It’s a new year, and Tater’s starting it with a new nose. For everyone who knows our rescue dog Tater, you will know that he is brachycephalic, which is the term for “shortened head”. You can see Tater’s head shape clearly in the photo below.

Tater’s Embark DNA results showed that he is a mix of Bulldog, Pug and Boston Terrier.

BOAS and Tater’s New Nose

Many brachycephalic dogs can experience breathing difficulty, stress and heat intolerance during exercise, snoring, choking and collapse to name just a few. Tater was no exception. In fact, the symptoms we were noticing from time to time are part of what is known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome.

Dogs with Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) often benefit from surgery.

But would Tater?

Was he even a good candidate for surgery?

After research, we found a BOAS Veterinary Specialist, Dr. Renee Fleming at Guelph Animal Hospital. Now, many of you might be thinking the name Dr Renee rings a bell. And you would be correct!

It’s the very same Dr. Renee who successfully removed a tumor from my dog Buzz when he was almost 16 years old. You can read the full story of Buzz’s tumor and laser surgery here on my blog in my post from 2012 about “Making the Best Decisions for our Senior Dogs”.

It turned out that Tater was a good candidate, and in December, Dr Renee performed laser surgery. Below you can see his nose before surgery, and just after.

When I decided to write about Tater’s surgery, I contacted Dr. Renee, and she was kind enough to provide an overview that I could share with everyone.

From Dr. Renee:

Tater had a few revisions to his airway, which typically encompass BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome).

This typically encompasses a few disorders that we can see in short-nosed dogs:

    1. Stenotic nares
    2. Elongated soft palate
    3. Everted laryngeal saccules
    4. Hypoplastic trachea

Traditional airway correction tends to address the first 1/2 +/- 3 issues. More recent thought is that if we correct 1 and 2, 3 corrects itself. There are surgeries (at referral hospitals) to help with a severely hypoplastic trachea, but these are generally reserved for the most severe cases.

Tater had stenotic nares correction. Using laser, we removed the redundant nasal tissue, creating a much wider/rounder external nares opening

Tater had a staphylectomy – using laser, the redundant soft palate tissue was trimmed, using the epiglottis and caudal tonsillar crypts as landmarks.

His laryngeal saccules were not everted, so not resected. With the reduction in negative airway pressure from upper airway correction, the saccules are likely to stay in place moving forward.

Some patients require more advanced surgical procedures. For patients with very narrow pharyngeal openings, we often need to resect (either partial or full) the tonsils, and we can also thin the palatal tissue if it is thick using a partial folded palatoplasty technique. I see this more commonly in older English Bulldogs that have not had airway corrections as pups.

Our hospital uses a surgical laser (not electrocautery) for our airway revisions. Laser will reduce the amount of blood loss and often we do not need to suture the palate at all. This will lead to a tremendously shortened surgical time, with less blood loss and potential for aspiration. Scalpel is also a safe and effective method of correction.

Dr. Renee Fleming DVM

The results of Tater’s surgery were immediate and noticeable. Initially, he wanted to smell everything! We can only imagine that a greater array of scents was now open for him. A few weeks on, and here are Kim’s main observations of the difference.

  1. You can hear the air moving easily through his open nostrils vs it wheezing through.
  2. He no longer gulps air like he did prior to surgery.
  3. He no longer makes all the throat choking noises and weird sounds he made before.
  4. He can smell and find cookies thrown in the grass easier.
  5. He does still snore.

I want everyone to know that if you have a dog who is showing any symptoms of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, then surgery could be an option.

In fact, I would say anyone with a brachycephalic dog who is considering doing sports should at least consider a consult with a specialist to see if their dog is a candidate for surgery.

So we’re heading into 2021 with a transformed Tater, and puppy This! is growing rapidly. We’ll have a lot of fun coming up this year, and you’ll be included. Let me know what you’d like me to cover here on my blog or in my podcast!

Talking about fun, that’s what my second podcast episode for this year is about, so check out Shaped by Dog Episode 57: Why Balance Breaks Fast Track Your Dog Training for an easy way to bring a lot of joy to your training. Once you’ve watched or listened, head over to our YouTube channel and watch the video with me doing a demo of balance breaks with puppy This!.

Today I am grateful to Dr. Renee for writing about Tater’s surgery so that I could share it here for you, and grateful for all Veterinarians who make life better for our dogs.

A photo of best buddies, Tater and This! that I put on Instagram in December.