Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stenoic nares: The reason your dog snorts and snuffles so much

Liam and Seamus show off their stenotic nares
As is typical for most pugs, Liam was born with stenotic nares.  This is a fancy way of saying that instead of having wide-open nostrils, he had small slits.  I could hear him breathing, even when he was not running or playing hard.  His right nostril was particularly pinched, and would sometimes bubble with fluid.  The picture posted shows Liam at about 3 months of age.  You can see how small his nostrils are, especially when compared to the nostrils on his older Boston terrier brother.

I had thought this was normal for a pug.  It made sense that breeds with compressed faces would make more noises when breathing and eating and sleeping.  My veterinarian put me straight, however, and reminded me that this sort of chronic difficulty in breathing could lead to collapse of the trachea or heart failure. 

I had Liam's nostrils corrected when I had him neutered, and I had that surgery take place slightly earlier than I would have preferred.  I wanted him to fill out and grow a little more before he was neutered, but his breathing continued to deteriorate, so he went under at 5 months of age.  He had two small stitches put in each nostril, but was immediately breathing better.  I spent the next several months stepping on him, as I could no longer hear him breathing.

I meet many pugs who have not had this surgery performed, and they are unable to go for long walks or play hard without struggling for air.  It’s depressing, as I didn’t find the surgery overly expensive or hard on Liam.  Finding a good surgeon is important, of course, but for dogs who are struggling to breathe, it is a necessary correction.