a veterinarian.
Surgery may be indicated and the earlier it is done the better the prognosis will be.

Illustration of the weight scale for the Pug breed. Body Condition Score BCS in the Pug
Over 90% of BOAS affected dogs have a marked improvement in quality of life and energy levels after surgery. Dieting can also be a good solution - ask us for advice. At NKK website you can read more about BOAS grading.

A dog is given oxigen during an operation. BOAS grading A-Vet small animal clinic, Larvik. Photo by Morten Rakke