What is Nasal Catheter?

A nasal catheter is a flexible tube inserted into the nose to deliver high concentrations of oxygen to a canine patient. A nasal catheter is beneficial for patients facing immediate, life-threatening conditions compromising the dog’s ability to complete regular respiratory functions. Dog breeds of brachycephalic nature commonly require a nasal catheter as their short maxilla (upper jaw) and flat faces makes oxygen intake a challenge. Placement of a nasal catheter may require sedation to decrease stress levels of having a tube placed in the nose and to aid in the correct placement of the catheter. A nasal catheter can be placed by a veterinarian, veterinary technician, or a veterinary respiratory specialist. 

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Nasal Catheter Procedure in Dogs

Prior to placing the catheter, the canine maybe placed under sedation or tranquilization. The use of a sedative or tranquilizer drug is used to relax the patient and decrease his/her stress levels, which adds to the respiratory distress. Diazepam is a tranquilizer/sedative commonly used in catheter placement, although Acepromazine can also be used.  

  1. The dog’s head will be tipped back slightly, allowing 2% lidocaine solution to locally anesthetize the nasal mucosa. 
  2. Two to three minutes after the lidocaine is infused, 1-2 drops of phenylephrine is infused to decrease nasal cavity swelling and decrease the chance of hemorrhage. 
  3. The sterile catheter is placed along the side of the patient’s head, from the nostril to the vertical ramus of the mandible in order to measure the appropriate length. A section of folded tape is placed at the length measurement to serve as a depth gauge and suture anchor. 
  4. A few drops of 2% lidocaine is placed on the tip of the catheter and passed into the nostril. The nasal catheter is passed slowly into the ventral nasal meatus making its way into the nasopharynx. 
  5. Once the catheter is properly placed, the anchor (section of tape) will be sutured to the dog’s skin just caudal to the nasal planum, with a loop of the exterior catheter section looped underneath. 
  6. The length of the catheter that remains out of the nasal cavity will be taped and sutured to the midline of the dog’s forehead (in the same fashion as stated previously). For brachycephalic dog breeds, the length of the nasal catheter will be taped and sutured to the cheek rather than the midline of the face. 
  7. The oxygen hose is then attached to the end of the nasal catheter and anchored to the neck using a neck bandage and tape. This neck anchor prevents the dog from pulling out any sutures of the catheter itself. 
  8. The oxygen humidifier (oxygen tank) is attached to the oxygen hose and the administration of oxygen begins. 

Efficacy of Nasal Catheter in Dogs

Nasal catheters in dogs have an extremely high level of efficacy. The direct infusion of oxygen into the nasopharynx ensures the dog is receiving high concentrations of oxygen.

Nasal Catheter Recovery in Dogs

The nasal catheter placement itself will require some sedation, which will cause the dog to become drowsy and sluggish for the first day. Sedation will wear off and is eliminated from the body after 24 hours. The duration for which the dog must use the nasal catheter depends on the canine’s current state, health condition, age and present blood oxygen levels.

Cost of Nasal Catheter in Dogs

A nasal catheter is a convenient and inexpensive method of supplying dogs with adequate levels of oxygen. The exact cost of a nasal catheter will depend on the dog breed having a catheter placed, as brachycephalic dogs may require additional care. The total cost will also depend on the condition in which your dog is being treated and the clinic itself, but the estimated cost for a canine nasal catheter is $125 -$175. 

Dog Nasal Catheter Considerations

A nasal catheter is relatively safe with limited complications. Incorrectly placed nasal catheters can cause intranasal swelling, hemorrhage and drying out of the nasal cavity.

Nasal Catheter Prevention in Dogs

A nasal catheter may be needed for a variety of reasons that may not be preventable. However, cases in which inflicted trauma has caused the canine to lose the ability to take in an adequate oxygen supply can be avoided by following basic canine safety protocols (fence, leash, etc.).