Every breed of dog has their own unique qualities and can be predisposed to certain health issues. Some breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, Pekingese, and Shih Tzus are considered to be brachycephalic.
Brachycephalic dogs have faces that appear to be pushed in, and as such are prone to obstructive airway diseases that make breathing difficult. The word ‘brachycephalic’ is actually a scientific term meaning “short head.” Their faces appear to be squished when compared to other dogs, and side effects include chronic skin infections in their facial skin, protruding eyes, and difficulties with breathing. Their risk of overheating and breathing difficulties are so common and severe that some airlines have restrictions against air travel with these breeds.
Although rhinoplasty is more commonly known as a “nose job” to many people, it’s also the name of a reconstructive surgical procedure for dogs. With canines its purpose is entirely medical and meant to increase the ability for the dog to breathe a little more easily. The procedure itself involves the enlargement of the stenotic nares, which are narrow nostrils.
Fortunately, rhinoplasty in canines is a quick, simple surgery, but it should be taken care of as early as possible in order to prevent the other effects of brachycephalic airway syndrome.
Stenotic nares are typically diagnosed after a brief, simple examination of the dog, as it can often be determined just by looking at the nose. Veterinarians also assess the dog’s breathing rate to determine the severity of its breathing problems. When at rest, healthy dogs should have a respiratory rate of between 20 and 34 breaths per minute.
However, dogs might breathe more quickly (or deeply) as a result of other factors, such as exercise and stress. Fortunately, veterinarians can easily determine how severe a dog’s breathing problem are and whether rhinoplasty is the right solution for them.
For young dogs, rhinoplasty is often suggested as a prophylactic treatment in order to avoid any breathing problems that could progressively get worse. It’s also often recommended to be performed at the same time as the dog is being neutered because both surgeries require anesthesia.
Rhinoplasty in canines involves removing a small portion of the nostrils, where the wider opening should be. Although there are several techniques, including lasers, a technique called a vertical wedge is the most popular method of removal. The wedge extends to the alar fold, providing an opening for the movement of the nostril wing and opening of the nares. Dissolvable stitches are usually utilized after the procedure is complete, and in total the surgery takes less than an hour from start to finish.
The recovery period typically begins with some swelling and breathing difficulties, so veterinarians monitor the dog for 24 to 48 hours post-surgery. Pain relievers may be administered by the veterinarian if necessary, but most dogs don’t need it. After the dog is sent home, within a month the stitches will have dissolved on their own, so there’s no need to return to the vet for removal.
Antibiotics are typically required during the recovery period, and exercise and activity should be limited to avoid potential damage to their new snout. Elizabethan collars are also required so the dog won’t be able to scratch and possibly injure the nose. The use of moist sponges to keep the nose clean is sometimes recommended.
The rhinoplasty procedure typically costs between $200 and $1k, depending on the practice, the severity of the problem, and the amount of hospitalization time required. The method used to complete the surgery also influences the cost; for example, laser surgery is more expensive than traditional surgical methods.
Although rhinoplasty is the most common solution to address canine breathing problems, it’s not the only procedure to treat dogs with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent obstructive airway disease. Stenotic nares are inherited from the dog’s parents, which means that if a dog is born with the condition, rhinoplasty will likely be needed.
However, you can take steps to prevent unnecessary strain on your dog’s breathing. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important, as obesity only makes symptoms of the disease worse and may cause problems with the rhinoplasty procedure.
A healthy diet is necessary because dogs with breathing difficulties can’t tolerate too much exercise, and you should try to avoid putting your dog in stressful situations as well. Hot environments can make breathing extremely difficult, so be sure to avoid keeping your dog outside when the temperature is high.
You may also want to use a harness, which, unlike a collar, won’t pull on your dog’s neck. Collars place pressure on the neck and are prone to disturbing your dog’s airflow, which is already limited.
It is also important to keep in mind that breathing problems should never be considered a typical condition of brachycephalic breeds. You should always immediately seek help from a veterinarian if you suspect your dog may have breathing difficulties.