First Walk is on Us!

✓ GPS tracked walks
✓ Activity reports
✓ On-demand walkers
Book FREE Walk

Jump to Section

What are Malformed Nostrils?

Dogs with short muzzles and a flat and wide skull shape are called brachycephalic breeds.  If you break down the word brachycephalic, “brachy” means short and “cephalic” means head.  Dog breeds most commonly predisposed to have malformed nostrils include the English and French Bulldogs, the Pug, Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Pekingese.

Dogs with malformed nostrils may also have an elongated soft palate and everted laryngeal saccules. If your dog has all three of these disorders he will be diagnosed with brachycephalic airway syndrome. Secondary abnormalities in dogs with brachycephalic airway syndrome may include hypoplastic trachea, overly enlarged tonsils and collapsed larynx.

The medical term for malformed nostrils in dogs is stenotic nares.  Malformed nostrils are an inherited, congenital disorder which usually affects dogs with short or flattened muzzles. The abnormal nostrils are too narrow and may collapse inward during inhalation, making it difficult for the dog to breathe.

Book First Walk Free!

Symptoms of Malformed Nostrils in Dogs

Symptoms may include:

  • Mouth breathing 
  • Excessive panting
  • Heavy respiration
  • Heat intolerance
  • Fainting
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Loud snoring
  • Grunts
  • Snorting

Causes of Malformed Nostrils in Dogs

Malformed nostrils are a congenital disorder, inherited due to selective breeding. Some breeders intentionally breed dogs to have extremely flattened faces. Unfortunately, these exaggerated traits can be harmful to the health of dogs of the brachycephalic breed. Dogs with extremely flattened faces may also have undersized airways.  If you compare the nasal bone structure of brachycephalic dog breeds from 50 years to the same breed now, the change is drastic.

Diagnosis of Malformed Nostrils in Dogs

Malformed nostrils are usually diagnosed during a puppy wellness visit. The veterinarian will notice the narrowed pinched nostrils.  During the puppy wellness visit, the veterinarian will assess the puppy’s breathing, and his respiratory and heart rate.  Malformed nostrils are easy to diagnose by visual inspection.  The veterinarian may also want to rule-out an elongated soft palate and/or everted laryngeal saccules, which are disorders associated with brachycephalic airway syndrome.  To check for these abnormalities, the puppy will need to have sedation or general anesthesia.

Treatment of Malformed Nostrils in Dogs

Malformed nostrils require corrective surgery to widen the nostril opening.  The veterinary surgeon will remove part of the outer fold of each nostril. This procedure causes very little scarring.  If your dog also has an elongated soft palate and/or everted laryngeal saccules, it is recommended to wait 4 to 6 months between additional corrective surgery. Prior to surgery, the veterinarian will want your dog to have a complete blood count, serum chemistry panel, fecal evaluation, and urinalysis.  These diagnostic tests can help determine if your dog is healthy and can undergo a surgical procedure.

The night before surgery your dog should not be fed after 8:00 p.m. and he cannot drink water after midnight. Usually, canines who have corrective surgery for malformed nostrils will be hospitalized overnight for monitoring.

When your dog is released, the veterinarian will give you post-operative instructions. The veterinarian may prescribe pain medication and antibiotics as a precaution against bacterial infections. Your dog’s daily activities will be limited for 1 to 2 weeks. Short walks for a bathroom break are allowed but no jumping or running. Your dog can not play or rough-house with other animals in the household.  He will also have to wear an Elizabethan collar (cone) so that he does not scratch at the incisions.

Recovery of Malformed Nostrils in Dogs

The recovery prognosis for corrective surgery of malformed nostrils is very good. The surgery will allow your dog to breathe out of his nose.  It is important to follow the veterinary surgeon’s post-operative instructions.  Follow-up visits will be necessary to check on the incision area and to remove sutures. 

Brachycephalic dog breeds should be walked with a harness and not a collar that puts pressure on the trachea. A choke collar should never be used. Flat nose dogs can overheat easily; it is best to keep them inside during the summer months. Walks can be taken on shady streets. It is important to keep your dog at a healthy weight.  It is harder for them to breathe if they are overweight. 

Malformed nostrils are inherited; therefore, dogs with malformed nostrils and brachycephalic airway syndrome should not be bred. If bred, puppies will also have stenotic nares. Additionally, many female brachycephalic dogs have complications during pregnancy and labor. 

Dogs should have annual wellness visit to ensure that they are healthy.  Puppies require more frequent wellness visits.  You can ask your veterinarian what wellness plan is best for your dog.