What Is Nasal Stenosis In Dogs? Symptoms, Correction, Recovery, and Costs

Nasal stenosis is probably the most common condition I see represented in breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs in my practice. Look at the nostrils of your French Bulldog puppy versus any normal dog. See how they look like slits instead of round holes?

See The Nasal Stenosis On This Puppy?

That is a condition called nasal stenosis and it’s really common in many breeds of dogs. Fortunately it’s a problem with a surgical correction that many veterinarians can do for you. For most dogs this can be done at the same time they are spayed/neutered. Once done, there’s a significant improvement in breathing through the nose and it really improves the future health of your pet.

What Breeds Can Have Nasal Stenosis?

I see it most frequently with the brachycephalic breeds. These include:

  • French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pugs
  • English Bulldogs
  • Pekinese
  • Shih Tzu
  • Boxers

However, any dog could be born with stenotic nares just based on its individual conformation.

Why do these breeds have this type of issue? Unfortunately the very look that gives them that adorable smooshy-face that you just want to kiss…wait, I got carried away there.

The same thing that gives them their looks makes them develop this disorder. The head gets flatter on top and the nose gets more pushed in. Unfortunately when that look is intentionally bred into dogs they will develop conditions that are a direct consequence of the look we want. That’s why they have nasal stenosis.

How Old Are Dogs When They Develop Nasal Stenosis?

I’ve seen severe cases evident at 8-10 weeks of age, but I’d estimate that most dogs that I see that eventually need surgery are first symptomatic by 3-4 months of age.

Are There Any Other Symptoms Of Nasal Stenosis?

Many times I hear nasal stenosis before I even get a good look at a dog’s face. They make a sniffling, whistling sound with their nose, especially when they are excited.

The vast majority of dog owners just think that’s a natural part of their dog and nothing is wrong. However, when I show them my before and after pictures of other dogs with a similar condition, they soon realize that they will need to have something done.

Why Is Nasal Stenosis Bad?

Nasal stenosis can make it harder for your brachycephalic to breathe. Think of it as pinching the end of a straw when you’re trying to drink. Notice how much harder it is to get anything through the straw?

Imagine that you’re trying to breathe through a straw that keeps wanting to collapse. Now imagine how much more effort it would require to breathe through that straw to get air all the way into your lungs. Over the course of many years, that increased effort to breathe can lead to chronic respiratory and cardiac issues.

The fix for this is a straight-forward procedure that I’ve done successfully many, many times. It does require general anesthesia so it’s something that I highly recommend when any dog showing nasal stenosis is getting spayed/neutered.

This is also a surgery that can be done later in life, but it’s best to do it as young as possible to make it easier for the dogs to breathe as soon as possible.

What Is The Surgical Correction For Nasal Stenosis?

A cut is made in the nasal tissue lateral to the nares (nose holes) in a wedge-shape. Then a stitch or two is placed to pull the nasal tissue away from the nares to create a larger opening.

I generally recommend keeping the stitches in for at least 3 weeks. Because the nasal tissue isn’t very sensitive, most dogs will not even require an e-collar after surgery.

The great thing about this surgery is that usually the dogs don’t even realize that they have stitches in their nose. An Elizabethan collar (the dreaded “cone of shame”) is many times not necessary. The one exception to this is a dog that likes to rub its nose on the ground or carpet. That can cause the stitches to come out

Post-Op View Of Nasal Stenosis Correction

What Happens If The Stitches Come Out Too Soon?

For dogs that do go after the stitches on their nose, not all hope is lost if they pull them out before it’s healed. As long as you can get them back in to the vet’s office within a day or two (max) of the stitches coming out, it can be fixed.

I have found that these dogs are really not sensitive to placing another suture or two back into the nose. Both times I had to re-stitch the nose it ended up healing exactly as we had intended.

When Is Nasal Stenosis Not Correctable With This Surgery?

The few times that my nasal stenosis surgery on a dog failed was when I tried it on a dog with a more collapsed nasal area. Here is a pic of what that looks like:

See How “Pushed In” This Puppy’s Nose Is?

What ends up happening is that the breathing isn’t improved even when you do the surgery. That’s because the nasal tissue behind the nostrils is so compacted because of the lack of space that nothing can really help it. I’ve learned to not even attempt the surgery on those dogs and instead go right to soft palate surgery.

How Much Does Nasal Correction Surgery Cost?

This depends greatly on where you live (urban vs suburban) as well as whether or not you have it done in conjunction with another procedure (such as a dental cleaning or a spay/neuter) or whether it’s done by itself.

I’ve seen this procedure by itself cost anywhere from $250-$600. In conjunction with another anesthetic procedure where you’re already paying for the anesthesia, you might pay an additional $150-$300 to correct the stenotic nares. Of course, your veterinarian’s fees may vary greatly from this.

What Are The Long-Term Outcomes With Dogs Who Have Had The Nasal Stenosis Surgery?

In my experience they do quite well. Without the high pressure in the back of their mouths caused by a strong suction from a narrowed nasal airway, the soft palate should not become nearly as big of a problem as it could otherwise become.

In Summary

I recommend nasal stenosis surgical correction in any dog that has visible nasal stenosis or any dog that shows symptoms. While it’s most commonly done when the dog is a puppy, it can be performed at any age. Recovery is quick and the potential gains in breathing difficulty can be massive.