Pet Vet: Puddles the pug needs her nose examined

Puddles’ excessively loud breathing is bothering Olivia and Dan.

They say their dog makes a lot of noise and seems to have trouble moving air in and out. But the 4-month-old dog doesn’t have any trouble going full blast when she’s awake.

Puddles is a pug. The breed’s characteristic flattened face can lead to labored breathing.

All domesticated dog breeds have been created by humans through selective breeding practices over many, many generations. We started with wolves and ended up with Chihuahuas and every breed in between.

When you realize that all the same structures exist in each type of dog, we can start to understand why a pug might make a bit more, or in Puddles’ case, a lot more noise when it breathes.

First, their palates are a normal length for their body size, but their faces are compressed front to back. This can make the palate too long within the oral cavity and cause it to hang down over the opening to the trachea. This then leads to excess noise while breathing. In severe cases, there is obstruction to normal breathing, with a risk of respiratory collapse or even death.

Dogs with this condition need to have surgery to shorten their palate and allow for a more normal flow of air into the lungs.

I do not believe Puddles has an elongated palate because she is very active.

I suspect Puddles is dealing with another facial conformation issue that occurs fairly commonly in pugs. That would involve the nares (nostrils), the openings into the nasal passages. In pugs and other flatter-faced dogs, there is a higher incidence of a condition known as stenotic nares.

The openings into the nasal passages are partially occluded by an epithelial-lined cartilage structure called the parietal cartilage. If this structure is large enough, it can partially and in some cases almost completely block air from entering the nasal passages. This not only can cause increased noise when breathing, especially on inspiration, but can also cause compromised respiration. A simple examination can determine if this is the case.

In dogs of Puddles’ age and without severe respiratory compromise, we can usually wait for further growth of the body to determine whether stenotic nares become a permanent condition. Sometimes, these dogs will grow out of it.

If the degree of occlusion is compromising, surgery can remove part of the cartilage structure causing the occlusion. This procedure should result in a total cure.

There could be other possible respiratory issues going on. Without question, Puddles’ veterinarian needs to determine what is causing this symptom.

Whatever the cause, there is likely a cure available.