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How to Treat Stenotic Nares in Cats and Dogs

About These Nasal Abnormalities

By Jesse Feldman. February 25, 2014 | See Comments

A Cat And Dog Laying Together

Stenotic nares are severe nasal abnormalities that are usually seen in brachycephalic dog and cat breeds. This condition can hinder your pet's ability to breathe. Luckily, there are treatment options available.

Stenotic nares are nasal abnormalities commonly found in brachycephalic cats and dogs. These abnormalities are caused by a congenital nasal cartilage malformation that creates narrowed nostrils (“nares” means “nostrils”). These smaller nasal openings can limit airflow to the respiratory system.

Most often stenotic nares are due to selective breeding for a short-nosed appearance. The nose and face of brachycephalic breeds have a pushed-in appearance: “brachy” means shortened and “cephalic” means head. Flat-faced dog breeds like Pugs, English Toy Spaniels, and Chow Chows and cat breeds like Persians, Himalayans, and Burmese are all at risk of stenotic nares and the health complications that come with them.

How Will I Know if My Pet Has Stenotic Nares?

Pinched or narrow nostrils are the most common way to identify stenotic nares, and are present at birth. But the respiratory difficulties that are symptomatic of an issue with the stenotic nares may not begin until the dog or cat is several years old. Symptoms of respiratory difficulty or airway resistance caused by stenotic nares and brachycephalic syndrome include the following:

  • Noisy breathing, particularly when inhaling
  • Snoring
  • Lethargy or tiring during exercise
  • Fainting
  • Blue gums or skin (cyanosis)

Treatments for Stenotic Nares

Because the condition is hereditary, stenotic nares are not preventable. The only way to prevent pets from being born with stenotic nares is to not breed them, so the condition can’t be passed to their offspring.

Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the condition by examining your dog or cat’s nostrils and considering their breed. Diagnostic tests may then be needed to examine your pet’s respiratory health. Stenotic nares are often accompanied by other brachycephalic abnormalities that can affect health. Once diagnosed, treatments may be medical or surgical.

For mild symptoms, your vet may recommend managing the condition with lifestyle changes. Healthy eating and exercise are keys to maintaining a healthy weight, which avoids straining your pet’s lungs. Avoiding environmental stressors like high heat and humidity can also help. For dogs, switching to a harness-style leash may be recommended to avoid strain on airways. Anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, and oxygen therapy may also be prescribed for short-term, mild relief of symptoms.

Restrictive airway disorders can be progressive and worsen without treatment. Your vet may determine that surgical correction is the best option for treating your pet’s stenotic nares. They can be surgically corrected by removing nostril tissue to widen the openings and improve airflow. Before symptoms become severe, surgical prognosis is generally considered good.

Even after a surgery, you may have to maintain lifestyle habits with your brachycephalic pet, including keeping a healthy weight, avoiding overly hot weather, and monitoring exercise.

More on Pet Health

Elongated Soft Palate in Dogs and Cats
List of Breeds and Their Common Health Concerns
The Best Food for an Obese Pug

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Stenotic Nares at a glance

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  • 1Stenotic nares are narrowed or pinched nostrils that can limit breathing.
  • 2Symptoms of a respiratory disorder include snoring, noisy breathing, and tiring or fainting during exercise.
  • 3Brachycephalic cat and dog breeds (characterized by their flat faces) are at risk.
  • 4Veterinary treatments include medication and surgical intervention.