Stenotic nares are a genetic malformation of the cartilage in the nose, and are more common in the brachycephalic breeds–those with “smushed” faces such as the English Bulldog, Boston Terrier, the Pug and the Pekingnese. Stenotic nares are present from birth in affected dogs, though they may not cause problems until later in life. This can become a life-threatening problem in older dogs, as over time the increased airway resistance from pinched nostrils can lead to labored breathing. This is extra work for the larynx, which can eventually collapse, making breathing nearly-impossible, and can often lead to death if not caught in time.
Upon examination, you veterinarian will take into account several factors when diagnosing stenotic nares. These include:
- A genetic predisposition (is your dog one of the brachycephalic breeds?)
- Noisy nasal or labored breathing.
- The appearance of “pinched” nostrils.
Stenotic nares can often be managed non-surgically in less-severe cases. Some steps owners can take in managing the condition in mildly-affected dogs include:
- Keeping your dog at a healthy weight.
- Limiting stressful situations and exercise in hot or humid weather.
- Using a harness for a walk as opposed to a traditional collar.
In acute cases, where other methods of management are unsuccessful, a surgical procedure can be performed with the C02 laser, which involves widening the nostrils by removing pieces of the nostril wall. Patients often respond well to this procedure, especially younger ones.