Brachycephalic dogs and stenotic nares
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Brachycephalic dogs and stenotic nares

Dogs
Health & Safety

Any owner of a brachycephalic dog will know that such dogs can be prone to overheating and also tend to snore and breathe rather noisily, and in some brachycephalic dogs, a range of other secondary issues can arise as well.

One of the most common of these is stenotic nares, which refers to a narrowing of the dog’s nostrils that can make it hard for them to breathe normally. If the exaggeration of the dog’s face is overly pronounced, stenotic nares may arise; and if this happens in your own dog, it is wise to find out about what can be done to make your dog more comfortable and able to breathe with ease.

In this article we will look at stenotic nares in brachycephalic dogs in more detail, including how to identify a problem, why the condition arises, and what can be done about it. Read on to learn more.

How do stenotic nares arise in dogs?

Brachycephalic dogs such as the Pug and the French bulldog are very popular pets in the UK today, and their unusual, flat faced appearance is all part of their charm. However, the very trait that contributes towards making brachycephalic dogs so popular can actually cause them health and wellness problems too, which is something that all owners or potential owners of such breeds should be aware of.

The flat-faced appearance that is so common in dogs today is not something that evolved naturally, or that has been around for centuries-a century ago, there weren’t really any dramatically flat-faced dogs at all! The appearance that we are so used to today actually occurred in the first dogs of flat-faced breeds as a genetic anomaly, or birth defect-and selective breeding to retain and reinforce this trait has led to the appearance of modern breeds being very different from their historical norms.

If dogs were not selectively bred and hereditary and conformation defects were not deliberately spread through ever-widening breed lines, such traits would have remained restricted to a few dogs, and not passed on to future generations.

This means that as owners and enthusiasts of flat-faced dogs, we must ensure that we take care of the particular requirements of this conformation trait that we ultimately caused, and ensure that our purchasing and future breeding of such dogs does not create an ever-worsening problem.

More about stenotic nares

Stenotic nares means “narrowing nostrils,” and this trait arises as a congenital abnormality in formation of the dog’s nasal cartilage, due to selective breeding to produce the flat-muzzled appearance of brachycephalic dogs.

The problem only usually arises in dogs that are described as overtyped or ultra-typed, which refers to the level of exaggeration of the face’s flatness, and this extreme trait is not desirable, due to the health problems that can accompany it.

Dogs that are diagnosed with stenotic nares can of course pass the same congenital problem onto their own offspring, and so should not be used for breeding. Nor should they be awarded winning places in Kennel Club dog shows, as the condition can affect the dog’s health.

What sort of dogs are at risk for stenotic nares?

Any brachycephalic dog breed can potentially have stenotic nares, although it is most commonly identified in the French bulldog, English bulldog, pug and English toy spaniel.

Not all dogs of such breeds will be affected; when buying a puppy or considering signing up to purchase from a breeder, it is important to assess the degree of exaggeration in the face of the available dogs and their parents, in order to stand a good chance of being able to predict problems.

Identifying a potential problem

Stenotic nares are usually fairly easy to identify in your dog once you know what to look for, although your suspicions will of course need to be formally diagnosed by your vet.

Dogs with stenotic nares will present with the problem from birth, but you may not be able to identify it definitively until the dog is older and larger, and the problems it can cause may not become acute until they are an adult.

The appearance of the nostrils will be narrow and small, and your dog will almost certainly snore when asleep. They may well also make a snorting or whistling sound when breathing, and spend a lot of time panting which is not related to exertion.

Affected dogs will also be very prone to overheating, and have a low tolerance for exercise. In very acute presentations of the condition, the dog may even suffer from fainting spells due to a lack of oxygen, and display cyanosis of the gums and other mucous membranes for the same reason.

What can be done about stenotic nares in dogs?

If your dog’s stenotic nares are not overly problematic, your vet may recommend lifestyle changes and careful management, such as keeping your dog at a healthy weight and avoiding overheating. However, if the condition is pronounced, surgical correction may be the best or only way to resolve it, and allow your dog to be able to breathe comfortably-possibly for the first time in their life.

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