Chestbone Deformity in Dogs
Chest Deformity is also known as pectus excavatum. In this situation, the sternum and costal cartilages are deformed and do not grow properly. There is a horizontal narrowing in the chest. This causes a narrowing in the chest minimizing space for organs such as the heart and lungs. Outwardly, the chest will appear to be flat or concave instead of convex like it should be.
Flat or short-nose breeds also known as Brachycephalic breed dogs are predisposed to this condition and are born with this disability.
Symptoms and Types
Some dog breeds as mentioned above are genetically predisposed to the condition. This particularly applies to brachycephalic or short-nosed breeds. However, pectus excavatum can also occur spontaneously in any breed. This condition is usually not obvious until a puppy is several weeks old, unless hugely severe.
Also, puppies raised on surfaces that do not support firm footing will also predispose them to having a pectus excavatum condition.
To diagnose this condition, a history of your dog's health needs to be provided to your veterinarian, as well as information on genetic background and parentage or the onset of symptom. Lab tests will include complete blood tests, biochemical profiling and a urinalysis.
Many times your vet will also take X-rays of the chest (thoracic cavity) to confirm the diagnosis of pectus excavatum. X-rays are necessary to confirm the actual deformity as well as any other related deformities. Some patients will have a heart and lungs that have been shifted to either side of the cavity due to the malformation of the bones. Abnormalities related to the disease are often related to the respiratory system and can be seen on X-rays. Sometimes a sonographic image of the heart (Echocardiography) will be used to check the situation of the heart's functioning ability or possible cardiac defects.
Usually, surgery is the only treatment option for correction this deformity. However, some mild cases can be improved by manually compressing the chest to encourage sternum and costal cartilage to grow in a convex shape. In severe cases of chestbone deformity, surgery is required and the type of technique will depend on the case such as age of the dog and extent of the problem. Only your veterinary surgeon will be able to decide this. For some dogs, splints may be used to help correct the growing bone and cartilage.
Living and Management
Generally, after treatment, your dog will start breathing more freely and comfortably. In cases such as this one, our patient has had a plate sutured to the chest attaching the sternum to help promote concave growth of the thoracic cavity.
Prognosis is poor for severely affected patients, therefor it is critical to catch the deformity at an early age to help improve the prognosis. If your dog suffers from a mild form of pectus excavatum, please follow your veterinarian's guidelines for physical therapy and recovery.
Following surgery or treatment, your dog may be sore and in need of rest in a proper and quiet place away from other pets, activity and noise. It is sometimes beneficial to utilize cage rest until your dog can move safely without overexerting themselves. Potty trips should be kept short so your dog may have an easier time handling recovery.
Sometimes, pain killers and mild antibiotics may be prescribed for your dog until they're fully recovered. These prevent bacteria from attacking and pain relief for a more restful recovery. It is important to administer the medications exactly as directed to prevent accidental death or over dose.
At Our Hospital
Our hospital has treated many cases like this. Most recently we had a tiny patient that received splints. Chester had his splint changed when he grew a little bigger. You can see how his treatment developed in the photos below.
Chester came back to have another check-up and all is going well. He's all better and we can't wait to see him romping around!
Photos by Dr. Weiss and Shelly-Anne