The reasons your dog might have a hard time breathing include obstructions of the airways, infections, inflammatory conditions, lung, or heart disease.
Because of their anatomy, brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs, are particularly susceptible to breathing problems. In severe cases, dogs might need surgery to allow them to breathe.
It always breaks my heart to see one of these dogs in the dog park, trying to play and have fun. Their breathing is loud and sounds as if they were snorting the entire time. You can hear that they are having a hard time moving air in and out of their lungs.
As one of the breeds bred for their looks rather than health, Pugs pay the price for their popularity. Their breathing passages are barely able to function which makes them susceptible to respiratory distress. The condition is referred to as brachycephalic syndrome and it is what’s behind the noisy breathing when the dog gets excited or active.
In some cases, their breathing can become so laborious that the dog might collapse from lack of oxygen.
The first incident
Peanut was only eleven months old when he had his first episode of struggling for breath. He was playing and suddenly couldn’t catch his breath. That scared him into a panic, making things worse. Eventually, Peanut collapsed and lost consciousness.
As soon as Peanut came back to, his dad rushed him to a veterinarian and Peanut was referred for surgery.
Thorough examination revealed that Peanut was born with a nasty combo of deformities in his respiratory tract. His windpipe was too narrow, and his nostrils didn’t allow enough air through.
The surgeon widened Peanut’s nostrils and did his best to fix the back of his throat. The surgery went well but the improvements weren’t meant to last.
A year later, Peanut started having a hard time breathing again, resulting in a collapse.
Tracheostomy is a surgical procedure that facilitates breathing by bypassing the nose and mouth altogether. Remember The Smoking Man in the last episodes of the X-Files? Simply put, the dog will breather through an opening in their neck—stoma.
Caring for Peanut
The surgery was successful but Peanut needs special care.
His dad has to clean his breathing hole every hour so that it wouldn’t get blocked by mucus. Peanut can only eat mashed food. He is not allowed to swim or have a bath so he wouldn’t drown from water rushing in through his stoma. He also has to stay away from sand, long grass, or anything that could make its way where it’s not supposed to. Anything that would enter the breathing hole would make its way directly into Peanut’s lungs.
However, Peanut is feeling great and loves to play, no longer having breathing difficulties. The strict rules are a fair trade of for him to be able to live an active, energetic life and never having to struggle to breathe.
Next time you gush over the adorable looks of dogs such as the Pugs, do think about how much that cost them. While not every brachycephalic dog is a severe case like Peanut, their breathing is always harder than for other breeds, affecting their quality of life and putting them in risk of medical complications.
Peanut the Pug Needed a Tracheostomy
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Breathing Difficulties in Dogs