Fergie is a 1 year old pug dog with a sweet loveable wrinkly face. Her owner Carrie noticed that Fergie snored a lot when she slept and couldn’t walk around the block without having to stop to catch her breath. Also, she seemed to have trouble with her hind legs and occasionally limped as if her leg had given out on her. Carrie brought Fergie in for a visit at Headon Forest Animal Hospital to discuss these concerns. Upon examination, her veterinarian, Dr Patton discovered that Fergie had a few problems that are common in pugs and other small breed dogs.
Brachycephalic airway syndrome: Due to their cute wrinkly pushed-in faces, certain breeds of dogs (eg. pugs & bulldogs especially, as well as Persian & Himalayan cats) can have trouble breathing. They have excess tissue at the back of their throats due to their shortened snouts, and these tissues can become more swollen due to the extra pressure of heavy breathing. Their nostrils & windpipes are often too narrow, making it difficult for them to get enough air into their lungs; kind of like trying to breathe through a straw. All of these problems with their breathing apparatus are worsened with obesity, exercise, respiratory infections and during hot humid summer weather.
Treatment: Keep the dog up to date on vaccines to prevent infections. Keep her cool during the summer and manage body weight to help minimize trouble breathing. If symptoms are severe like Fergie’s, surgery can be performed to improve her airways and breathing. Fergie had surgery to widen her nostrils and her owner Carrie noticed an improvement in her snoring and breathing right away! We will continue to monitor her breathing closely, and she may have a second surgery to trim the excess tissue at the back of her throat if needed.
Luxating Patellas: Many small & miniature breed dogs (eg. Yorkshire terriers, Pugs, Boston terriers, Chihuahuas) are born with kneecaps that slip out of place when they bend their legs. This is caused by an abnormality in the anatomy of the dog’s knee. This hereditary disease can cause occasional limping in hind limbs, bowlegged stance and the dog may hold one of his/her back legs up when running or the owner may feel the kneecap pop in & out of place when the dog’s leg is bending. There are different levels of severity of this condition, depending how abnormal the alignment of the dog’s knee is. This condition is also worsened by obesity.
Treatment: If the limping is severe or the kneecap is out of place most of the time; then surgery is recommended to correct the problem. Without treatment, these dogs will have ongoing discomfort and limping, are more prone to other knee injuries (such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture) and will develop arthritis in their knees at an early age. Fergie had surgery to correct one of her knees in July and is recovering well. She plans to have her other knee corrected in 2-3 months. • Obesity: Overeating and not getting enough exercise (or both!) can contribute to weight gain in pets. Being overweight increases the pressure on dogs’ & cats’ joints and hearts and increases their risk of diabetes, heart disease, skin problems and joint injuries/lameness. Overweight pets often have less energy and interest in play or walks; and their obesity can worsen any other pre-existing conditions (in Fergie’s case- her breathing and knee problems).
Treatment: Measuring the amount of food at each meal and minimizing treats & extras are helpful ways to reduce your pet’s calorie intake. The veterinary team at Headon Forest Animal Hospital designed a feeding plan for Fergie which included portion control to meet her recommended amount of calories per day based on her age, weight and body condition score. This was achieved by feeding a reduced calorie prescription diet to help maximize her weight loss success, and monthly weigh- ins to monitor her progress.
Luckily for Fergie, her owner Carrie had planned ahead in case of any unforeseen illnesses and signed Fergie up for pet insurance. Her insurance policy helped to cover the costs of her much needed corrective surgeries to help improve her comfort and quality of life. She is on the right track with her weight loss plan and looking and feeling better already!