What is Rhinoplasty?

Rhinoplasty is commonly known as a nose job. However, it's not a cosmetic procedure in dogs, but a medically indicated reconstructive surgery that can dramatically improve the dog's quality of life.

Rhinoplasty is performed in brachycephalic dogs with obstructive airway disease, to enlarge their stenotic nares. Brachycephalic dogs are those with "pushed in" faces such as bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, Shih Tzus or pugs. Stenotic nares are narrow nostrils, which reduce the ability for air to move through the nose freely.

If narrow nostrils begin to interfere with the dog's breathing, rhinoplasty is the treatment of choice and should be performed as early as possible to prevent progression of other components of brachycephalic airway syndrome. It is a straightforward, quick and simple surgery that can be done at the same time the dog is desexed.

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Rhinoplasty Procedure in Dogs

In most cases, stenotic nares are diagnosed on a routine examination of the dog. The presence of narrow nostrils can be determined just by looking at the dog's nose. With brachycephalic breeds, the veterinarian can also assess the breathing rate and might ask the owner to take the dog for a little run to watch the dog's reaction to exercise and the amount of noise that can be heard during breathing.

If the brachycephalic dog is young, surgery is also recommended as a prophylactic treatment to prevent the progression of respiratory difficulty.

If possible, rhinoplasty should be done at the time of neutering since both procedures require anesthesia and can be performed on the same day.

Rhinoplasty involves surgically removing a small part of the dog's nostril that is sitting where the wider opening should be. A vertical wedge technique is the most commonly used method, but laser could also be utilized for the opening of the nares. The wedge extends to the alar fold to allow for an appropriate opening that can allow an outwards movement of the wing of the nostril and adequate opening of the nares.

Once completed, dissolvable stitches are put in to hold everything in place while it heals.

The procedure takes less than an hour, although the dog is usually hospitalized overnight to be properly monitored after anesthesia.

Efficacy of Rhinoplasty in Dogs

Early correction of stenotic nares will improve the airway function and may prevent the development of everted laryngeal saccules or other abnormalities related to the brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. However, some older dogs may exhibit two or more components of the brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome and may require different procedures to improve air flow, besides rhinoplasty.

Rhinoplasty can also eliminate or at least decrease the volume of snoring from the dog.

An alternative to rhinoplasty is the use of corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and oxygen therapy, to provide short-term relief of airway inflammation or respiratory distress. However, the medical management of this condition does not correct the underlying anatomical abnormality. Therefore, rhinoplasty is the treatment of choice whenever stenotic nares interfere with the patient's breathing.

Rhinoplasty Recovery in Dogs

In the early postoperative period, the surgical sites may swell and interfere with breathing. Therefore, the veterinarian will carefully monitor the pet for 24 to 48 hours after the surgery has been performed. Pain relief provision might be given, although most dogs are usually relatively comfortable after the first couple of hours.

The dog is sent home with dissolvable stitches in the nostrils and a recovery time of approximately one month. The stitches will absorb on their own without the need to remove them.

A course of antibiotics is typically administered during this time and exercise should be limited.

The use of an Elizabethan collar will be required, to avoid the dog from scratching the nose. Also, the nostrils will need to be kept clean with moist sponges until fully healed.

There are minimal complications associated with this procedure, and most dogs look completely normal once they get back home. Some dogs may exhibit some visible pink spots on their noses as part of the healing process.

Cost of Rhinoplasty in Dogs

A reasonable estimate range for rhinoplasty corrective procedure in dogs is $200 to $1,000. That amount is determined by the location of the practice, the severity of the condition, the method used for the procedure since laser is more expensive that traditional surgery, and the length of hospitalization, which will depend on the dog's reaction to anesthesia since brachycephalic dogs are at a higher risk and disadvantage than non-brachycephalic and otherwise healthy dogs.

The veterinarian will provide a cost estimate after an initial diagnosis since rhinoplasty may not be the only procedure needed to treat brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome.

Dog Rhinoplasty Considerations

The vast majority of dogs experience a significant improvement after rhinoplasty. This surgery might not make the animal breathe in an entirely normal fashion, but the dog will be able to breathe easier and the procedure may also reduce the amount of breathing noises.

Brachycephalic dogs with pronounced breathing difficulty or dogs that require rhinoplasty to correct airway obstruction should not be used for breeding. It is usually recommended that these dogs be neutered at the same time the rhinoplasty is performed.

The owner should understand that the main aims of rhinoplasty are to lessen the severity of respiratory symptoms and to prevent or slow the progression of laryngeal collapse on brachycephalic dogs. Therefore, rhinoplasty carries an even better prognosis if it is done as early as possible.

Rhinoplasty Prevention in Dogs

Rhinoplasty is performed to enlarge the stenotic nares of brachycephalic dogs with obstructive airway disease, which is a syndrome that is directly related to the breed standard and conformation for brachycephalic dogs. Owners should consider the risks associated with brachycephalic breeds and if possible, ask about the dog's parents and their medical history since stenotic nares are congenital.

Unfortunately, if the dog inherits stenotic nares, the condition cannot be prevented. However, pet owners can take steps to avoid unnecessary strain on the dog's breathing, even if they are just a temporary measure before a rhinoplasty is performed.

It is important to keep the dog at a healthy weight since obesity will worsen the symptoms of brachycephalic airway syndrome and can complicate the rhinoplasty procedure. Dieting is crucial, and owners should be aware that because of this condition, the dog will not be able to take much exercise.

Avoiding stressful situations for the dog, as well as hot or humid environments, can significantly help, especially during the summer months.

The use of a harness that does not pull or tug at the neck area is advised since a regular collar or neck-based leash could place additional pressure and limit the dog's available airflow.

Owners should be aware that breathing difficulties should not be considered a typical characteristic of brachycephalic breeds. They are abnormal and veterinary advice should be sought.