Tory visited the vet yesterday. The news is not good! As I suspected, Tory has an elongated soft palate. He also suffers from a number of other medical problems. Tory is scheduled for surgery tomorrow to help him breathe more easily; once that surgery is complete, the vet will discuss what else we can do to help Tory improve his health and quality of life.
What Tory’s Got
Tory suffers from three respiratory conditions which, together, are known as Brachycephalic Syndrome, which is common (as you might guess from the name) in Brachycephalic breeds. Brachycephalic breeds are those including Pugs, Bulldogs, and some types of Mastiff, which have a normal lower jaw but a short upper jaw, creating the squishy-faced, short-nosed look the listed breeds are known for.
The conditions that comprise Brachycephalic Syndrome are elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules, and stenotic nares. Tory has all three, and all three will require surgical correction. If the surgery to correct his respiratory issues is fairly simple and brief, he will be neutered at the same time; otherwise, he’ll need a second surgical appointment for neutering.
In addition, Tory has a moderate collapsing trachea. This condition is secondary to the elongated soft palate; in the vet’s opinion, had Tory’s first owner corrected his elongated soft palate promptly, Tory might never have suffered a collapsing trachea. Surgical intervention is not recommended except in cases of severe collapsing trachea where medical management is not enough to keep a dog healthy. Instead, Tory’s collapsing trachea will be managed with weight loss, limited exercise, and the use of a harness rather than a collar for walks.
Lastly, Tory has mild exposure keratopathy. This eye condition is common in breeds with a “bug-eyed” appearance, including the Pug, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Pekingese, among several others. At this point, Tory’s eyes need no medical treatment, but they should be closely monitored by a veterinarian throughout his life. Eventually, he will need eye ointment applied to help keep his eyes moist. He may lose his vision more rapidly than most aging dogs.
How Did Tory Get So Many Problems?
I don’t know why Tory specifically has so many congenital and genetic defects, but I have a guess: Poor breeding. This is substantiated by the age of his former owner. I know of no reputable, responsible breeder who would sell a puppy to an elderly woman in poor health. When Tory was a puppy, his previous owner would already have been in her mid-seventies. It is no surprise to anyone, including Tory’s previous veterinarian, that he was eventually relinquished to rescue due to his owner’s age.
Pets can be wonderful things for senior citizens. They keep their owners active, help to lower blood pressure, and can induce speech and help with memory retrieval for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, puppies are not appropriate pets for most seniors. Elderly humans should adopt older pets. Senior dogs are calmer, often come with obedience training, and are less likely to outlive an owner who’s on the older side. Puppies, on the other hand, are energetic, untrained, and come with at least about a 15 year commitment for a Toy breed like Tory.
Tory’s multiple health conditions all have a genetic component, and are all much more unusual in dogs bred carefully for health first than they are in dogs bred simply to make a profit. Various health tests, including a simple superficial examination by a vet, can detect most of these issues in a breeding dog and warn a breeder not to allow a dog with a defect to reproduce due to the likelihood that its problems will recur in the next generation. Breeders interested only in profit don’t do these tests. Conditions like Tory’s are not apparent during puppyhood, and the dog has been bought and paid for by the time an owner discovers health problems.
Please take Tory’s problems as a cautionary tale. If you choose to purchase a puppy from a pet store or buy from a breeder without doing your homework first, you may find yourself with a dog like Tory, with multiple health problems– or worse yet, a dog with problems that, unlike Tory’s, can’t be corrected surgically.
Stay Tuned: We’ll talk about the outcome of Tory’s surgery soon!