Stenotic Nares in Dogs

A common problem in breeds with "smushed" faces

How would you like it if someone pinched your nostrils and forced you to breathe through your mouth all day?

That’s how a dog feels with stenotic nares feels. A common disorder in brachycephalic breeds – those with “smushed” faces such as the English Bulldog, the Boston Terrier, the Pug, and the Pekingese – stenotic nares are genetic, caused by a malformation of the cartilage in the nose, and are a component of brachycephalic syndrome. Stenotic nares are present from birth inaffected dogs, though they might not cause problems until later in life. 

The problem is this: over time the increased airway resistance from pinched nostrils can lead to increased effort to breathe in. This is hard on the larynx, which can eventually collapse, making breathing nearly impossible and often leading to death.

Signs and Symptoms
Dogs negatively affected by stenotic nares will show some of the following symptoms:

  • Noisy breathing, especially during inhalation
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Cyanosis – blue gums due to lack of oxygen
  • Fainting

Diagnosis is simple. The condition may be suspected based on the breed of your dog, but all it really takes is a glance at the nostrils to determine if they are open wide enough to allow proper breathing.  Diagnosis of other problems caused by brachycephalic syndrome aren’t as easy to detect and often occur simultaneously with stenotic nares, so your veterinarian might perform additional tests, while possibly under anesthesia, to determine what’s going on. These tests include:

  • Ascultation of the chest with a stethoscope to listen for other possible causes of respiratory problems
  • X-rays to make sure the heart and lungs are healthy



Stenotic nares can be managed if mild and surgically corrected if more severe. If your dog is only mildly affected, you can take measures to make him comfortable, including:

  • Keeping him at a healthy weight
  • Limiting stressful situations and exercise in hot or humid weather
  • Find alternatives to a neck collar, such as a harness
  • However, if the problem is more severe – and it can become more severe – surgery is possible. The surgery involves widening the nostrils by removing pieces of the nostril wall, and prognosis is good.

As part of brachycephalic syndrome, which is genetic, stenotic nares can’t be prevented. However, with the right management and treatment, your dog can still live a long, happy, healthy life.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.