Stenotic Nares In Flat-Faced Dogs

Brachycephalic dogs and cats such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingeses and Persians are bred to have flat or short faces which puts them at risk of airway obstruction, heat stress and even death.

Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS) refers to the upper airway abnormalities that affects brachycephalic dogs. They include stenotic nares, elongated soft palate, hypoplastic trachea and everted laryngeal saccules.

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Mon Mon, 2-year-old Pekingese: A dog with stenotic nares has abnormally narrowed nostrils that restrict the amount of airflow into the nostrils, making it difficult to breathe.

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Rasping breath & snoring is not always “cute”. Your dog may be suffering from respiratory distress.

Air passes from the nostrils through the nasal cavity and back of the throat, and into the trachea via the larynx. A dog with stenotic nares has abnormally narrowed nostrils that restrict the amount of airflow into the nostrils, making it difficult to breathe. Over time, increased airway resistance can cause the larynx to collapse.

Pinch your nostrils slightly with your fingers – experience how difficult it is to breathe. Then imagine breathing this way, 24 hours a day.

SIGNS OF STENOTIC NARES
  • Noisy breathing 
  • Snoring
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Cyanosis (blue gums due to lack of oxygen)
  • Occasional collapse especially after activity/excitement/excessive heat

The increased effort required for breathing can eventually put a strain on the heart.

keep dog at healthy weight
  • If your dog is only mildly affected by stenotic nares, the condition can be managed by keeping him at a healthy weight as obesity worsens the symptoms.
  • Keep your brachycephalic dogs away from stressful situations and avoid exercise in hot humid weather.
  • They may also do better with harnesses instead of collars to avoid putting pressure at the neck area.
“nose job”

If the stenotic nares are severe, rhinoplasty (“nose job”) can be done to widen the nostrils. A wedge of tissue is surgically removed from the walls of each nostril to open up the nasal passage.

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Dr Patrick Maguire, Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Gelenggang), performed stenotic nares repair & soft palate resection on 5-year-old Barney the Frenchie. As seen in the photos, his nostrils are widened to improve airflow & help him breathe better.

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A wedge of tissue is surgically removed from the walls of each nostril to open up the nasal passage. (Ref: vet4bulldog.com)

soft palate resection

Breathing difficulty in brachycephalic dogs or cats can also be caused by an elongated soft palate which obstructs the opening to the larynx.

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Your bulldog’s palate is located at the roof of the mouth – the front part is the “hard palate” & the back part is the “soft palate”. In brachycephalic dogs, their upper jaw has been shortened, forcing the tip of the soft palate into the laryngeal area & partially obstructing the airway. (Image Ref: veazievet.com)

Signs of elongated soft palate
  • Noisy breathing
  • Retching or gagging especially while swallowing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Cyanosis (blue gums due to lack of oxygen)
  • Occasional collapse especially after activity/excitement/excessive heat

This condition can be corrected by a soft palate resection to remove excessive tissue and allow better airflow from the nose to the windpipe.

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“”Mon Mon was not able to breathe properly when the weather is hot. She couldn’t go out for a walk even if it’s just 5 minutes. When she played with her mate, she was panting a lot. Few weeks ago, she was again struggling to breathe, her tongue turned pale. I rushed to the nearest vet where she received oxygen therapy. The vet advised us to bring her for a surgery which can help her breathe better. So I took Mon Mon to Dr Dennis Choi.” [Evaluating the soft palate]

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After stenotic nares surgery & soft palate resection

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“I know Mon Mon definitely has to go through this surgery (to widen her nostrils) sooner or later or else, one day she might just passed on if she can’t catch her breath. She is recovering well. Now, she can play with her little boyfriend Fibio at home!”

Many brachycephalic animals experience significant improvement in their breathing and overall wellness after the surgeries. 

Stenotic nares and elongated soft palates are congenital malformations. Dogs that require surgery to correct airway obstruction should not be used for breeding. We recommend that these dogs be neutered or spayed during the surgical correction. 

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